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Last year I was surprised the Safer Internet Day (SID) passed by me,

this year I already know the reason:


South Africa’s Film and Publication Board is doing nothing to promote Safer Internet Day, such an important awareness campaign.

Same story as last year: the Safer Internet Day (SID) initiative is still “Awaiting an update on Safer Internet Day 2018 activities.”

Same story as last year: the Safer Internet Day (SID) initiative is still “Awaiting an update on Safer Internet Day 2018 activities.”


So it’s up to us to do something for Safer Internet Day 2019:

Pledge your support for a Safer Internet in SA or Report a Cybercrime.



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Wait what? But that’s already past! Why didn’t I hear about it?

After the event and still "Awaiting an update on Safer Internet Day 2018 activities."

After the event and still “Awaiting an update on Safer Internet Day 2018 activities.”

Well, maybe because the Safer Internet Day (SID) initiative is still “Awaiting an update on Safer Internet Day 2018 activities” from the South Africa Safer Internet Day Committee – Film and Publication Board.

And there’s no reference whatsoever to the Safer Internet Day 2018 on the Film and Publication Board website:


The only reference I could find googling was this PR info, published on 6 Feb late afternoon: Google partners with FPB to inform kids on Safer Internet Day.

There are a few more mentions, but only from tech publications.


This might give an idea why there’s such a digital divide in South Africa: The content it would take to create awareness – if it exists, it’s still not being spread to reach its audience.

Perhaps a bit of VAC could help?


The good news is, there’s always another one: The next Internet Safety Day will take place on Tuesday, 5 February 2019.


In the meantime, you can still pledge your support of Internet Safety in SA:


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Making your website accessible and inclusive for everyone should be a standard requirement.

Making your website accessible and inclusive for everyone should be a standard requirement.


Just in case: If you do need to know why, please read: Benefits of providing information on the internet for blind people.


Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.


We all know what wealth of information the internet is offering: From price comparisons and product reviews, to virtual maps and how-to instructions, to online research and e-learning – the possibilities are endless.

All that is needed is access.

And that does not just mean the access to internet, but also an accessible internet.

Both of which South Africa is currently lacking. While there is an effort to close the digital gap, awareness about web accessibility is low.

And it’s so easy!

With ready-made themes, freely available tutorials and simple to use meta data editors, all we got to do is comply with the W3C Web Accessibility guidelines which were launched back in 1997.

While this is currently only based on good will in South Africa, many countries around the world have adopted legislation to ensure the internet is inclusive. In fact, there are numerous cases where companies have been successfully sued because their website was not accessible.

In 2000, an Australian blind man won a court case against the Sydney Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG). This was the first successful case under Disability Discrimination Act 1992 because SOCOG had failed to make their official website, Sydney Olympic Games, adequately accessible to blind users.

In 2008 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into effect. Article 9 commits signatories to provide for full accessibility to roads, buildings, and information, which includes website design.

Just recently, on 2 December 2016, the European Parliament published the first EU-wide rules to make public sector websites and apps more accessible. This is expected to be followed by a European Accessibility Act.

Time for South Africa to follow suit? 😮


Listening to the internet: A blind user listens to the screen reader to navigate his laptop.

Listening to the internet: A blind user listens to the screen reader to navigate his laptop.


Why make a website for blind people?

An accessible website can function like an interactive audio guide, providing people who lost their sight with the information they need, making your website more inclusive.

It might sound odd at first to design a website for blind people, so here’s a list of benefits:


1) Digital is more accessible than print

A digital text can be read out by a screen reader. A printed text most likely requires a person to recite.

A relatively small number of blind people can read Braille: Fewer than 10 percent of blind Americans read Braille.

In addition, Braille texts are not easy to come by: Only one percent of published books are available in braille.

According to the AFP just “five percent of printed materials and books are available in a readable form for the blind or visually impaired in industrialized nations, and just one percent in developing countries.”

Once you’re plugged in to the internet however, a wealth of information becomes available.


2) There is more digital content than printed content

Digital content is growing at a rate close to crazy: Back in 2010 Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.

We are in the Information Age because of the Digital Revolution. There’s so much information available on the internet, we call it information overload.

User generated content has evoked a data explosion – most of it will never make it and was never intended for print.

Already back in 2011 Amazon sold more ebooks than physical books: 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books.


3) Digital is up to date

Even if it’s possible to get alternative forms of content – e.g. Braille or audio – the time it took to produce and deliver means that the information is outdated by default.

The internet offers immediate, real-time updates. Anything can be downloaded in one click. You can subscribe to feeds and stay constantly informed. For anything you could think of – there’s probably an app for that.


4) Technology can empower

Anyone willing to try and test online tools and apps, can quickly discover how helpful technology can be.

And if it’s not: Simply providing feedback can be valuable in perfecting it.

Or even better: Get involved in improving it for everyone, for example by joining DAISY.


WordPress is doing a great job at offering resources to make their blogs and websites accessible.

WordPress is doing a great job at providing resources to make their blogs and websites accessible.


Why WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular blogging system in use on the web, at more than 60 million websites. WordPress is an open source project and is free to use. Its content management system is user-friendly and with thousands of plugins  and widgets and themes capable to do anything.


Make WordPress Accessible

In addition, WordPress offers great resources for accessibility:

Search WordPress themes with the tag ‘accessibility’: Click ‘Accessibility Ready’ under ‘Features’.

Install the WordPress plugin for accessibility which helps with a variety of common accessibility problems in WordPress themes.

You can also get actively involved and contribute to the WordPress Accessibility Handbook.



How do blind people see the internet? - Not like this: A blind man is tapping with his white cane at a screen showing a website...

How do blind people see the internet?


Making your website accessible is not just about adding the right metadata or choosing an accessibility theme.

It’s really about putting yourself in the shoes of your users and learning about their way of interacting with your website.

Blind people use screen readers to navigate the internet. Here some tips how to design your site to be more inclusive:


How to optimise your website for blind users

1) Think linear

When looking at a website, it is possible to grasp many aspects of it at once and directly click on the desired information.

When a blind person gets a website read out, the screen reader always starts at the top and reads out down to the bottom.

While to a seeing person the header image looks like it stays the same, to a blind person it gets read out every single time they go to another page of the site.

To design a good accessible website, we therefore need to think linear, from top to bottom. Follow the flow of the website from the top down to understand how it feels like for blind users.


2) Expectation management

We live in a visual world. Websites contain visual cues, sometimes even symbols without any description. These are invisible to a blind person. Make up for this lack of instruction by adding an explanation in the copy what to expect when taking a certain action.

E.g. “Click to download an application form in PDF format.”

This also applies to the content itself: In our fast paced environment no-one has time or the attention span for long-winded copy. Use ‘front-loaded’ content, where the conclusion comes first, followed by the what, how, where, when and why. This way you allow for scanning, skimming and skipping, but still provide more detailed information for the ones interested.

Similarly any media on your website, such as video, audio, sliders or carousels should not simply start by default. Any actions or changes should only occur through clear user interaction.


3) Organise your content

The better structured your article is presented, the easier it is to understand. Make use of standard formatting, such as headlines, paragraphs, bullet points, bold, underlined, italic, etc. Most screen readers interpret these correctly and read them out with different emphasis accordingly.

E.g. creating lists with the <li> tag means the screen reader announces how many items on the list to expect before reading them out.


4) Be mindful with the use of images

Any image on your website is invisible to a blind user – this includes buttons, symbols, logos, tables, charts, infographics, emoticons, photos.

Unless you fill in the <alt> tag:

The <alt> tag stands for ‘alternative text’, which is provided instead of an image. The tag should be a concise description of the image and its context.

If the image does not have a real function besides being a pretty placeholder, keep the <alt> information at a minimum.


5) Use adequate code to help with shortcuts

Blind users navigate the internet with their keyboard. They use shortcuts to skip content or only read out certain information.

We need to ensure we’re using the right html tags for the correct result.

E.g. using the <h> tag for headlines helps blind users skip content and only read out a list of headlines for quicker navigation.

E.g. Give your site a descriptive page title with the <title> tag, as this is the first thing the screen reader announces.

E.g. using <i> for italics looks the same as using <em> for emphasis, but sounds different, as some screen readers accentuate them differently.


6) No repetition of content

You might intend it as a friendly gesture and for better orientation include your website menu on the top and then repeat it at the bottom again.

For a blind user this can be confusing, as hearing the same content being read out again might prompt them to think they’re back where they started.


7) Home Page: Make it a Welcome Page

Our ever changing world demands real-time updates, which we literally feed to our home page via an RSS feed.

A blind person who visits your website for the first time might think they somehow landed up on the wrong site if they encounter news content that veers too far off form what your website is about.

Ideally you’d have a short introduction to your website with hyperlinks to the most important menu items.


8) One long infinite scrolling page

Rather than linking out to many different micro sites, stick to one long consecutive page with all the relevant information in one place.

List anchor links at the top, so it’s possible to skip ahead and get to the desired information quicker.

Rather than providing links to the next page, offer infinite scrolling, where the user can continue reading without having to click on any links.

Keep the amount of clicks it takes to get a specific information at a minimum: Adhere to the three-click rule.


9) Announce the bottom of the page and offer further navigation

The screen reader does not know it has reached the bottom of a website. It simply stops reading out. It is up to the blind user to figure out the reason.

Therefore add the information to the bottom of every page that this is the bottom of the page and offer to click on links to go back / go back to the top / go to the home page.

E.g. “Bottom of page. Click to go back to the top. Or return to home page.”


10) Announce and explain all links in the copy

Correctly coded links are announced as links by the screen reader. That still doesn’t help a blind user much, if they are not guided about the purpose of the link: Always outline what the content is and where it links to.

E.g. “Click to read more about us.” works better as explanatory text than “Click here”.

This is especially important if the link takes the user outside of the current page.

E.g. “Click for more information on screen readers on the Wikipedia website.”




Testing a screen reader: How does it pronounce abbreviations, such as “St” in “St Dunstan’s”?


A screen reader is a computer program that reads out what is on the screen.

Some do this more cleverly, by interpreting the formatting of text, e.g. underlined / bold / italics, and reading hidden code, e.g. the <alt>  tag, which provides a text description for images.

In order to make a website accessible for blind users, it’s important to optimise it for screen readers.

Watch this video to get an idea how screen readers work: Introduction to the Screen Reader.

Read up on how screen readers interpret symbols: Why Don’t Screen Readers Always Read What’s on the Screen?

Learn more about navigating a website with shortcuts: Basic screen reader commands for accessibility testing.


A red tag with 'Access All Areas' written on it: What is reserved to VIPs in the entertainment industry bears the question in the media industry: Is your website optimised for accessibility?

Access All Areas: Is your website optimised for accessibility?


What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.” – Wikipedia


How many of your customers need accessible websites?

“One billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.” – The World Bank

According to WHO, there are 285 million people worldwide who, due to some disability (i.e. they are suffering with low vision), cannot read all content on a website. 39 million of those people are blind and cannot access any of the content via sight.

Additionally, there are 360 million people suffering from hearing loss worldwide.” – SitePoint

“According to the Office for National Statistics, in May 2015, 27% of disabled adults had never used the internet, compared to 11% of non-disabled adults.” – The Guardian


Being web accessibility compliant is easy

There are numerous guides with best practices and tips:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has not only a whole section on accessibility, but also run an entire Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

They have a list of requirements for providing text to act as an alternative for images. They also provide tutorials how to best make images accessible.

Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) has a useful article on designing for screen reader compatibility.

web-accessibility provides a guide for people with hearing impairment.

W3C also published an overview on how people with disabilities use the web.


Checking if your website is accessible is even easier

Nothing can replace the feedback of an actual human being, but for a quick check where your website might be not accessible, there’s a list of easy to use, web-based accessibility evaluation tools.


So, what do you prefer to be called? Handicapped? Disabled? Or physically challenged? – “Joe” would be fine. – The most appropriate label is usually the one people’s parents have given them.

So, what do you prefer to be called? Handicapped? Disabled? Or physically challenged? – “Joe” would be fine. – The most appropriate label is usually the one people’s parents have given them.


Yes, saying ‘disabled people’ is fine.

But better still would be to actually address the person, and not their disability.

However, if you need to refer to disabled people in general, here some great resources for learning how to do so with respect:


Wikipedia’s Disability Etiquette

The Disability Cultural Center’s Guide to Disability Language and Empowerment

Gov UK’s Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability

Resources for Disabled Students’ Unhandicap Your Language


The team of the #bitswap event – from left to right:
Spinsista Mitzi, Julia Ranzani, David Robert Lewis, Stanley Edwards


As a protest against the lack of accessibility and affordability of the internet in South Africa, file sharing took to the streets in form of a #bitswap event.

ZA-FREE took the net to the streets at Open Streets Cape Town, which aims to engage everyone in re-designing and re-working the use of public streets.

The bitswap event was one of the interventions of 100 in 1 day, a civil action day where people take ownership of their city and create a better place to live.

While the rest of the world’s economy is thriving on uploading and downloading content from the cloud, South Africa is so behind with its broadband infrastructure that accessing the cloud is not affordable for a large group of people.

The ZA-FREE initiative encourages a DIY approach to file-sharing:

“We are promoting radical alternatives to costly Internet services. South Africans can home-bake the Internet, we can do it for ourselves, in our own backyard. No more expensive downloads, we urge users to embrace free file sharing and swapping of bits and bytes via wifi hotspots, mesh networks, bluetooth and USB.” states David Robert Lewis from Ubuntuponics.

At the bitswap event computer facilities and an open wifi network were set up right on the street to invite passers-by to swap content.

Security measures were implemented to prevent illegal file sharing:

“There’s enough free content out there, plus the focus is on local content. We have so much talent in South Africa. Budding creatives and entrepreneurs are in need of spreading their content to create awareness and thus give some of it away for free.” explains Julia Ranzani from Creative Communications.

A free content library was set up on the day in collaboration with Ogle and Spinsista Mitzi.

Ogle is operating educational and entertainment content kiosks in an effort to close the last mile gap of content delivery:

Spinsista Mitzi is a well-established Capetonian DJ who generously donated some funky tunes in form of podcasts:

Interest about content swapping and internet accessibility was high and the team spent most of the day providing information. The photos show how much fun it was:

For more information and to be part of the next bitswap event join ZA-FREE:

The bitswap event was kindly sponsored by Gandalf’s who offered access to their facilities and Dial a Nerd who donated the computer equipment for the day.


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Scrambled Up Letters

It’s all scrambled up letters to you? Modern technology can help.


1) Turn on your automatic spellchecker in your internet browser


2) Write everything in a word processing software first. Then copy and paste. You might have to strip the formatting though.


3) Use your computer’s Speech Recognition to let it read out long texts for you. Windows even offers you a training, which makes it really easy to learn.

Go to: Control Panel -> All Control Panel Items -> Speech Recognition and then select ‘Train your computer to better understand you’. This video shows you it’s child’s play to do it:


4) Promote the 3 sentence rule:


5) Ask people to send you an explainer video for complicated matters rather than lengthy emails.


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