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Curtis Chong, who is blind, cannot access some state and county COVID information because his screen reader — one of the most common in use — cannot interpret the data as presented on health department websites. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Chong)
County and state public health agencies in Colorado have posted coronavirus data, public health orders and testing locations on their websites. But many of those documents, forms and graphics are inaccessible for people with vision impairments.
Curtis Chong, a blind person from Aurora who has worked with the National Federation of the Blind on computer accessibility issues, noted that his JAWS screen reader cannot interpret many of the data visualizations on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website. JAWS is one of the most widely used screen readers, according to a 2019 survey from the web accessibility organization WebAIM. Screen readers translate coded text and numbers into speech, or, with the aid of additional adaptive technology, into Braille. They are not able to read pictures of text, such as scanned PDF documents.
“You want to make accessibility part of the culture way at the beginning of the process so that it doesn’t have to be slapped on later …
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