Screen readers make it possible for people to hear the words on a web page read out to them or outputted to a refreshable braille output device. We often think of screen reader users as people who are Blind, Deaf-blind or have low-vision, but in reality, screen readers are also used by people who prefer listening to content instead of reading it.
How can we better support our screen reader using friends as they use the applications we design and develop? Here are some great ways to start:
Autoplaying audio can interfere with how well screen reader users are able to hear their device when accessing a page. It can be disorienting, confusing, and ultimately really detrimental to a screen reader's experience.
Setting language correct within the html attribute is an easy way to make sure screenreader users are able to hear the text on the page with the correct pronunciation rules.
For example, if you set your page language as French, but the text is in English, a screen reader would read out the English text with French pronunciation rules.
Allow users the option to select the page language near the beginning of the page/DOM. Being able to select the language upon arrival to the page ensures that screen reader users don't have to search through the page (in a potentially unknown language) in order to find their preferred language choice.
This one is important, but can be a bit tricky to remember, but here's how I like to think of it:
All images should have alternative text attributes.
Images that are decorative can have empty text attributes (eg. alt="")
Images that convey meaning should have a short, descriptive alt attribute (eg. a cart icon's alt attribute might look like this: (alt="shopping cart")
Text is one of the most accessible ways we can present information: it can be aloud via screen reader, converted into braille, and can be translated into other languages. Whenever possible, we should try and convey information in text, along side visuals to communicate to the widest audience.
By avoiding using only visuals (eg. large infographics with detailed text), we can reach a wider audience and make online experiences more enjoyable for screen reader users.
With very little extra effort, we can improve the accessibility and reach of online products.
Over 1 billion people in the world have a disability, and out of all these disabilities, cognitive disabilities are the most common.