The Blind Hammer Column

Blind Hammer invites feedback on the accessibility of

West Ham have invited me to meet with them to discuss possible website accessibility improvements. This is a positive move. It indicates a wider commitment.

Website Accessibility is a complicated area, far more complicated than most realise. Website designers are required nowadays to take account of a whole range of access issues.

Take my particular case. I am completely blind. As I am typing this I am sitting in my armchair with a set of headphones on. Whilst I do have a computer monitor, this is currently turned off, and is atop a cupboard some way over to my right. When I access the West Ham website I do this through my headphones. I also interact with the website using only my keyboard.

Most importantly, I never use a mouse. Using a mouse makes little sense for me as I cannot see the monitor, and consequently cannot see any mouse pointer. Instead I use specialist screen reader programs, and keyboard strategies, too numerous to go into here, to access websites like this West Ham Till I Die and the West Ham Official Site.

This means I am scuppered if a web designer inserts a feature which you can only access with a mouse. Or includes pictures without any identifying text. Without this text my screen reader will struggle to read anything sensible. The bane of many blind people’s lives is when they access a website and hear the words unlabelled graphic.

Happily, for me and other blind supporters the West ham Website has improved dramatically since I made them aware of some of these issues last year. Visiting the site is now generally a positive experience for totally blind supporters.

However, I am acutely aware that my experience is narrow. There are many more access issues and barriers separate to the issues I face. Some people will access West Ham’s website using eyesight but require magnification. I can not offer any insight into how well the site works with magnification software.

Others require text to be formatted in certain ways. Some people need, for example, text to be provided as white on a black background. This is needed as the normal black text on white background scheme provides uncomfortable levels of glare. This makes such text harder to read for some people. Windows and Mac OS can easily provide this help by adjusting fonts and colours, but, , after making these adjustments does this work well with the West Ham website? If you use such techniques then feedback, both constructively critical or indeed positive would be welcome. I am sure any feedback would be useful.

Then again there is the whole question of language and layout. Some sites provide information in formal language which may be confusing or difficult for someone with learning difficulties to understand. Clear plain English is also a modern access requirement.

There may be other issues with the site I am completely unaware of.

So in short this is an opportunity for anybody who has any issues accessing for whatever reason to raise this with me now. I can then represent these issues and possibly put the club in contact with the people affected.

So feel free to make both positive and critical comments below. If you want to email me privately you can do so by creating an email from daj.griffith and adding the at sign and then I have not provided a complete address to prevent spammer web robots from scooping up my address.

David Griffith