World Vision Shuts out People with no Vision

Here in New Zealand, thousands of children will be going without food, taking a vow of silence, giving up their technology, or in some way or other making a sacrifice so they can raise money for kids in developing countries. It’s all part of a fundraiser from World Vision, known as the 40 hour famine, and it’s a bit of a kiwi tradition.


I have fond memories as a teenager of doing the 40 hour famine, and was proud when my son David decided he would like to raise money by living in a cardboard box for 40 hours, allowing himself only $2 per day for food. He’s a compassionate young guy and really believes in what he’s doing. This will be the third consecutive year he has participated, and his efforts have inspired his younger sister and her friend to join him.


By broadcasting, blogging and booing about what David was doing last year, he was  able to raise $1500 for World Vision thanks to people’s generosity. It showed him that he really can change lives through his efforts.


Sadly, it looks like he won’t have the same financial success this year, because over the past 12 months, the World Vision website has changed markedly. I’m totally blind, and use screen reading software to use my computer. The site is now much more difficult to use, and certain crucial tasks are impossible for a screen reader user to perform at all.


Specifically, I helped David to sign up for the Famine. At the end of the process, the button to submit the form wasn’t visible to screen readers. Since the signing up process is a one-off event, I wasn’t too worried about this, although having said that, blind people of all ages who want to participate in the  projects should be able to do so.


The real concern came when I attempted to make a donation to David’s famine effort. There is no text label associated with the button to proceed to payment. As an experienced screen reader user, I was finally able to do this by a process of trial and error. I completed entering my address and credit card details, only to find that the button to submit the form was, again, not visible at all to screen readers. It’s not that it’s difficult to submit the form, it actually cannot be done.


What this means is that I wanted to donate online, but World Vision has made it impossible for me to complete the process so I can support my son’s efforts, and the efforts of the organisation.


Now, as his Dad, I’ll get it done somehow. However many of the people who donated that pretty impressive $1500 last year are blind, too. This year, I can’t promote the website to that group and encourage them to donate, because it’s inaccessible.


I want to make it clear that I am not in any way implying malice here. I’ve no doubt this is inadvertent and that in this difficult economic climate, any charity would want  all the donations they possibly can get. But accidental though it certainly is, the bottom line is that poor negligence of accessibility has affected their bottom line. Other charities would be wide to take note. People using assistive technology have money too.


, Accessibility must  be a requirement when building any new site or making design changes. You wouldn’t get away with not making a new or renovated building physically accessible, the web is no different. It’s just the right thing.

With only days  to go before the big weekend, I doubt it can be fixed in time for me to try and help David raise a similar amount to that which he raised last year. But if by chance you are reading this post and you can see, or you have a working pair of eyes handy, here’s the link where you can support David, Nicola and Jordan.
Thanks, and fingers crossed World Vision will do the right thing. I wrote to them over the weekend, and allowing a business day for even an acknowledgement, have received nothing yet. 

3 Comments on “World Vision Shuts out People with no Vision

  1. Hi Jonathan,

    I think it’s fantastic that you are spreading the word about the 40 Hour Famine, and I completely agree that it is unfortunate when any website is inaccessible, especially for a critical activity such as this. I would hope that the company will implement a solution so that those of us with vision loss should not be excluded from supporting this charitable project with a donation.

    In all honesty, I do feel that screen reader developers bear a responsibility here too. We pay big bucks to them in exchange for reliable access to our computers, and often I’m disappointed to see them “passing the buck” on issues such as inaccessible websites. True, there are standards that should rightly be expected of web developers in terms of making sure everyone can access their websites. But the reality is, screen reader developers could be doing a lot more to implement workarounds, raise awareness, and provide support on their end when particularly problematic cases come up. Gmail,, many radio and video players including YouTube, some mainstream banking sites, and many more are difficult to use with commercial screen reading products and no changes have been implemented in those products to resolve the issues. Believe me, I’m not trying to pass the buck myself: I think if World Vision ignores your request for a more accessible website, it will be inexcusable. But perhaps you can comment on the division between website developers’ responsibilities and those of the screen reader developers we support. Just a thought!

  2. As a fully sighted person, I have to say that the new 40 hour famine website is nowhere near as user friendly as the old one. My children are participating in the famine, and for the whole duration we have been unable to add a photo – we go through all the motions, to the point of it saying “uploading” but it never does. Also, when I went to donate, the website insisted I was my son, and would not let me change to my own name, despite him logging out before me trying to make my donation. I know this also happened to a friend of mine. Sometimes the comment field wouldn’t update. None of these were issues in previous years when there was a separate famine website, but since linking it on to the World Vision site it has become seriously glitchy, not only for blind people! This is a cause we are passionate about in this house, but it is REALLY annoying when you can’t feel confident about asking friends and acquaintances to donate easily.

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    Apologies for the inexcusable delay in your receiving a response from us regarding your blog post, tweets, and email. I have personally tracked down the email you sent us and put a hold on it so I could ensure that our response to you could address the concerns you’ve raised. Please blame me personally for the delay. Since reading your post I have talked with our IT and supporter services team who I thought would be better suited to hear your feedback as they are constantly refreshing and updating our website.

    Here is the response from our IT manager who represents design and user-experience:
    “We’ve invested a great deal of effort in reworking the 40 Hour Famine website with the view of making the process easier for supporters to participate and support the campaign this year. We have received really great feedback from our on aspects of the new look as well as those areas that could do with some improvements.

    The feedback we’ve received around having the website optimized for visually impaired supporters, is valuable and we sincerely apologise for the oversight in our design of the new website, not to make the functionality available to make the website screen-reader friendly. Your feedback is being taken into account and we have plans to review our full website to identify the areas that need to be adjusted and improved in order for it to be usable by screen-reader software.

    I am also personally thankful for your feedback because without it this might have been a mistakable oversight on our part that now, we will not miss in the future. ”

    Also, Jonathan – I want to say on behalf of World Vision New Zealand that we’re extremely grateful for the support of you and your son. It’s exactly this kind of legacy — participating in the Famine year after year and generation to generation — that is at the heart of our campaign just beside making an impact in countries like Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Mali, Niger and 90+ other countries worldwide. Even through the issues you experienced with our website, you haven’t stopped your support and we’re more grateful for that than you know.

    Thank you again, and should you ever have more feedback or thoughts to share with us, I’d enjoy reading them on your blog again. You are more than welcome to send me a personal email about it as well and I’ll ensure your feedback reaches the right team.

    Lindsey Talerico-Hedren
    Social media and public relations
    World Vision New Zealand