I’ve always had poor eyesight due to excessive reading without resting my eyes when I was a kid. Over the years, I’ve worn thick glasses, and I can’t see much without them. These days, I wear trifocals. My paperbacks all have slightly larger print than normal so that they’re easier for me to read them myself. Not just for myself, I want all my readers to be able to access all my books. I’m sorry I don’t yet have audiobooks, but someday soon I’ll publish them. However, I’m thankful to God for increasingly useful technology to enable my blind readers to access my books, for example, via the Kindle app on their phones.
I don’t shy away from featuring all different walks of life in my books. In my own real life, I’ve come across many people. When I was even in grade school, we had blind students in our school by the sea. There were blind students in college. And blind Christians in church. As such, I have a blind character in Olivia, the pastor’s wife in His Longing Heart (Seaside Chapel Book 1). Her own story is coming soon in a special prequel I’m writing this year.
Some of my readers are blind, and I am acutely aware of the need for accessibility. I have fallen short in years past where my author website is concerned because I kept forgetting to use the ALT tags for the images in my newsletters and websites. However, this year I am making an earnest effort to correct that. Today I’m interviewing one of my avid readers, Kelly Wickham, about accessibility so that I can make my books, author website, and my newsletters even more accessible to my blind readers.
Without much ado, here are my questions for Kelly and her answers.
Jan: I’m so thankful to God that you love to read my books. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Kelly: My name is Kelly Wickham. I am totally blind and widowed. I love to share the love of Jesus in song. In my spare time, I love to read and spend time with my family. My heart is especially in the nursing home ministry. I love singing with the people and praying for them when they need it. I also help with leading the singing at my church, and sometimes reading passages of Scripture aloud.
Jan: What are the main challenges you find as blind avid reader?
Kelly: The main challenge for most of my life was finding books in Braille or on audio, but now, kindle is here and I can easily read the books or listen to a text-to-speech voice read them. I would say the biggest challenge, though, is images. There are some books that are not screen reader-supported at all because they are all images. Those are the hardest to read.
Jan: I admit that when it comes to images, I haven’t been adding in ALT (alternate text) tags as much as I should. Sometimes I don’t know what to write in it, and the ALT tag doesn’t give me a lot of space to be descriptive, so I have to summarize as best I could. W3 has a free decision chart guide on what to put in the ALT tag field that’s helpful: https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/images/decision-tree
Jan: How can authors make their websites more accessible to blind readers? E.g. using meaningful ALT tags.
Kelly: This is a big one for me. Descriptions and alt text are very helpful. I don’t like to click on links unless I know what they are. Also, I have tried to sign up for some authors’ newsletters but something prevented me to sign up and I’m not sure what it was. I ended up emailing the authors and asked them if they could sign me up.
Jan: What are some technology products that have helped you read more easily? Text to speech software?
Kelly: My FAVORITE piece of technology is my Braille display!!! It can either hook to my phone or be used as a stand-alone device that I can put books onto. Also, there is a great app called Voice Dream Reader. There is a small price to pay for it, but I can either listen to the book being read by a text-to-speech voice or read it in Braille. Also, the iPhone kindle app is pretty good, too.
Jan: Good tips on tools! With my computer background, I love utilizing technology to help in every day tasks. I use an iPhone and I’m working on getting it to read to me so that it can read Kindle ebooks to me any time.
I want to thank Kelly again for taking the time to answer my questions in this interview.
If you’re an author, do you take steps to make your books and website accessible to blind readers?
If you’re a reader with vision impairment, how are you using technology to help you read better?
P.S. Thank you in advance for your comments. Unexpectedly, I will be away from my desk until late afternoon. I will reply to your comments as soon as I get back. Thanks again!