A little bit of will and knowledge

Przemysław Waksberg – trained marketer, working as a computer specialist at Social Welfare Centre in Bielany District in Warsaw, specializing in web accessibility for the blind and visually impaired people. In his free time – DJ. Sometimes a volunteer. He is a partially sighted person.

When he faced the task of creating a new page of the Centre, has decided that it will be fully accessible to blind and visually impaired people – so that it will be also accessible to himself.


An interview conducted by Olga Kożuchowska with Przemysław Waksbert.

Is the work with computers your passion?

Yes, computers are my hobby since childhood. Every day at work in the Center I’m helping users in their problems with computers, eg. when computer crashes, shut down, or do not want to run. It happens that one forgets the password, then I’m unlocking him the access. I’m supervising proper work of e-mail boxes, website of the center, I update it.

Information technology is not your first profession, you have already reskilled as an adult. Did this training course include the needs of blind and visually impaired people?

No, it was public training course organized by one of the companies within the EU program. The training was completed and certified by Microsoft exam.

Did you as the first person in the Centre bring the principle of accessibility of the website?

Yes. It was commissioned to me to create a new page. As I am partially sighted and I know what makes me the difficulty in browsing the internet, I decided to make it so that it is for me as clear and accessible as possible, I cared about contrast. I am opposed to Flash technology. Although maybe it is attractive, many elements moves, you can add animations – this is unaccessible for the needs of partially sighted persons. You can not enlarge these pages, screen readers do not read their – I avoid this kind of pages and of course also the site of the Centre is not made in this technology. Once I worked as a volunteer with the company IVONA Software, which helped me to convince this company to provide free software for the Centre, which is providing sounding of the page. Then none center had this kind of software. That was 2011. Today, the name of the software is iWebReader.

Then I applied to the project run by the Centre of Integration Association in which I could work on the accessibility of the site. Site audit was carried out. It turned out that the site is largely accessible. It required some minor amendments, such as: the contrast was too big or too small, the font was to little, lacking some mechanisms to facilitate the use of the site by using the keyboard. The adaptation process took about a month.

You mentioned that it you were a volunteer for the company IVONA Software. Was that the only volunteering experience?

As time allows I do different things. It happens to test the availability of applications for visually impaired people, or deal with computer system in the Association of Parents and Friends of the Blind and Visually Impaired Children „Rainbow”, but due to my sight defect I do not want to sit all day in front of a computer.

Also I get involved in organizing picnics for Rainbow House Foundation, during which we raise money to build a house for full time care for people with coupled disabilities eg. with cerebral palsy. I’m on this picnic DJ – as DJ is my second hobby.

Let’s turn back to the issue of accessibility. Would you recommend to organizations, institutions that are preparing to make their pages accessible? What should be included in the Ten Commandments of availability?

Several issues:

  1. First of all, readability, which is a white background with black text, or vice versa.
  2. Appropriately large font, depending on the amount of information that we want to put in it. The font size of around 16-18 points.
  3. Colour contrast, you can not use a white font on a light green background. I understand the aesthetic but it is illegible. I suspect that people who see well have difficulty seeing or reading similar texts. Ability to choose colors is essential.
  4. If possible, avoid the use of Flash technology. I understand that it gives a lot of opportunities, but from the point of view of the visually impaired or blind practically excludes the use of the site.
  5. The worst is text embedded as graphics. This is something that can not be read. This is one of the requirements of the WCAG standards, that PDF documents should be prepared as text – no pictures and text. This can be explained on the example of the documents relating to public procurement. Documents bearing the stamp and signature of the directorate should be upload on the site. I found a way to obtain such documents. At the start I scan it and then I use OCR software (the most popular Fine Reader) process and save as PDF and image which is superimposed text.

And what about mobile apps?

I do not like sites with a mobile version (laughs). They can not be enlarged, so I can not read them. On some pages, you can not „force” to move to the desktop version of the page. In general, it is not taken into account the accessibility for the blind and visually impaired people. Blind people are so much easier, that if there is a text version of the site, sentyzator reads it and they can use it. Visually impaired people would like to be able to enlarge the page, and can not do. I use a synthesizer for long texts, but sometimes I wish I could read less text by myself and I can not. There are many such applications – eg. mobile version of facebook.

Where to be informed about this?

On the Internet you can find a guide to WCAG 2.0 – (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) for the preparation of accessible pages. This document is very large, which may discourage reading. Integration Association has prepared the publication „Available pages”, which describes in plain language how and what should be done to make website accessible and legible.

Besides we should be guided by common sense and empathy. Creating accessible web site requires only a little bit of good will, common sense and a little knowledge.