Blogging is hailed as an equalizer on the web. Anyone with a laptop, an internet connection, and a decent command of their own native language can speak their mind on any topic via a blog. It’s that easy.
Or, it should be.
When I hear fellow bloggers talking about spending 3 hours a day on their blogs I know they’re not spending that entire time writing just 2 posts a week. They’re updating interlinks, setting up monetization, downloading plugins, and a dozen other tasks I haven’t yet figured out how to find time for, or how to access in the first place.
Hi, I’m Anneliese, blogger, author, mental health counselor, and blindfluencer. Your hostess graciously offered me her platform for the day to share my thoughts on accessibility issues for blind bloggers. I hope today you’ll gain a new appreciation for the time and energy my fellow blindfluencers and I have to invest in using our voices in the global conversation.
In preparation for this post I reached out to other blindfluencers for insights into the challenges they face when building and maintaining their platforms. Their experiences mirrored my own. Living with a disability takes time, more time than life normally does. But beyond that, as far as technology has advanced in terms of the capacity for accessibility, accessibility is not yet considered at the foundational level of new technologies and new tools.
Until accessibility is written into the baseline code of every website, tool, add-on, and plugin, until it is a de facto part of design, we the disabled will always have to work twice as hard to be heard alongside our able-bodied peers.
Challenge #1: Variations on a Theme
I bought my domain name, paid for my hosting plan, set up a username and password, and opened the site builder. It was time to launch a blog, and I was inspired and ready to get writing. Of course, I knew there’d be aesthetic decisions like where to put headers, widgets, side bars, and menus, but I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to drag and drop elements where I wanted them, like the hosting website had advertised.
Then I discovered themes. These templates with pre-arranged elements ought to have made my life easier. A single click and everything falls into place, right?
But if you can’t see the theme, then how do you know what elements are on offer, let alone where they are?
“You mean I can’t even set up a blog without getting someone sighted to help me?”
While I did enlist the help of a friend whose aesthetic and marketing sense I trust implicitly, I found it very ironic that this tool of universal communication still left me begging for support. I thought “am I just doing it wrong? Are there other tools that would have solved this problem that other blindfluencers found out about? Did I just not work hard enough?”
Here’s Holly on the same subject. Check out her fantastic content here, by the way:
“When transferring from a free WordPress site to a self-hosted site, finding a theme was rather difficult – in fact, it was almost impossible without enlisting the help of sighted family members. I was able to determine themes that were accessible, but I had no idea what they looked like., when initially setting up my blog, I needed a lot of sighted help with the initial set-up and design to ensure that I wanted to get it the way I wanted.”
Challenge #2: The Pictures Worth a Thousand Words
Fun fact: The average length of a blog post is a thousand words. On some of the more informative blogs it can settle around 1500, but most of the time you’re reading about a picture’s worth of someone’s ideas formed into more or less elegant prose. But of course, these posts often come with pictures, too…
In fact, if you jump over to my blog you’ll see I use a few of those on occasion, too. But how, you might wonder, does a blind blogger take pictures? Well, you can check out this post to learn about the surprising and invisible world of blind photographers. But like most blind people, I find taking pictures, let alone editing them, prohibitively complicated. Though my iPhone now tells me if a face is centered or the object in focus is level, I have no concept of lighting and struggle to crop appropriately.
Yet dozens of how-to blog posts, eBooks, and guides all proclaim the importance of good images and offer links to dozens of free stock photo libraries.
Problem solved, right?
These wonderful libraries full of thousands of stock photos lack a little thing called “alt text.” When I, as a screen reader user like this blindfluencer describes in her post on accessible technology, run my mouse over an image my screen reader says either “image” or “an image of a chestnut-toned German shepherd curled up on a white fluffy dog bed.” The latter is an image which includes alt text, a line of text attached to the image for the purpose of interpreting the image for screen readers.
I have yet to find a stock photo library which includes alt text for its offerings. Yet I, like the rest of you, live in a world where vision is considered a person’s primary sense, the first way they engage with the world. Being able to catch the eye of my readers is a task I often have to delegate to a sighted friend.
A thousand of my words chosen by someone else. Is it still my voice?
Challenge #3: Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?
Many partially blind computer users still make use of the mouse-and-pointer combination to navigate websites, word processors, games, and other programs. But there are far more partially blind and totally blind computer users who find the tiny arrow flitting across the screen entirely impossible to use. And when programs like website hosting services and word processors don’t have keyboard short-cuts built into their fundamental functions these programs are added to the long list of inaccessible technologies.
The practical outcome of this is that if a blind keyboard short-cut-user is navigating around a website builder, she can only be aware of the features her keys take her to. She goes unaware of dozens of tools and options that could boost the functionality and ratings of her blog. Her voice is stunted by the blinders put on her by the simple failure to account for her presence in the blogosphere.
I don’t like writing about problems I can’t propose solutions for. I don’t really like writing about problems in general. This post was uncomfortable, yet also cathartic, for me to write. Everyone faces challenges. Some are easier to spot than others. Some are more easily solved. Here is the final thought I want to leave you with when considering the challenges faced by blind bloggers.
We accept the difficulties. We write anyway.
We accept the workload because we have something to say.
We accept the challenges because we believe that readers want our words, and every time someone likes, shares, subscribes to, or comments we are proven right.
About the author:
Anneliese Knop, aLC, is a mental health counselor, fantasy author, and self-proclaimed “blindfluencer.” She published her first novel in 2021, and blogs about life as a blind woman with a service dog here on The Dark side.
Follow her on: Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook for book updates. LinkedIn for mental health articles and Twitter for a little bit of everything.
I have been using WordPress for close to 10 years and this post resonates deeply with me. The general requirement to include images in written work is very frustrating and cuts blind people out of perfectly doable jobs that are already low-paying or strictly passion-driven volunteer work. I often feel that without funding to pay a high-quality editorial assistant whose work is specifically devoted to graphic selection, my sites will have poor graphics because people will not have time to assist me in choosing good graphics and I will have to settle for whatever they choose. And it really isn’t my voice. It is theirs.
I can run the back end of WordPress… There are some accessibility issues dependent on the theme–yes, themes impact the accessibility of administration as well as the stuff that users see as well. Some plugins are helpful. It takes a lot of upkeep to be sure things are running well and I am aware things don’t look the same from one browser to another and on mobile. There is not a good solution for me or for everyone else. And there needs to be.
Thank you for your thoughts and sharing your experience on this. I’ve had my eyes seriously opened to the issues that blind bloggers face.
This is such an eye-opening post. As someone who is partially deaf, I can sympathise a little when it comes to not being able to use all the the functions of something that others can use. It was always a struggle when platforms like Instagram and YouTube didn’t have subtitles, and even now, so many people don’t use them on stories. Going forward, I know I can definitely do a lot more in terms of my own blog to make it more accessible to everyone.
Oh wow I didn’t know that about you! Thank you for your input. I always try my best with Instagram story captions!
Wow. I hadn’t considering a few of things mentioned in this post. Thank you for sharing. I will definitely look into this in the future.
~ Jayne | http://www.ourjourneyinchapters.com
It’s very eye-opening.
Accessibility to blogging shouldn’t be as complicated as it seemingly is for so many. I try and do as much as I can for a few people who read my blog who I know are partially sighted with adding descriptions, particularly on social media, some sites could do better!
I know I could do better so I’m grateful for this post for holding me accountable!
This is such an incredible read, accessibility in blogging should be seen more often than it is, I definitely learnt a lot from this post x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
I’m glad, thank you
This is such a great and incredibly interesting read! I learnt so much that I honestly had no idea about and it’s given me a totally new outlook on the blogging world for those who are blind. Thank you so much for sharing lovely. I throughly enjoyed reading! Xo
Elle – ellegracedeveson.com
Same lovely I didn’t know about most of this either but it’s so important that accessibility issues are addressed and spoken about!
Great information here!! It is so very true…all of us face challenges of one sort or another. It is always a gift when someone shares their story of triumph over a particular challenge, because it gives people hope that they too, can overcome difficulties.
Definitely agree 🙂
You gave us a clear idea of the challenges in such an informative article.
Glad you enjoy it.
This was such a great read. Accessibility for everyone is so important. Thank you so much for sharing and bringing this to our attention.
Thank you for reading!
Oh this was such an incredible read – something I hadn’t quite thought of tbh. Well done for bringing this to more people xx
Yes I think we all need to consider these things a little more after reading this!
Good information sharing. I learned a lot of new things about blindfluencers. This author is really an amazing person. I’ll look forward for her works. Thank you for sharing.
She’s fantastic, thank you for reading.
I love engaging with Anneliese on Twitter, and I never thought about these tough issues that blind bloggers must face on a day to day basis. Thank you for bringing these accessibility issues to my attention 🙂
Excellent read isn’t it, it really opened my eyes to a lot.
This is a touching post. I never thought about the blind bloggers before. This article entails the difficulties faced by blind bloggers. I hope that new technologies will emerge to make things accessible to them.
Thank you for reading!
Great post Anneliese, and thanks Jenny for hosting the post! I love the thoughts shared at the end, yes everyone has their own challenges and we all love to write even when facing challenges behind the scenes.
Thank you for reading!