MA website sloppiness excludes blind users

Advocates: State website fails to meet most basic accessibility standards.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Blind people of Boston and their advocates are accusing the state government of not doing enough to make online budget information accessible to the visually impaired, reports the Boston Herald.

Graphs, charts and other online devices that highlight the governor's $26 billion budget plan aren't any use to the states 35,000 Bay citizens who are blind or vision-impaired.

"Making a Web site accessible is usually a matter of good Web site design practice. It isn't really that hard," said Daniel Graham, an expert in blind computer programs for the Disability Policy Consortium. "If somebody had taken an extra 20 minutes to type out explanations to those graphics . . . that would have made things a lot better."

Some of the "screen reading" programs that read the words out loud on the page are functioning, but there are a lot of glitches on the site.

"I could not access sections of it. I couldn't get details," said attorney Chester Darling, who is legally blind. "To not have access to it marginalizes blind people."

But Joe Landolfi, spokesman for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said the state is "working hard to rectify the problem as quickly as possible."

The Patrick administration is aware of the problem. The current budget includes $239,000 to fund programs to improve accessibility, and a program coordinator.

"People with disabilities are not a priority," Allan said, adding that the consortium is in the process of reviewing hundreds of state Web sites for accessibility. It's a huge task because of the complexities of the Web sites and just how inaccessible they are. It's going to take some time for the message to filter through the administration," said Bill Allan, director of the Disability Policy Consortium.
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