Amy Ruell has been blind since birth, but software programs called screen readers help her read web content-that is, if websites are created in a way that makes their information accessible and usable for her, which is not always the case. Sometimes, sites that constantly refresh aren't coded right, and every page refresh causes her screen reader to start going through the page all over again. Some sites don't have properly tagged headings or descriptive links to help her find what she needs quickly; others are too cluttered with ads.
These kinds of problems make the web inefficient for reading news and content, says Ruell, a Boston area-based clinical social worker who is also a technical support specialist for an assistive technology company. She states she'd probably read more content if the access and usability were greater. Sometimes, Ruell reaches out to website developers to ask if they can make some changes for accessibility. "By far, the most common reaction I get is surprise, because they don't have a clue that the person on the other end of that computer screen or smartphone is a blind person," she says. "They don't know that these things even exist that would allow a person without vision to access the information on the web.