A Sight Loss Friendly Church

A sight loss friendly church; Improving your church website accessibility - Part Two.

Over the recent months, we’ve been focussing on Pastoral Care and how your website and online presence can be a key part of the Pastoral services which your Church offers. Last month, we began to look at the issue that there is such a large percentage of people who feel ostracised or apart from their Church community due to a disability. For those who aren’t able to engage with your Church in a more ‘mainstream’ way, the Church Website can be a fundamental way for them to connect in and be a part of what God is doing in your Church and community.

Following on from last month's article looking at how to make your website more accessible for people with an audio impairment, this month we’re looking at how you can make your website more accessible with a visual impairment or some form of Sight Loss. We spent some time with Paul Rhodes, the Sight Loss Friendly Church Manager from the Torch Trust discussing what can be done to make your Church websites more accessible. They’re somewhat experts in this field and are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, so we’re really pleased to be celebrating with them!

“Before we dive into the subject, tell us a bit about yourself Paul,”

Portrait of Paul, the Manager of Sight Loss Friendly ChurchI have worked at Torch Trust for 2 and half years.  I started off working as Production Assistant Trainee, helping with the printing of the large print books and magazines we produce. I also helped with the dispatch and assisted in the library when needed, we have over 2500 books in our library in braille, large print and audio. After around 12 months I became an Area Development Officer alongside my Production Assistant role. This meant I was able to get out and about and visit churches and groups and talk about Torch, what we can offer and encourage inclusion of people with sight loss.

In October 2018 I became Sight Loss Friendly Church Manager and am now heading up our new campaign Sight Loss Friendly Church. In my few years of working for Torch I have been really challenged by the stories I have heard from people who are blind or visually impaired and the problems they have faced at church.

“Who are Torch Trust and what do you do?”

Torch Trust is a Christian charity for people who are blind or partially sighted. Our core belief is: People with sight loss have an equal and valuable part to play in church and Christian communities. Through our new campaign we want to raise awareness of sight loss, there are lots of simple things churches can do and let churches know that Torch is here to support them if they need.

250 people a day are diagnosed with irreversible sight loss, one in five people over the age of 75 are living with sight loss and by 2020 there could be as many as 4 million people living with sight loss in the UK. This means in a church of 30 people there is probably one person with some sort of sight loss, if you have 60 people there will probably be 2 people etc etc. These statistics, and our core belief, have shaped Torch’s purpose which is to work together to reach and enable people with sight loss to lead fulfilling Christian lives. Torch is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and as part of our celebrations we are launching a new campaign called Sight Loss Friendly Church. We are offering training and advice to churches, as well as offering Christian resources to individuals with sight loss. We transcribe popular Christian resources, daily reading notes and books into braille, large print and audio formats. We have our own production unit to emboss, print, record and copy the resources into the accessible formats. We want all churches in the UK to be aware that sight loss is an issue. All churches can be sight loss friendly and that Torch Trust is here to enable all churches through our Sight Loss Friendly Church campaign.

What are some of the difficulties that a person with Sight Loss might encounter with a website?

There are many problems that can be faced by someone with sight loss when they are looking at a website. A lot of blind people, or people with little vision, will use a screen reader which will audibly describe what’s on a web page. If there is no description for buttons or pictures, they have no idea what they are, or what they might do. There are the occasions where people need to prove they are not a robot and asked if they can click all the boxes with a street sign in, or something similar, this can be very difficult for somebody with sight loss, with a screen reader or not. People often think that you can just magnify the screen to make the font bigger, the problem with this is you can lose words off the edge of the screen if the website hasn’t been styled correctly. Font colour can cause issues too as it makes words very difficult to see if the font and the background are too similar. Writing over pictures makes it difficult for someone with sight loss to see where the words start and finish. One comment we had from a person with sight loss was; ‘There’s no happy medium, you either get too many words, or options, or they are so sparse you can’t find anything’. Both make it really hard for someone with sight loss to navigate a website’.

So far, we’ve been discussing websites for Churches. But you’ve used the phrase ‘Sight Loss Friendly Church’ several times. Let’s spend a little bit of time on that.

What might a Sight Loss Friendly Church look like?

A Sight Loss Friendly Church will look like any other church, hopefully. Very simply a Sight Loss Friendly Church will be ready, and able, to welcome and include people with sight loss. Giving everyone the opportunity to grow in their Christian faith and thrive in their Christian communities. They will, by themselves, or through Torch, be able to offer accessible media to people with sight loss, whether it’s large print, braille or emails etc. Technology is making lots of advances which can really help people with sight loss. A sight loss friendly church will be exploring the use of these advances to include people with sight loss in their churches. They will have signed up to be a part of the Sight Loss Friendly Church network, and will have access to training and resources which can all be done on Torch’s microsite ,which will be live at the start of May. Feel free to have a look at our main site though, for more information on what we can offer."

Have you got any top tips on how a Church can be Sight Loss Friendly on their website?

There is so much that could be put here but here are a few to keep you going.

  1. Make sure you have good contrasts between the font and the background.

  2. Keep pictures and words separate.

  3. Make sure buttons have labels, avoid things like ‘Click Here’.

  4. All functionality must be operable from the keyboard.

  5. If using Videos have a text transcript available if there is no audible content.

The RNIB can offer assistance with building websites and making them accessible, and you can open your website through which will show you all the things that make your website less accessible for people with sight loss.


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