lynda.com contains a treasure trove of online courses (or tutorials) on many technical and web subjects. To get the full benefit a subscription is required, however, there are many courses include many free online sections.
One which ties into my screen reader posts is found here: Web Accessibility Principles
I recommend viewing all the videos in section 1, Getting Started with Web Accessibility. These are available to everyone whether you have a subscription or not.
The video Experiencing a website via a screen reader provides a good example of how screen readers work. In this less than six-minute video the viewer can see how a screen reader works with a badly designed web page and then how it works with the same web page when improved . See my post on screen readers.
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Designing for Screen Reader Compatibility (from WebAIM)
Audio interfaces present content linearly to users, one item at a time. This contrasts with the way in which most people use visual interfaces by skimming the entire page at once.
Here are some ways that screen readers can “skim” through content. This has implications for those who create web pages.
- Since a screen reader can generally jump from link to link using the Tab key, it is important that link labels are clear and should make sense when read out of context.
- Users can jump from heading to heading, so it is important to organize your pages using headings.
- Create a way to skip the navigation links and allow users to jump directly to the main content, if possible.
Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips/ (from sitepoint)
- Use descriptive headings.
- Use descriptive link text.
- Provide information in lists.
- Employ logical linearization, that is, put important information, like directions, at the top of the page.
- Use short, succinct alt text for images. This should be descriptive, but not overly wordy.
- Write short, front-loaded paragraphs.
- Write descriptive page titles.
NOTE: These tips will help all your users, not just those who use screen readers.
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First, let’s define a screen reader.
Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on.
from American Federation for the Blind (opens in a new window)
Now, watch a video of a user with a screen reader.
I’d like to share a video of Neal Ewers of the Trace Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. He shows how he uses a screen reader and talks a bit about what this means for designers.
Next, try to simulate using a screen reader yourself.
The directions for this simulation point out that you may be frustrated trying to find the answers to the questions on this website for a fake university. The creators have tried to simulate what blind readers experience when using many web sites.
WebAIM Screen Reader Simulation (opens in a new window)
Now, download a screen reader to your own computer and use it with any website or document.
NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) software (opens in a new window) enables blind and vision impaired people to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice or braille. You can use this to see what your web page will sound like in a screen reader. If you are trying to simulate blindness, just turn off the monitor and try to navigate a web page using only NVDA.
NVDA is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows that is totally free, yet fully functional and portable. You can download it to your PC, or to portable media such as a USB stick which you can use with any computer at school, work – anywhere!
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