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.