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media:[Fwd: Blind people are left in the dark by badly designed internetsearch engines]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 09:03:37 -0400
Message-ID: <39390229.43E9BCD6@clark.net>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Blind people are left in the dark by badly designed internetsearch
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 08:07:12 -0400
From: "RNIB Digital Access Campaign Supporters (by way of Prof NormCoombs
Reply-To: "* WEB http://www.rit.edu/~easi" <EASI@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU>

RNIB Digital Access Campaign Supporters - http://www.rnib.org.uk/digital

You are receiving this message as a member of RNIB's Campaign for Better
Web Design mailing list.  There are 373 people on this list.

Tomorrow, RNIB is issuing the following press release regarding the
inaccessibility of some of the major search engines.  Please share this
information wherever you feel it will have an impact.

Best wishes
Julie Howell, Campaigns Officer (Accessible Internet)

Blind people are left in the dark by badly designed internet search engines

Three of the world's most popular Internet search engines are difficult,
or in some cases impossible to use if you are blind or partially sighted
and use 'adaptive technology', according to research supported by the
Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).

Professor Charles Oppenheim and Karen Selby of Loughborough University
conducted the research with the help of a group of blind and partially
sighted students from RNIB's Loughborough College. The students tried to
search the Web using Altavista (http://www.altavista.co.uk), Yahoo
(http://www.yahoo.co.uk), and Infoseek (http://www.infoseek.co.uk), using
adaptive technology (speech synthesis, Braille output or large fonts on
the screen) which is added to a standard PC.

Obtrusive advertising and excessive navigation made locating Altavista's
list of search results difficult for some of the students, who found
themselves forced to listen to 'frustrating and irrelevant'information
before reaching the information they were searching for.

Some of the images on Infoseek's results page were not captioned, leaving
the students feeling disorientated whilst 'poor contrast' and
'illegible icons' prevented some students from using Yahoo! quickly
and easily, and one student was forced to abandon his search altogether.

"The students who took part in this research were disappointed and
frustrated by their experience", said Julie Howell, Campaigns Officer
(Accessible Internet) at RNIB. "Poorly designed search engines make the
Internet a non-starter for many of the UK's 1.7 million people with a
serious sight problem. We hope that Yahoo!, Altavista and Infoseek will
take the simple steps required to make their sites easier to use if you
cannot access the screen in the conventional manner."

With the help of adaptive technology people with serious sight problems
have the potential to use the Internet to access information otherwise
unavailable to them. Website designers must give a little creative thought
to how they design web sites if this potential is to become a reality.
RNIB and the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative have produced a free video
for Web designers who are interested in knowing more about Web design for
all. A copy of 'Websites that Work' can be obtained from Julie Howell on
020-7391 2191 and, in
conjunction with Westminster Digital, it is now being Webcast over the
Internet at http://www.rnib.org.uk/digital/wtw.htm.


The research paper 'Access to information on the world-wide web for blind
and visually impaired people' by Charles Oppenheim and Karen Selby was
published in Aslib Proceedings volume 51, number 10.

The WAI Web Content Authoring Guidelines are available online at

Further information about RNIB's Campaign for Better Web design is
available online at http://www.rnib.org.uk/digital

RNIB's Technology Service provides a wide range of information on the use
of technology by blind and partially sighted people. The service helps
sighted and visually impaired people such as employers, those in work or
seeking work, students, teachers, parents, and educational and employment
professionals. RNIB Technology Information Service can be contacted at:
http://www.rnib.org.uk/technology or telephone 024-7636 9555 or email

RNIB is the leading charity working on behalf of the 1.7 million people
with a serious sight problem in the UK, providing over 60 services
including benefits advice, education, leisure, health and employment. For
further details ring the RNIB Helpline on 0845-766 9999.

Professor Charles Oppenheim may be contacted at the Department of
Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough Leics LE11 3TU
or by email at C.Oppenheim@lboro.ac.uk">C.Oppenheim@lboro.ac.uk

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Barrier-free Web Design Online Workshop
Workshop starts June 7, 2000
Received on Saturday, 3 June 2000 09:03:04 UTC

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