What does it mean for something to be accessible?
A dictionary definition of the word accessible is 1. (of a place) able to be reached or entered and 2. (of a person) friendly and easy to talk to, approachable.
At its most basic level, something is accessible if it’s easy to understand and do, ideally enjoyably.
We’re currently trying to make our homepage more accessible, and we think these meanings match our aim.
Some barriers to accessibility are well known, for example needing a larger font size option or stronger contrast, captions on videos and descriptions on images.
But are there other barriers that may stop people being ’able to reach or enter’ our website?
Here are a few we came up with, as we thought about improvements in accessibility we could make for our homepage:
For many reasons English is a complicated language, with lots of irregular spellings and difficult grammar. This means that many people worldwide have difficulties reading it.
Unlike books that can be physically ’dipped in to’, computers present a limited amount of information at a time. This means that information is hidden, and you really need to know what you are looking for to find it. CVI Scotland now has a lot of information, and we need to come up with ways to let you know what’s available.
The impact of CVI
What if you have CVI, and you can see only part of the screen, or can see only one or two words at a time, or easily lose your place in paragraphs? Pictures and diagrams can be confusing, and the navigation buttons can be difficult to find. This is what our new blogger called ’Yellowstone’, a teenager from the US, told us about our website”...for a site about CVI it’s ironically hard to navigate because of my CVI.” All links at the end of this page.
Dealing with complicated subjects
It is important not to assume others understand things as you do, that is called self-referencing, and our team are constantly checking to try to do our best not to self-reference. Self-referencing is one of the biggest causes of barriers to others learning, as explained in Gordon Dutton’s blog 24. If as we communicate and teach we assume the people we are talking to see and understand as we do, but if they see and understand differently, then our efforts to teach will not work. So, for example, for the word occipital, we do not assume that everyone knows what this word means, or knows how to pronounce it. In our Lesson 1a we explain both the meaning and how to say it, so that it can be used with confidence. By following our step-by-step lessons, soon the learner will likely be confidently using and pronouncing the word ’fasciculus’, and explaining the importance of the superhighways of the brain.
We’re aware that some of our explanations are more advanced, but there is a starting point on our website for anyone and everyone. Our purpose is to empower with knowledge, which means the resources we share need ideally to be accessible to learners of all abilities and different levels of confidence.
Navigating complex websites
Not knowing where to start or what you are looking for on the website is a trickier problem, especially as there are now over six hundred pages across multiple sections and sub-sections. We know many simply want to know ’What Is CVI?’ but there is no simple answer to that question. The nature of CVI is different for each affected person, and spans all ages and abilities. We recently introduced a quick video tour, just over 2 minutes long, to show people arriving at CVI Scotland for the first time what is where - a bit like showing someone around a new house.
In a few weeks the homepage will be changing, and we will send out another newsletter to explain when it does. All the sections will remain the same and the titles found on the current homepage will still be there, as we, like most people, hate it when things we are familiar with, get moved around! This is to make the homepage easier to understand, especially for people coming for the first time, as currently every month thousands of new people visit our homepage for the first time. Hopefully our changes are going to be a bit easier for those not sure what they are looking for.
We know we have more work to do around other languages and CVI specific accessibility. It is all on our to-do list.
If you have a spare few minutes, please read Yellowstone’s blog. This young person articulately explains where many of us have got it wrong for them. We need to listen and believe, including where their account might not match the experiences others with CVI have, or might not match what the teaching or science communities agree upon. This condition is a huge subject. The world is just waking up to it. People with CVI and those closest to them are our best teachers.
The CVI Scotland Team
PS Everything new can be found in our Updates section, and via Twitter @scotlandcvi and our Facebook page.
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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.