American Foundation for the Blind Essay
The particular website being evaluated is that of the American Foundation for the Blind found at http://www. afb. org/. This site is created and maintained by the proprietors of the AFB, whose members of their board of trustees identify themselves as persons in leadership within prominent businesses, medical institutions and universities across the United States.
The credibility level of the developers is high, as they are a not-for-profit group of highly educated professionals and volunteers who have united for the purpose of increasing the accessibility of information to the vision impaired. While the site does not mention how often it is updated, navigation proved that links were up to date and this suggests the regular maintenance of the site. Furthermore, links are also provided to the webmaster, should any user experience problems navigating the site. The website provides a wealth of information for the visitor.
Having anticipated the wide range of persons who might require information concerning vision impairment, the developers have provided information to family and friends of those who suffer hearing problems, as well as to a wide demographic, such as senior citizens, children, professionals, and employers of those who suffer hearing impairment. The site also provides information regarding public policy research. In addition, it provides general information about vision loss, publication and consultation information and even technological aids, such as audio production for aiding communication.
This information corresponds with the goal of the website, which is to bring focus to the phenomenon of vision loss and to aid persons afflicted in improving their ability to function in a visually stimulated world. There does not appear to be a bias in the way the material is presented on the site, although as a not-for-profit institution, the AFB might harbor some amount of desire to make a profit. No overt advertisements give any indication of this, however, but the organizationt does raise money via donations and the sale of books.
The site provides information of importance to students through its tips for teachers, literacy instructors, and information regarding education policy. Content The currency of the content is demonstrated through the usability of the links and the pertinence of the education program guide. The links are up to date, but program guides appear to be 3-4 years old. News headline feeds are current (within a month) and links to journals reflect articles that were published only a month ago.
The content of the site is very open and objective, demonstrating a consideration of visually impaired persons as part of the society who deserve to be exposed to the opportunities for learning and recreation that others enjoy. It shows no bias against particular races or culture, but uses graphics in which several ethnicities are represented. The important issues of the site are presented clearly and it plainly set out the pros and cons of certain actions related to them.
This includes the pros and cons of certain medical procedures available to help correct vision loss, although the site also includes tips on how to live with the problem if no solutions are available. The languages available on the site include English, Spanish and Braille (via Braille Bug), demonstrating the developers’ commitment to communication to a wide spectrum of users. Furthermore, the site’s content is written mainly at a level that will include the basic- to high-level educated person. Some exceptions can be found where links are provided to medical journals.
However, even in this case the site provides a summary of the work that allows it to be accessible to a wide cross section of readers. The site is organized into categories such as “Learn About,” which provides factual information about issues connected with vision loss. It also contains an “Information For” section which categorizes the relevant information depending on the demographic of the user (age, education, vocation). The site also provides a section containing links to outside professional organizations that are connected with vision impairment.
Design and Navigability The design of the site is perhaps a bit scattered, as the categories named above have been located at different sections of the page. A better method of dividing the categories might have been to contain the list of categories within one bar on the right or left of the screen. The current design places some categories on the right, others on the left, and some at the bottom left. Some categories (such as the blog) can only be accessed through a particular page, rather than being located at the same spot on every page.
The site is designed in a manner that welcomes navigation, however, simply because the wealth of information provided leaves the browser with a myriad of options to choose from for information. If, however, one comes to the page with a specific purpose in mind, it might prove more difficult to find what one seeks if that purpose is obscure. Overall, most information sought is likely to be found on the home page. The inclusion of a search bar on the home page (and on every other page) provides a major aid to the navigability of the site, and makes it much easier for users to find hidden information.
The various sections of the page are labeled. However, the conventional labels, such as “home,” “about us,” “contact us,” etc. are placed in unconventional places and split up over the site, so that they might at first be somewhat difficult to find. The use of conventional links that are underlined helps in the navigation of the site, as it makes it clear to readers that clicking on particular text will take them to desired (or undesired) pages. The section titles are also properly color coded and bolded or enlarged in order to set them off as broader categories under which particular subtopics might be found.
In order to aid navigation, the site also allows ready and enhanced access to buttons that increase the text display size. The graphics used within the page are sparse, but pertinent to for the motivation and to aid the navigation of the user, where necessary. The “Braille Bug” and “Helen Keller” graphics are particularly helpful in allowing persons to be immediately able to locate and access those sections of the page. The currency of the graphics can be judged on their multicultural aspect, and the pictures do include representation from a wide cross-section of cultures.
The website does not offer very many activities, but it does link to one or two sites that do. Individuals with Disabilities Since this website caters directly to the demographic of persons that suffer from visual impairment, it contains a wide range of resources that aid in their ability to navigate the site. Since websites are generally directed at the visual sense, the improvements for the visually impaired greatly raise its level of navigability for users with disabilities. The site allows for (and links to other sites that provide) attachments for Braille to visually impaired users.
It also allows for enlargement of the text on the website’s pages in order to allow visually impaired readers greater access to the material contained within the site. Pitying and over-protection are avoided on this website. Rather than pity, the site provides tools that allow the person with disabilities to have access to the information he or she needs from the site. It also provides information regarding procedures that have the potential to improve or correct problems connected with the disability, and this information is provided in an unbiased manner.
The site does provide resources that strengthen the confidence and autonomy of the visually impaired person, giving links to such information as public policy research and other aids that allow the impaired person greater freedom to direct their way around the internet, other media and in the wider world. It also motivates these persons to “live independently and productively,” “have a social life,” “maintain a career,” and “lead a normal life. ” The website provides a wide variety of information on how to live with vision loss. However, it lacks information and aids for other types of impairments.
It also does not provide testimonials of persons with impairment. What it does provide, though, is message boards that allow people from all over the world to upload information about anything they desire. This allows for a wide cross section of informal testimonials and gives people access to the stories of others with similar impairments. The site does not explicitly point out the many similarities people share (as opposed to their fewer differences) but it demonstrates that it provides its information to a wide cross section of cultures, thereby implying that these apparently different people are affected by disabilities in similar ways.
One of the links on the site provides information about the famous hearing/visually impaired writer, Helen Keller. This link allows persons with disabilities access to the biographical information about this remarkable disabled individual who was able to overcome the negative aspects of her disability enough to do what might have been considered impossible. It provides the quote that Helen Keller herself gave to a young blind person: “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.
” This advice is provided to the persons with disabilities that visit the site in order to motivate them to try what they might have previously considered too difficult or impossible. It also provides an “Ask Keller” forum in which real questions concerning disabilities posed to a forum leader (a great-grandniece of Helen Keller) are answered and recorded on a monthly basis. These resources are aids and motivators for the persons with disabilities who visit the site and for those who love and work with them. Recommendations for Improvement
As an author contributing to the site, I would recommend that the site improve its structure a bit more. While the current structure is effective, improvements would make it vastly more navigable by collecting similar links and pages more accurately under given headings. Perhaps one of the main changes I would make is to have the entire site (rather than just a few pages) translated into Spanish (and other languages). When that is done, it would be necessary to place the language indicator at the top of the website, rather than have the phrase “en espanol” appear in a few select sections based on the availability of translation.
The layout of the website, while navigable, could use some improvements. The most important improvement would be to collect the links to useful pages on one side of the home page and use tabs as a means of grouping the pages under various section headings. Therefore, while right now each section takes up a large amount of space on the page, in the improved version, each section would require only a line’s worth of space. The links contained within each section could then be stored either in a drop down menu, or be displayed when the mouse rolls over the heading.
Once this is done, more room will be left on the home page (and other pages) for consolidating the numerous sections placed in different areas all over the page. Space will also be available for the inclusion of more graphics and color on the website. Another improvement I would make to this site is to remove the “find helpful services” drop-down menu from the center of the home page and place it underneath the search bar at the top right-hand corner of the page.
The “find helpful services” menu provides a resource that is similar to the search bar, as it helps the user locate specific information. Therefore, both resources should be grouped together in one area for easier navigation of the website. Finally, I would also include more audio features to make the site more accessible to the hearing impaired.
AFB. (2008). American Foundation for the Blind: Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss. Retrieved on December 3, 2008 from http://www. afb. org/
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