The 2011 Census – Almost Accessible

This morning we settled down to fill in our 2011 census form online. A process which we were assured has been made totally accessible for screen reader users. I have to commend them, it has indeed been made accessible and was a very easy process.

However, it wasn’t without its stumbling point, namely the Internet Access Code. This code is printed at the top right hand side of the census form and has to be entered onto the site to access your census form. Was this code available in alternative formats for blind people? No it was not.

So, I could have taken the form into work and had someone red the form to me but decided instead that we would test the system. No one seemed to grasp the fact that in order to fill in the form independently a blind person needs an accessible access code. We were constantly offered someone to fill in the form over the phone, or a field worker to come to the house to fill in the form for us. We couldn’t get them to realise that we wanted to use the nice new shiny online version independently but couldn’t access it without this elusive number.

After a fairly stressful time on the phone yesterday my partner finally got a person who was happy to think outside the box just a little and provide the code over the phone, providing that we would first confirm our address. Good on that person! So, eventually, the census was fully accessible to us but not without a bit of a fight and some extra expense in telephone calls.

When will people realise that a lot of blind people don’t have readily available sighted assistance? A procedure which necessitates sighted assistance to start it is just not accessible.

If it wasn’t for that helpful lady on the phone yesterday, I’d have been prepared for them to send me out a field worker to read the number to me, and if that failed I’d have made a big issue in the press about why I hadn’t filled in my census form. Fortunately, on this occasion, I’ve been spared the stress and heartache of yet another complaint.


About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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2 Responses to The 2011 Census – Almost Accessible

  1. Richard Trelfa says:

    It’s like most if not all accessibility software: it usually needs a sighted person to install it in the first place.

  2. Damon Lord says:

    Accessibility software: I find Dolphin SuperNova to be good as it has a voice which tells you what’s going on during installation. For the record I should declare an interest as I recently started working for Dolphin, although I was a very happy customer of theirs for years beforehand.

    As for the census, I asked for a large print version. I got sent out one, and it only had space for two people on it, myself and my wife, no room for our son. I phoned up to get another set of pages for me to fill in the details for my son, so after some delay they sent me out a fresh copy instead. I stapled the two copies together and filled it in and sent it off promptly. I had been informed that large print versions take longer to enter into the computer, as they can’t be scanned, and have to be read and typed in manually.

    I was then harrassed on the doorstep several times over the following months by census agents who had come to remind me to fill it in and pick up my census. They did not beleive me when I told them I’d already done it (the delay being at their end, that someone had to do it manually rather thhan scan it automatically. In fact in one conversation with an agent on the doorstep, I expressed concern that the large print census only has room for two people, and I had to wait for further pages to mark down details of my son. Her reply was: “Well we didn’t think disabled people would have children.”

    I wish I’d got some details of that agent so I could have reported her…..

    Finally they left me alone, so I guess someone must have gotten round to typing it up.

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