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Chapter 20. Accessibility

Chapter 20. Accessibility

Back when computers were entirely text-based, people with physical disabilities could use them without much difficulty. Blind people could use screen-reading software that translated the text on the screen into a synthesized voice; then they could simply type their response on the keyboard. People with motor impairments could use alternative input devices to type characters. And for the hearing-impaired, a text-based interface presented no barrier at all.

Ironically, many so-called user-friendly computer technology advances in the 1980s and 1990s made computers less accessible to people with disabilities. The mouse-based, point-and-click interface proved useless for visually impaired people who couldn’t see what they were supposed to click, and many motor-impaired people found that they couldn’t maneuver a mouse with the necessary precision. The introduction of streaming sound and video meant that a significant fraction of the audience was cut off from multimedia content: Blind people couldn’t see the video portion, and deaf people couldn’t hear the soundtrack.


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