echurch logo

www.echurch-uk.org

(Rob has written an article on accessible web-design that you can read by following this link)

 

An Article Written by Rob and Catherine Davis

Picture of Rob and Catherine Davis

Most churches have people in their church, or on the fringes, who are blind or have limited sight (or know those who care for them). Echurch-UK is an email community with a website. Currently they have around 150 pages on the site, the site is written and run by Carol Pearson and Rob and Catherine Davies. Both Carol and Rob are blind.

Many blind or partially sighted people and their carers and loved ones have great difficulty in obtaining support, fellowship and information. Some of them are housebound and a few are both blind-deaf. This makes for difficulties in living out their faith.

An increasing number of blind, blind-deaf and partially sighted people surf the Web and communicate through email, Echurch-UK brings them together in an email community, wherever they live.

The site also has information for local churches on visual access and support for visually impaired people. With an ever-expanding list of links.

With the implementation of the accessibility laws this year it is vital that churches and Christian organisations realise that, legally, their buildings and websites also need to be accessible to the growing numbers of blind people who wish to visit them, we have links to advice to help with this.

The RNIB web spokesperson, Julie Howell, said recently in the Baptist Times that the Echurch website is a model to all UK websites. They have recently started adding new pages for those who are seeking support and information for visually impaired people who are not Christians.

The site has around 25,000 hits, from all over the world, a month.

Echurch is run from home, with email and phone input from Carol and other Echurch members, and no charge is made for their services. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, it does not cost a fortune to run a website, they pay less than £100 a year.

A point of interest: Many sighted people are mystified as to how people with little or no sight can possibly read and write emails and even access the Internet. Catherine is the only member of Echurch who is sighted, yet more and more of our email list members are being encouraged to write Thought for the Month, poetry, prayers, inspiring testimonies etc for the website. Surely this is God at work, enabling the gifts He has given to these believers to be of benefit to the wider world?

There are three main ways in which visually impaired people access computer technology and the Internet:

1) Most partially sighted people use a programme which enlarges the text on the screen and alters the background to provide high resolution. Such as a dark background with white or yellow text. The Internet Explorer web browser has a facility to do this as an option.

2) Blind people, with good hearing, often use an audio screen reader. There are specialist programs which follow the cursor around the Windows screen providing an ongoing talking commentary. They do not use a mouse or a screen, but navigate with the arrow keys and the tab button.

3) People who have both a visual and a hearing impediment together, use an electronic Braille display. There are several Echurch members who are blind and deaf and use email, MS Office and visit websites.

They do have difficulties, especially in reading websites which have not provided for their needs. For example:

  • Where images do not have an alt tag providing a text description.
  • When information is provided by text in images or flash.
  • When websites use colours to provide information.
  • Where the text cannot be enlarged.

Things have begun to improve for us since the USA and UK laws on accessibility have changed, these apply to websites too. The Echurch-UK website is a fully accessible website for each of these categories of sight loss.

Rob, for instance, writes, and reads his email using an audio text reader called Jaws for Windows and Microsoft Outlook. Hope this gives you a small insight to what is becoming the norm for an increasing number of visually impaired people and we pray that you will be able to use this information to make your websites as accessible as the Christianity Online one is!

Rob and Catherine Davies

www.echurch-uk.org

Site contents:

  • How to subscribe to Echurch mailing lists
  • Testimonies, stories, poetry, prayers & more
  • Sight loss - resources, help, leisure options & true stories
  • Bible quotes on everyday issues
  • Your church & visually impaired people
  • Please tell others about Echurch-UK
  • Growing List of Links to resources for visually impaired people


The 12 Myths of Blindness by Rob and Catherine Davies

1. Blind people have no sight at all
2. Blind people have improved hearing or touch
3. Braille is used by most blind people
4. Blind people cannot use computers
5. Guide dogs are used by all blind people
6. Guide dogs can take blind people anywhere
7. A blind person will recognise your voice
8. People with limited vision can use large-print books
9. Blind people lead difficult & dangerous lives
10. Blind people cannot live on their own
11. Blind people do not enjoy TV or theatre
12. All blind people are super-saints


Answers to these and many other questions are on www.echurch-uk.org

You can also find more information on appropriate site design here and in Rob's own article here.

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