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A client training session with a difference!
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A client training session with a difference!

A client training session with a difference!

Background

I had a fascinating experience last week training one of my clients. Her name is Liz and she is from Nottingham Disabled People’s Movement, a small charity that campaigns and supports people with disabilities in their local community. They approached us last year to build them a website because of our strengths in accessible web design. Their previous website appeared to be coded well and have lots of accessible options, however it was not visually appealing and was difficult for them to update.

With our bespoke websites, client training is always part of the package and I will often do it in person. In this case, because of geographical limitations, I planned to do it over the phone whilst also being logged into Liz’s computer so that I could actually watch her as I talked her through adding new content to the website.

Encountering JAWS

Liz is blind and uses JAWS which is the screen reader of choice for most blind people. Although we build our websites so that they meet the needs of as many different groups of people as possible, such as blind people using screen readers and other assistive technology, we currently only have one of our clients who is blind. They are LL Pianos and we developed their website so that they would be able to take photos of their pianos and upload them to the website without having to log in to the full WordPress dashboard. We did this because it can be quite difficult to navigate. WordPress is a fantastic platform for managing websites but James Little at LL Pianos preferred to have a simpler system that would allow them to add specific types of content.

This would therefore be a first for us, not only building a website that met the needs of people with different accessibility requirements but also in being able to train clients with the same needs, in a way that would allow them to manage the website themselves.

I find it fascinating watching and listening to people with using screen readers. James Little, for example, is well versed in the arts of reading his emails so that he can only hear one or two syllables before tapping on to the next one and knowing whether the email is relevant or is what he is looking for. I suppose it isn’t that surprising, if this is the only way that you can navigate a website or use a computer you are naturally going to become extremely proficient at doing so but it is always amazing for me to hear him using his computer at a lightning speed whilst talking to me.

We make no guarantees as to the accessibility of the WordPress dashboard as that is beyond our control so I was extremely interested in finding out how it would measure up. If you use WordPress you will be aware that there are two tabs you can use with managing the main contents of a page or post. There is the Visual tab, which is the one that is usually used and there is the text tab. Both achieve the same result, it is just that the visual tab is easier to use.

How the session went

I am aware that blind people usually use the tab key to navigate around web pages and the WordPress dashboard was okay to use but fairly cumbersome. However, I quickly realised how often Liz used the search facility with JAWS to jump to the relevant part of the page and I was able to show her how to not just add content but to create posts in different categories, change the publish date and so on. Once we got into this rhythm of working, Liz was able to pick things up very quickly.

The only real stumbling block was actually adding the content itself. Basically the visual editor did not work! It simply would not allow Liz to add any content! Switching to the text editor however made it a much more straightforward experience and, as WordPress remembers the last tab that was open, I was confident that this would be able to add new contents without too much more difficulty. Again, using the search facility in JAWS would ensure that she could always switch back to Text mode if it ever reverted back to Visual.

Liz would enter her text carefully but then use JAWS to read it back to her every few words and she would correct her own mistakes as she went. This is natural to her as a way of adding content and it ensures that spelling and grammatical errors are corrected quickly.

In all the time we have been corresponding, I don’t think I have realised just how much Liz relied on JAWS to proof her work but her emails have always been extremely well written, much better than mine most times! It has been a pleasure to work with everyone at NDPM and we are looking forward to launching their website soon.

I was inspired to write this blog differently!

This entire blog, by the way, has been dictated using the speech recognition function in Windows 10. I am a two fingered typist and although I type fairly fast, my error rate is always also fairly high. There is one thing about using the dictation function to write notes, it certainly makes you tighten up on your enunciation! I am probably correcting one word in every other sentence which isn’t too bad.

Although I have often used use my iPhone to dictate messages, this is the first time I have used my computer to do the same. It has certainly been an interesting experience, especially as every time I say the word “Tab”, it created a blank space, thinking I was saying the visual equivalent of pressing the Tab key!

Would you like to know more about what we do?

If you are interested in looking at having your website redesigned, why not give me a call on 01243 776399 to find out more about how we may be able to help you?

Clive Loseby

Access by Design. Award-winning web design, Chichester