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.