When people talk about content being more accessible via P2P, they usually refer to movies or music you can't find anywhere else except on file sharing networks. But accessibility has a completely different meaning for people that are color blind, dyslexic or otherwise impaired. Of course there is no reason why blind people shouldn't download MP3s - except for the download platforms themselves.

The Swedish interaction design expert David Furendal recently did a study that compared the accessibility of the iTunes store and The Pirate Bay. And guess what? The pirates win once again.

The Pirate Bay offers its users a well-structured design that can easily be accessed with screen readers. All the essential information is represented as scalable text. Deaf people can find subtitles for many of the movies offered on The Pirate Bay online.

iTunes on the other hand is completely inaccessible for users who depend on screen readers. Font sizes can't be changed, and there are no movies with subtitles available on iTunes. "The overall impression of the accessibility of the iTunes store is poor", says Funderal.

Some of these issues can obviously be addressed by simple design changes. Others are more fundamental to the business models of online content delivery. Digital Rights Management and content restrictions don't just prevent copying, they can also lock users with impairments out. Funderal thinks the solution is simple:

"It is important that online stores for digital media become more accessible. One way of doing this can be to reduce the control over the system."


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