November 22, 2005.
As the 2005 holiday shopping season begins, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) recommends that people shop online. A recent evaluation in AccessWorld(r), AFB's online technology magazine, finds online shopping to be accessible and user-friendly for people with vision loss.
"You no longer have to shop 'til you drop because most online shopping is convenient, easy, and screen reader-friendly," said Jay Leventhal, editor of AccessWorld. "Given the results of our evaluation, it seems e-tailers are ahead of the curve when it comes to accessibility."
Using a screen reader, an assistive technology product that reads the text on a computer screen, AFB evaluated seven popular online shopping sites for accessibility including Amazon.com, ToysRUs.com, Drugstore.com, PetDiscounters.com, BestBuy.com, Gap.com, and Landsend.com.
Amazon.com's accessible Web site -- a separate site designed specifically for screen reader users -- was found most screen reader-friendly. But Drugstore.com, Pet Discounters, Gap, and Land's End were also very accessible. And although the Web sites for Toys R Us, Best Buy, and Amazon's main site required a little more work and patience, they were still usable for people with vision loss.
Evaluators found that most of the shopping sites had well-labeled graphics and links -- the key to accessibility. Because users with vision loss move through a page by tabbing from link to link, labeling is very important. For example, "buy this red dress" is self-explanatory and useful whereas "click here" doesn't provide people any information about a link. Unlabeled graphics and pictures are equally frustrating; but, for the most part, the shopping sites clearly labeled images.
"As most of these sites have demonstrated, making Web sites accessible isn't that difficult. In addition to being the right thing to do, it's also a smart business decision," added Leventhal.
Today, 7.3 million older Americans report some form of vision impairment even while wearing glasses or contact lenses, and as baby boomers age that number is expected to multiply. This means more and more people will require Web sites and products to be accessible to people with vision loss.
For a complete copy of AFB's online shopping article, visit: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw060605.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the over 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information visit AFB online at http://www.afb.org.
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