In the February issue of the AccessWorld Extra e-mail, we asked readers about their use of social networking sites and social bookmarking sites. Social networking sites are used for connecting with friends, family members, people you knew in the past, and even professional colleagues. Social bookmarking sites let you collect your bookmarks in a way that is not specific to a particular computer or browser--you can log on from anywhere and get to your favorite bookmarked sites. You can also vote for an article by bookmarking it publicly.
A link to the survey was posted on the AccessWorld home page, and people could also respond by e-mail. A total of 62 people answered the survey, and their responses follow. These responses represent the opinions and experiences of these individuals, not any larger group of people who are blind or have low vision.
1. If you use social networking sites, which of the following sites do you use?
Linked In: 15
www.alwaysillinois.org and www.xt3.com
Disaboom and Blinknation
SAMNet (System Access Mobile Network)
Konnects, Zion5, Direct Matches, Adlandpro
Plaxo and Classmates
2. If you do not use social networking sites, why don't you use them?
I communicate with friends in other ways: 7
I am not interested in using them: 7
I tried them and found them to be inaccessible: 3
I do not have the time: 1
Other (please specify) 7
I participate in lists with common interests.
Often too busy to use the two I mentioned let alone struggle to learn a complex site.
I am afraid by using them I will get spyware, viruses, or malware on my computer. Also, that my personal information will be compromised.
I am afraid even to try using these sites because I am afraid they will be inaccessible.
I actually want to and even need to for my job; I just haven't sat down long enough with them to overcome the inherent accessibility problems. I will most likely use Facebook when I really dig into this.
3. If you use social networking sites, which one do you use most often?
Linked In: 3
Other (please specify) 7
4. How accessible do you find social networking sites in general?
Very accessible: 4
Somewhat accessible: 23
Somewhat inaccessible: 12
Very inaccessible: 4
I don't use social networking sites: 7
5. If you use social networking sites, which of the following do you use them for?
Keeping in touch with friends: 36
Professional networking: 28
Looking up people from high school or college: 25
Keeping in touch with family members: 23
Other (please specify) 4
Posting agricultural and food-related information, questions, and discussions.
I am beginning to promote advocacy issues.
Receiving news headlines and sports scores and learning about newly uploaded podcasts via Twitter.
6. If you use social bookmarking sites, which of the following do you use?
Other (please specify) 1
7. If you do not use social bookmarking sites, why don't you use them?
I am not interested in using them: 21
I am not familiar with social bookmarking sites: 20
I tried them and found them to be inaccessible: 1
Other (please specify) 5
I don't have time to play with that stuff.
I just don't have the spare time. I make little use of the networking sites, too, for the same reason.
I'm afraid using them will cause spyware, viruses, or malware to be put on my computer. Also, I'm afraid my personal information will be compromised.
8. How accessible do you find social bookmarking sites?
Very accessible: 6
Somewhat accessible: 4
Somewhat inaccessible: 4
Very inaccessible: 2
I don't use social bookmarking sites: 19
9. Please comment on which sites you have found most accessible and which sites you have had accessibility problems with.
Twitter is in large part accessible. Facebook is hit or miss and redesigns very often, changing how accessible it is. Applications also make this somewhat difficult to answer. I use Livejournal and find it in large part accessible.
Gmail account registration is awful!!!! They have CAPTCHAS, and their "accessibility" button, I don't know what it's actually called, is no help at all.
The Ning sites have inaccessible functions as well as many other social networking and bookmarking sites. It takes more time to learn than it is worth for me.
A great work around for Facebook and MySpace is using their mobile sites from my computer. I use Facebook all the time from m.facebook.com or m.myspace.com, and they are so much easier to navigate for the main features.
I have found Facebook kind of accessible.
I have found all the sites I've listed pretty accessible. The chief issue tends to be unlabeled images (the issue that comes up most with most web sites I visit).
The web sites I had the most accessibility problems with are Digg and Facebook. They still need work as far as making it accessible to screen readers, since the Digg web site has the headings, but whenever I am trying to read something, it keeps on reloading, and whenever I try to submit something to Digg, you have to fill in this box; you do have to listen to the letters, but you have to reload the page just to find the box to type in the info. Facebook still needs the face-lift on the main web site, some of the links work while other stuff is very inaccessible, but the mobile web site you can access. Whenever I try to look up applications to make it accessible, I really don't get anything, and the redesigning of the web site as far as access keys just to find the certain parts of the web site would make it a lot better. The web sites I do find really accessible are Twitter and Delicious. I did the signing up stuff through Firefox, and since I have the webvisum add-on really makes it possible to fill in the words and or numbers. Whenever you come to the box to fill in the info, you just paste it in the box, and once you sign up, it is pretty easy to get an account and start twittering. The two things that are related to Twitter are Twittermail and Twitteroo. Those things are really accessible. Now with Delicious, I can log in and access my bookmarks, and it's again pretty simple once you sign up to access all the features. I use the Firefox add on, and the Windows application called Delicer. They are both really accessible, and you can also synch your Internet Explorer favorites as well. Both Twitteroo and Delicer are on my desktop, and I love them. Now if only Facebook could come up with stuff something similar to what Twitter and Delicious have, it would make it easier for everyone to use.
I have looked at Facebook and MySpace and find them too difficult even to sign up or make a page. I am trying Twitter. I think it can be usable, but I am having trouble using the audio verification to finish the sign-up process.
I do not use social networking or social bookmarking sites. I use the Braille Sense, and I am not sure how well the unit would respond to these sites. I have also seen MySpace cause drama in people's lives, affecting them personally and professionally.
SAMNet is terrific because it is designed for blind users and provides an interface for other social networking sites, too. I have little experience with others, though I hear a lot bad about all of them.
I have found Twitter to be very accessible. I've heard that the audio CAPTCHA isn't that great, but I signed up before that was implemented. Facebook is mostly accessible, but there are some things on that site that I am unable to do. I primarily use JAWS for Windows version 9.0, although do have experience with Window-Eyes and System Access.
I particularly like Twitter and Delicious. Facebook is improving.
I find Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook very accessible. I said somewhat accessible earlier because the CAPTCHAs on MySpace are not audio and are required a lot.
Twitter is the most accessible site. Facebook is way too cluttered.
I signed up with Facebook but will probably never use it. There are too many other things going on, and I don't need to add something else.
I find Facebook and Twitter to be pretty accessible and MySpace to be less accessible.
Twitter is totally accessible; Facebook is very accessible for the things that I enjoy doing--uploading photos, status updates, wall communication, etc. I use JAWS for Windows and have no sight.
I find Twitter usable without many access issues. However, I would say there are several improvements that would benefit blind users. Facebook is usable with Jaws, but System Access totally improves the experience and usability.
I find Facebook to be a challenge. MySpace is somewhat better but not always accessible. And when people have music on their MySpace page, it's often impossible to hear JAWS.
I mainly use Facebook, and once I got past the CAPTCHA during registration, I had pretty good luck with it.
MySpace is extremely frustrating. Not only is the page cluttered, but many of the profiles play audio in the background, making it nearly impossible to hear a synthesizer. Twitter is extremely accessible and usable. In fact, the recently released scripts from www.randylaptop.com, known as JAWTER, allow JAWS users to read and post Tweets from anywhere in Windows. Very convenient.
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