Being Internet Disabled

Saturday, April 26, 2008 20:40 | Filed in Accessibility, Disability, Life

A phrase you might have come across, if you’ve looked into disability issues at all, particularly as they relate to the web, or you’ve looked at the topic of web accessibility is people who are sometimes termed internet disabled.

Now this isn’t an official term (at least, so far as I know), but from the contexts I’ve seen it used in, I understand this to mean someone who has a disability that affects the way they access computers and the internet.

This is to reflect that while someone who uses a wheelchair to get around more easily may not need any special adaptations in order to use a computer (and doesn’t need sites to be specifically designed to be accessible) but someone who can’t see, can’t move their arms, or don’t have sufficiently fine motor control to use something like a mouse are likely to encounter problems without adaptive technology and accessible websites.

And this week I’ve been internet disabled myself, through the most mundane of methods.

My mouse broke.

At first, I thought this was an absolute disaster because the mouse pointer simply wouldn’t move around the screen, and I thought that there was a fault with my PC. Fortunately, attempting same on the GLW‘s laptop returned exactly the same results, convincing me that the problem was much cheaper and only the mouse needed replacing.

It was one of them optical mouse thingummies you see. They’re much more convenient than the ‘ball’ ones I find… apart from when they break.

And this left me without the ability to use a mouse. Well, technically I still had the ability to use a mouse, just not the equipment, but the net effect was that since wednesday of last week (and until I went to town this morning), I’ve been restricted to keyboard only access to my home PC.

You’d think that someone with a passion for accessibility like myself would thrive on this, enjoy the opportunity to try out sites without using a mouse and experience a lot of the real-world problems faced by others on a day-to-day basis.

Well, bollocks to that. After half an hour I was saying:

I simply … cannot … believe how many fucking links I am expected to fucking tab through before I get to the fucking thing that I fucking want. Aaarrghh!! What am I doing over there? How the fuck am I fucking supposed to tell where I am on this fucking page anyway…! Ah, fuck this, I’m switching the fucking thing off and going to the pub…

So what I will say is, even though I appreciated how important keyboard accessibility was already, I appreciate it even more now. Okay?

And if you don’t think it can really be that unpleasant, then unplug your mouse and just try to go about your normal business on the PC. Go on. That’s not ‘ooh, I’ll look at this pretty page’, but actually try to accomplish a task. Check your bank balance. Book some theatre tickets. And when you’ve finished swearing, plug your mouse back in and see what a difference it makes.

Oh, and thank you Mr. Mouse. You don’t get the appreciation you deserve…

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4 Comments to Being Internet Disabled

  1. Andy Mabbett says:

    April 26th, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    You got to go to the pub and you think that’s a bad thing?

    Anyway, optical mouse optical schmouse; try a Logitech Marble Mouse.

  2. Christophe from little Belgium says:

    April 28th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    To avoid tabbing, I use Find As You Type (FAYT) (SeaMonkey / Firefox). This feature is the main reason why I prefer SeaMonkey (or it’s little brother Firefox) over Opera. I have customized it to find only links, so when I see a link I want to follow, I just start typing some of the link text, until the link gets focus. (If there are several links with similar text, I press F3 to cycle though them. Unfortunately, Find As You Type doesn’t work for image links.) When the link I want gets focus, I press Control+Enter to open it in a new tab. It’s that simple.

    Oh, and Find As You Type also works in the file list window in Windows Explorer (start typing the first letters of the file you need).

    There’s much more that can be done from the keyboard than most people know.

  3. Gill says:

    May 1st, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I hear you loud and clear, which is why I have a drawer full of mice of varying attachments just in case my Wacom stylus packs up.

    It’s one thing being able to happily tab your way round your own site and client sites that you’ve spent ages making keyboard accessible but try to do it on all the stuff you really need and you’re climbing the walls big time.

    We, as a web accessibility community, obviously need to shout louder to try and get through to the numpties who think they develop cool stuff.

  4. Minini says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 2:26 am

    1. Why are images good for aclicsibisety ?They’re good because it allows disable person to have an expanded imagination on behalf of that website . Also that their is much more to the aclicsibisety of an image than just its alt text . 2.Who would be negatively impacted by a text-only site ?It would affect all people disable people but mostly the blind , or that cant read .

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