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How ad-blocking software could revolutionise disabled people’s lives

For blind, learning disabled or epileptic people, autoplaying videos and adverts make many websites inaccessible. So making it easier to block them can only be a good thing
Apple employee demonstrates the new iPad Mini in San Francisco

‘Many disabled people choose Apple products because they have a wide range of built-in accessibility features.’ Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

We’ve all been there: we want to shop online, find a new recipe for supper, catch up on the latest news or watch a video – only to be dazzled by a moving, blinking or flashing advert. These “autoplaying” ads are annoying for most internet users, but for those with disabilities or long-term conditions, they make those websites largely inaccessible.

For people with photosensitive epilepsy, frequently flashing or flickering images could trigger or increase the risk of a seizure, while automatic advertising can be distressing for those with learning disabilities because it hinders concentration and therefore comprehension of the content they are trying to consume.

Blind and visually impaired people can also have problems. “If you are blind or visually impaired and using text to speech software on your device, autoplaying animations or video that includes music or audio makes some web pages all but impossible to access,” says Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at charity AbilityNet, in his latest blog. “The audio that automatically starts playing completely obscures the speech of the screen reader. This means that blind people can’t hear the screen reader and therefore they can’t navigate to the ‘stop’ button to stop the noise.”

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