Thomas MacEntee over at the GeneaBloggers Blog wrote this post about making your blog more welcoming to visitors: Your Blog’s Welcome Mat. He gives some tips on making visitors feel more welcome when reading your blog.
It occurs to me that while we are making our blogs prettier and more presentable we may be making them less accessible to the disabled and the elderly. The narrower columns, variety of fonts, and other added features may be great for presentation, but do you give much thought to those visitors who have trouble reading online?
For example, I am disabled. I have arthritis throughout my body. In order to get done what I have to get done on the computer, I print articles and post so that I can read them offline. It is frustrating when a blog or website does not give me a non-graphic printable version of a post. Have you ever tried printing posts from a thin column blog? A three paragraph post may spread out over three pages–wasting paper and ink for disabled people who might already hurting for money.
Of course, they could copy and paste the post to notepad or a word processor for printing. However, some people have disabled this function. So, they leave the disabled user with the option of wasting materials or not reading their posts.
How about people with vision problems? Many folks use tools that read the words to them. Do you make the effort to make sure your blog or website is accessible for these folks? Do your photographs and images have labels so their readers will tell them verbally what the images are about? Are your fonts easy to read?
Some folks can’t read the bright white background. Others are color blind and cannot see your colors anyway. Some of these folks might also like an easy to print page.
You might say “Well, that’s what font sizes and all those nifty options in your browser are for.” Consider this. Many genealogists are over 70 and first time computer users. They are befuddled easily. While those who run blogs and websites know perfectly well about all the little things you can do with browser option, the first time senior citizen computer user probably doesn’t. The more things they have to do to get what they want, the least likely they are going to come back for more. Don’t make them have to call their grandchildren for help!
You might also say “Well, you can always read the post in RSS format.” Now, this is something I do! All my favorite blogs are listed in my favorite reader and I look through the posts daily. I love being able to print from my reader and not have to copy and paste blog posts to notepad.
But here’s the hitch. Some bloggers don’t let you see everything in an RSS reader. Some give you a taste, a paragraph or two, which is okay. At least you can scan it to see if you are really interested. But, some bloggers don’t give you anything. You get the title of the post and that’s it. I have to admit unless the title is really descriptive and enticing, I usually end up never going to the blog to see what the post is about. By that time, I’ve already moved on.
The point of this post is not to pick on anyone’s blog or their style. But, I hope I’ve given people a couple of things to think about:
1. Is your blog easy to print for those with chronic pain who might like to read stuff offline?
2. Is your blog accessible for those with vision problems including tags/labels on images that special software can verbalize?
3. Is your blog friendly and easy to use so that elderly folks feel comfortable moving around your blog?
Give these things a thought. By making a couple of tweaks you might be making an elderly or disabled person’s visit a whole lot happier.
If you have some suggestions for making a blog easier to use for the disabled or the elderly, leave a comment or blog about it and post a link here! Let’s learn from each other.