In my job as a web developer/administrator, I am often in the position of having to explain to customers and coworkers and sometimes superiors our need to meet our mandate to produce accessible information on our web site. I cannot count how many times I have heard the question, "How or why would blind people need to use the internet". Of course, the visually disabled are not the only group that we need to consider when producing material, but they tend to get the most attention since the web is such a visual medium. Fact is, for those with disabilities, their need to use the internet is even more essential than most of us who are not disabled. To answer the quesion, blind people use the internet for the same reasons that sighted people do, to get information and communicate. Assistive technology is available, that allows blind users to "hear" the information on a given web page, so long as the site is designed with all users in mind.
There are over 50 million Americans with disabilities. Ignorance and lack of awareness of those with disabilities is no longer acceptable in a global environment where technology can be the great equalizer - so long as those who create content and services via the internet consider those with diabilities when they approach their design decisions. Not all disabilites are apparent. In other words, you might not realize someone has a disability just by looking at them. I believe that discrimination against those with disabilities stems mostly from ignorance and laziness rather than malice. But the internets are for everyone and there are tools and training and people with experience that can be tapped to assist anyone in making their information on the web accessible.
Today is Blog Against Disablism Day and here are some resource links:
• Understanding Disabilities - Types of Disabilities
• Access and Opportunity - A guide to Disability Awareness
• Gnome AccessibilityDeveloper Information - (Geek Info)
• Knowbility - Accessibility Consulting, Training and Advocacy to Support the Independence of People with Disabilities