Is it accessible?

How accessible is your website?

 

Thousands of people around the world purchase screen reading software to enable them to use computers, tablets and mobile phones effectively on the internet. The common misconception is that only blind and visually impaired people use this software, but this is not the case. Although the visually impaired community accounts for a large percentage of the world’s screen reader users, people with motor impairment and learning difficulties also use them to great effect.

 

Sadly only a small percentage of websites out there are fully accessible to screen reader users. Unfortunately very few corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses even consider whether their website is accessible. This isn’t to say that the number of accessible websites is not increasing, because it is, albeit very slowly. There are certainly a far greater number of accessible websites now compared to just five years ago.

 

So who is to blame?

 

The website developers? Probably not, as they tend to work to their client’s specifications and to whatever the current minimal accepted level of accessibility is at the time. This isn’t to say that some web developers don’t try to go the extra mile and work hard on accessibility, because some certainly do.

 

The web developer’s clients, the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses then? Probably not them either. After all, more often than not they simply want a website that looks good, that works, that promotes their product or service and that won’t cost them a fortune to have built or to maintain.

 

The disabled community perhaps? Again probably not. A vast majority of visually impaired and disabled people wouldn’t know how to build a website in the first place and those that do already do a huge amount to improve accessibility where they can. In fact the greatest leaps forward in accessibility have been as a result of the technically minded members of the disabled community having direct influence in its development.

 

So what’s the answer? 

 

To be honest I don’t think there is a correct answer, but here are my thoughts. 

 

The disabled community really does need to speak up more and communicate with web developers and the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses that purchase their web building services. It is no good our complaining about inadequate accessibility if we are not talking to the people who can change it. There is a lot of ignorance out there about accessibility and I think it is our part to play to improve the situation by educating people about it. I don’t just mean negative communication either; if something works and improves our web experience we should be letting the web developers know. Equally when things are not working we need to communicate in a constructive and informative manner, not just blowing hot air. Without constructive feedback it is exceptionally difficult for web developers to make positive changes. 

 

As far as the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses are concerned I think it is quite difficult. I think what it really boils down to here is a lack of awareness when it comes to accessibility, which of course is where what I said above comes in. Having said that however I do wonder if they ever think about how much their potential client base could grow if the percentage of people that are currently unable to navigate their websites could suddenly access them. I do feel that many simply overlook or dismiss the disabled community as not being viable clients or customers and I think that is something that really ought to change.

 

Regarding web developers; again this is a difficult one as the default position seems to be to work to the minimum industry standard for accessibility. That is of course a generalisation, I have come into contact with some outstanding web developers who are very inclusive of accessibility and who strive to improve it on an ongoing basis. There are a very small number of course like the one I spoke to around eighteen months ago who told me that the number of disabled people using the internet that struggle with accessibility is insignificant when it comes to the number of internet users worldwide, so it didn’t really matter if the sites he developed were accessible as his clients didn’t care about it. I wonder whether they genuinely didn’t care or if actually they just didn’t understand about the impact that accessibility can have, or even if they understood what accessibility is. With that extreme example aside I think that on the whole web developers are quite open to feedback, particularly if it is constructive. It would be quite nice if more developers approached disabled user groups and asked for their feedback during development rather than as an afterthought, but again what need is there if their clients are not bothered about it?

 

In summary I feel that it is the responsibility of all of us whether disabled, a web developer or a purchaser of website building services to spread the word about accessibility and make it an industry standard rather than an inconvenience.

 

Part of my mission is to make disabled people more able to be independent through the use of technology. This of course means desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The ability to successfully navigate the internet and the websites that they want to visit has an enormously positive impact upon disabled individuals. Believe me, I know, I am one of those people. It creates the possibility of building networks of disabled peers as well as more inclusion in the general community. Let’s not forget that disabled people would still like to shop online, read local news online, hire solicitors or buy insurance online, just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t want to do the same things as those who aren’t.

Empowering people to use assistive technology

A large part of my mission both in my Coaching work and my voluntary roles within Bucksvision is to empower visually impaired individuals to live independent and socially interactive lives. 

 

Part of this is to help individuals embrace technology that can help enrich their lives and break down communication barriers whilst teaching the skills to become a competent and confident user of that technology. This can mean something as simple as teaching a person how to use a talking watch or bedside clock. Equally it can mean teaching more complex skills like how to use magnifying software on a computer, using Talks speech software on a mobile phone, teaching an individual how to use the awesome built-in Voice Over technology on iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs, or it can be teaching somebody how to use a full assistive software package. 

 

One such package is Dolphin Guide. Guide is a complete software package that can be purchased and installed on almost all modern Windows Desktop or Laptop computers. I will not bang on for ages about everything it can do as all of that information is available on the Dolphin website; I have added a link at the end of this post for your convenience. What I will briefly mention however is that Guide enables users with low vision or complete sight loss to access and navigate around a computer by using magnification, screen reading speech or a combination of both. It allows the user to send and receive emails, access the internet, scan and read their post, create documents, manage their calendar and much more. So as you can see, it is pretty good! 

 

I have been a user of Dolphin Guide for around eight years now and felt that it was about time I actually trained to become an Accredited Trainer so I could deliver training effectively and of course with the necessary qualification to back it up. So last week I completed my training and sat my Accreditation exam. I am very happy to say that I passed with flying colours. 

 

Obviously I am very pleased about this; not only because I can now officially train people, but because it has been a personal goal of mine for two or three years to actually do this. 

 

So it is with pleasure that I can announce that I am now a fully Accredited Dolphin Guide 8.0 Trainer and my services are now available. 

 

You can find out more by visiting the “Assistive Technology Training” page of the AVC website. 

 

Link to Dolphin website: http://www.yourdolphin.com

 

 

James Goldsworthy.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Accredited Trainer, Dolphin Guide 8.0

The Wall

A breathtaking view

Last week my partner and I spent several days up in Northumbria staying in a small bed and breakfast right on Hadrian’s Wall. On the second day we decided to walk the five miles to the nearby Housesteads Fort following the route of the wall. Predictably perhaps, the weather decided to make things just a little more challenging for us that day and as a result we ended up battling through driving winds and temperatures very nearly at freezing point. The rain had done its preliminary job of saturating the ground through the previous night so it was no time at all before we were getting bogged down in glutinous mud that came over our ankles as we negotiated the harsh rocky terrain.

As we struggled over, through and around that terrain and my partner described the environment around us as well as the breathtaking views all along the route I got to thinking about how we as human beings not only have to overcome obstacles and barriers throughout our lives, but also how we create them.

More specifically I was thinking about those that we create for ourselves that prevent us from achieving what we want to. Naturally there are those that we consciously put in place marking our boundaries and setting the extreme borders of our personalities; but what about those that we subconsciously put in place?

When thinking about self created obstacles I was considering examples like:

– The individual who wants to work their way up the ladder of seniority in their work but makes or finds excuses as to why they cannot go for that promotion they have always wanted.

– The individual who doesn’t have confidence in themselves or their abilities and has anxiety around making themselves heard, therefore creating an obstacle from their own shyness or fear.

On the surface these examples do of course appear to be more conscious obstacles, but those conscious obstacles more often than not have deeper root causes.

It can often be very difficult to get to the bottom of these root causes with a client, but ultimately that extra discussion and exploration can uncover multiple reasons for the given issue to have manifested.

I then thought about what obstacles and barriers can mean to different people. To most they will mean physical or mental things that slow a person down, something that is difficult to get through, around or over or something that can be intimidating as well as seeming impossible to face. Does this mean these obstacles are insurmountable?

I come across examples much like the ones I have used above regularly in my Coaching and I invariably ask my clients almost the same couple of questions each time. “How do you think you could find the courage to face these obstacles?” and “What do you think could help you overcome these obstacles?”

Almost always the response is the same or similar. “I don’t know” or “I was hoping you could tell me.”
Half way and it's getting colder!
Now, as my partner and I slipped and tripped and scrambled over that terrain along the route of the wall I thought how much I’m like my clients and my clients are like me. Not as silly as at first you might think.

I am blind and so to navigate successfully over that terrain I needed the help and support of someone I trust. Not to walk the route for me you understand, but to help me discover the best path for me and my particular needs. After all, my partner wasn’t carrying me, I trod the path myself.

In the same way (although metaphorically of course) my clients have the same handicap as I do in the way there is fear of the unknown; perhaps they don’t have the confidence or do not have the bravery to embark upon such a path alone, and ultimately are as blind as I am because they cannot see what is over the crest of the next hill.

So it is since making that slightly odd (but in my opinion, very relevant) metaphorical observation that I intend to use that walking experience in my Coaching to encourage clients to explore their fears and anxieties and to help them find the root issues that cause them to create their subconscious obstacles.

I would like to leave you with something to think about before I go.

Imagine yourself if you will, in the situation I was in on that long cold windy walk over incredibly wet, steep and rocky ground and see if you can apply that metaphorically to a part of your life that you are struggling with right now. It can be your home life, your work life or your student life.

Now consider how you feel at the beginning of the “walk”, how you could improve that feeling or indeed who might be able to help you feel better about it. Also think about what you are likely to find particularly difficult over the route of the “walk” and consider what or who might lessen that difficulty or help get you over that particularly high and nasty looking hill strewn with rocks. Now think about how you will feel when you get to your destination knowing what you have just gone through.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

James Goldsworthy.
AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.
Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

What makes us who we are?

What makes us who we are, shapes the person we see in the mirror each day and creates the personality we project to others? 

 

Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago in which I attempted to answer that question. Now that I look at it from a Coaching perspective I find myself considering how those people I mention in the poem that influence us actually Coach us in one way or another through our lives. 

 

Right up until the last line in the poem I think that those external influences have a greater impact on us as individuals than we perhaps appreciate. Certainly in the respect of our own will and intentions I feel that it is not until we reach our true adulthood that we come into a sense of our own identity in many respects, whether in personal relationships, family life or of course our chosen career paths. 

 

It is this in particular that interests me as a Coach. As through learning more about ones own strengths, weaknesses, anxieties and potential a person can grow as an individual and change who they are and/or who they want to be. Whether through conscious decision or by accidental realisation many people feel that they want to change but do not have the confidence to do so. As a Coach I feel that through helping people find that confidence and helping them empower themselves to change peoples personal lives and careers can be drastically changed for the better. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching. 

 

Who we are.

 

What makes us who we are? 

This is my answer. 

 

Our early experiences in childhood, the bad and the good 

 

The things we see from afar, the beautiful and the disturbing 

 

The family that love and teach us 

 

The friends that surround and embrace us 

 

And our inner voice, the mind and the will. 

 

Written by James Goldsworthy.

copyright reserved 2008.

The Answer?

“Exploration leads to understanding. Understanding leads to deeper knowledge. Deeper knowledge leads to greater awareness.”

 

 

Although not spoken by anybody famous the quote I wrote above is something I like to use in a variety of different scenarios and I have found it particularly suited to my style of Coaching. Whether there is a challenge that I myself am working through or if I am Coaching a client I have found that each individual statement within the quote plays a specific and important part in its effectiveness as a whole. 

 

The quote does of course work in its most general state, but by extending the individual statements within it more clarity can be achieved. This works particularly well when the extended version is applied to a specific problem. If you take the quote from above and turn it into the version below you should see what I mean. 

 

“Exploration of the issue at hand and the potential options available leads to understanding. Understanding of those options and how they might work leads to deeper knowledge. Deeper knowledge of how many possible options work leads to greater awareness. With greater awareness one is better able to make informed decisions that have a greater chance of success.” 

 

As I mentioned earlier, what makes the application of this quote so effective is that each part of it directly supports the next. In fact it would be fair and accurate to say that using only one part of the whole will not work; for how can understanding of an issue or challenge be achieved without first exploring it fully? How can one have true knowledge of something one does not first understand? 

 

This quote, statement, or tenet if you prefer, is something that has served me very well through life and is now something that I incorporate into my Coaching practice. I don’t for a moment claim that it is “the answer” but I do feel that it goes some way to helping find the answers that we all seek. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

A New Year

Welcome to the Alternate Visions Coaching website and blog. I would like to wish you a Happy New Year for 2014 and wish you every success in your endeavours through the coming twelve months. 

With this new year comes this new website and with hard work and a bit of luck the growth and development of AVC. It is my intention to write short articles on my journey as a coach and points of interest that you may find engaging as well as informative. Here you will be able to get news about AVC as well as reading more about my work and mission, so please do follow this blog to keep up to date. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching. 

Enablement coach specialising in sight loss, assistive technology training on Apple VoiceOver, Dolphin Guide & SuperNova, coaching for living with sight loss, back to work skills & confidence building