Facebook Gets Enhanced Accessibility for the Visually Impaired, French Canadian Speaker
Article by George Norman
On 07 Apr 2009
Popular social networking site Facebook, who has recently been focusing on its looks and security, has now addressed two issues regarding accessibility to the aforementioned site by making it easier for the visually impaired to access Facebook (as detailed by the CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind) and by releasing a French Canadian version of Facebook.

“About two years ago, AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) approached Facebook in order to combat the accessibility problems of blind members who were having trouble using the site and its applications, including AFB's own cause on Facebook. From our very first interaction, Facebook has been responsive to our feedback and committed to finding solutions to these problems. This has underscored the fact that Facebook is a community dedicated to all of its members, including those with disabilities,” explains CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, Carl Augusto.

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So how exactly does Facebook aid the visually impaired? First of all there is an “accessibility-specific help center page” that one can visit (here) and gain access to instructional tips on how to use assistive technology alongside Facebook, as well as provide feedback on Facebook accessibility. Then there are the design changes implemented in Facebook that would make it more accessible to the visually impaired.

Carl Augusto again: “The challenge is that not all Web pages are compatible with screen readers and magnifiers. When a website is built without regard to accessible design, screen reading software cannot interpret the information, which prevents the blind person from accessing the site. Social networking sites present some especially difficult challenges. For instance, images are an important part of the site experience, but it is rare that photos get described. Even while in the middle of reading a page, comments or links can change in ways that are undetectable to the screen reader or fall outside the viewing window of screen-magnification.”

Last but not least, Facebook has also addressed the language needs of the users whose native language is French Canadian. Jimmy Lavoie explains: “After many months of hard work, Facebook debuted in French Canadian last week. As I worked on the translation, my goal was to help create a site that feels natural and comfortable to French Canadians. I like the French language and I try to protect it, on the Internet and in real life. I'm especially proud of Québec French, also called Canadian French, which is recognized as a different dialect from the European French language.”



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About the author: George Norman
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Facebook Gets Enhanced Accessibility for the Visually Impaired, French Canadian Speaker
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