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Commentary: The non-vision impaired friendly disability sports internet is here. Please stop it.

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I took a few days away from writing to have a delight trip to Burgos, where the Spanish sun didn’t shine so hotly, and where I pondered how people in wheelchairs got around the area near the absolutely gorgeous Burgos Cathedral given all the stairs involved and the lack of ramps.  If you sent me e-mail, I promise to get to it soon.    But I digress…



I have no vision impairment, but I’ve becoming increasingly bothered by the number of disability sport organizations on Facebook that forget many people are.  According to one survey, most people in the USA who are blind use screen readers and most screen reader users use them all the time.  Beyond blind people, other vision impaired people and people with physical disabilities or deafness use screen readers. Lots of screen reader users are North Americans and Europeans according to another two surveys, with Asian use on the increase. 61% of screen reader users used them with mobile devices.  Beyond that, according to one research paper, people with vision impairments are much less likely to be using the internet because of technological hurdles.


Barriers for participation in sport and in support of sport as a fan by making things not screen reader friendly? Not offering alternative text on the bottom of your Facebook image announcing an event?  Totally icky.  Let’s not create any more barrier than their needs to be, especially in organizations that serve people with vision impairments.  Disability sport organizations, especially the ones serving the vision impaired community in some way, please stop failing to provide some form of alt text.


At the moment, I’m looking at  Ligue Handisport Francophone (LHF) who posted a nice announcement for an athletics competition.  No alt text on Facebook.  No description attached to the image.  If you’re blind, you have no idea what it says.


Parafed Wellington has the Ski Ruapehu event from October 14 to October 16.  Parafed Wellington is covering the costs for the trip, but people need to provide their own transportation to get there.  You can e-mail them at  If you were wanting to know these important details using a screen reader, good luck.  Their description was: “REMINDER – Ski Trip Details are now needing to be confirmed for the ski trip in October. If you have not already indicated your interest to be involved, you need to do so asap”.


Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association   has been doing an excellent job promoting their competitors ahead of the BISFed World Championships in Beijing that is coming up soon.  There is an awesome image with an awesome caption.  The image says, “2014 Montreal World Open tournament, facing two time Paralympic Champion Dirceu Pinto from Brazil, tournament final, tied at 3, in overtime, #1 world ranking on the line, down to the last ball, Pinto scoring, solid defensive wall, liite space, pressure is on, I unleash my last ball, narrowly squeeze by the defense and there it is, I #nailthejack, the crowd goes wild and I prepare for my next battle.  Marco Dispaltro, BC4.”  The helpful image caption for the visually impaired? “Like, Share and  ‪#‎NailTheJack‬ !  Photo: CPC/Daniel Marcotte”.   They’ve done this time and time again.


Comité Paralímpico de Chile is also guilty of this yesterday.  “Melipilla Open. Torneo Nacional de Tenis en Silla de Ruedas. 3, 4 y 5 de Octubre. Av. Fernado Fuello s/n Chocolán. (Club de Teni´s Melipilla). Entrada Liberada. ” is the information on their image, plus sponsorship logos.  The text description? “Atención tenistas nacionales. A inscribirse en la primera fecha de los Nacionales Salcobrand de Tenis en Silla /”.  Again, which one is more useful to people, especially to people using screen readers?


Federación de Baloncesto en Silla de Ruedas de Puerto Rico (FEBASIRU) is another organization that I have seen occasionally present fliers without sharing all the flyer text in the image description or on the Facebook update.   To be fair to them, they do provide some information and more information than the LHF post this article is in response to.


IPC Athletics is generally pretty good about making sure their athlete information for supporters has an update included that provides more or less the same information as the image.  Ditto for Paralympic Games on Facebook.  They also provide text descriptions that cause no loss in share information with their images.   There are probably a number of additional disability sport organizations guilty of this.


I apologize for singling out the ones I did, but I just looked through the past 24 hours of my Facebook feed.  If your organization is mentioned here or you know of others who do this on Facebook, please ask them to provide additional information when posting posters or memes or other images containing text.


If you want a better idea of how Facebook works with screen readers, this guide helps.  There are also some good videos on YouTube that given an idea of how people use screen readers, Gadget for the Blind (By Ramaditya Adikara) is one I have enjoyed watching.

Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

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