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Carole using a media player

Meet Carole who is blind

Carole, 34 and single, lives in an apartment in the centre of Paris, near Bastille. She has a guide dog, but she says this is mostly because it’s great for socialising, as she really is quite good at getting around in Paris. Carole lost her sight when she was in her twenties due to retinitis pigmentosa. Some of her relatives have the same condition, but when she was young, Carole did not want to hear about Braille. As a consequence, she learnt it at a later age and is not very good at it.

A day in the life of Carole

Carole is a competent technology user with a Windows laptop and the open-source screen reader NVDA, which renders the content of the computer screen through synthetic speech. In her office, she uses Windows and the commercial screen reader JAWS plus a Braille display. She never uses Braille for reading, but it is useful when she has to edit text, to check the spelling of words, etc.

Challenge 1: documents without structure

Today, Carole has received a 75-page report in digital format from another company; she needs the data in it to complete another report that she is working on.

Through her screen reader, the report appears to have no structure at all; Carole has no way to access a table of contents or to use the headings to navigate to specific sections. On the screen she is sure that the text shows headings and subheadings using different fonts and sizes, but she cannot perceive these features.

She can only find the information she needs by reading the entire document. She can also search the text, but she is not certain whether this will lead her to the right sections. As a result, it takes her most of the day to find information that would have required only an hour or so if the document had been properly designed.

Challenge 2: apps that are not screen reader accessible

On her way home, the bus is diverted due to a fire on its usual route. The bus company’s smartphone app is not screen reader accessible, so she could not find this out before getting on the bus.

If she had known, she would have taken the subway. In addition, due to the diversion, she cannot rely on the automatic announcements of the bus stops on the bus, so she needs to ask other passengers to tell here where to get off.

Challenge 3: poor photocopies affect scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) output

When she gets home, she finds a letter that she runs through a scanner with an OCR program. It is almost unreadable because it was poorly photocopied.

She shows the letter to a friend over a video chat program; it turns out to be an invitation to a meeting about the co-ownership of the block of flats where she lives. She calls the concierge to ask him what is going on.

Challenges 4 & 5: inadequate image descriptions and inaccessible online payment

After dinner, she starts her computer again and goes online to buy some flowers for her aunt’s birthday. The structure of the website is quite complex and Carole has difficulty finding a suitable bouquet.

The website has a series of pictures of bouquets with names such as “Christmas”, “Alchemy”, “Noa” or “Renoir”, that do not describe the size, colours or types of flowers. Carole finally settles for a bouquet with a name that sounds nice and with an acceptable price.

She manages to enter her aunt’s address for delivery, but fails to get through the payment process. Once again she is frustrated and upset. She will have to wait for the shops to open the next day, so she can place her order on the phone, but then her aunt will receive the bouquet the day after her birthday.


Can you think of any other technological challenges that Carole might face in daily life?


© This text is a derivative of a work created by Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton

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