Designing for Screen Readers and Why It Matters.
You might wonder why designing for screen readers is an important part of my accessibility first goal. Basically, screen readers read the text that is displayed on the screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
This method is mostly used by those who are blind or have vision issues. That means in order to ensure successful communcation, designing for screen readers will allow those who use screen readers to enjoy what I have to offer on my blog.
As a deaf person, this presents a challenge because they provide an audio version of what I write.
Fortunately, with the help of information shared by others, I am able to understand various issues screen readers deal with.
An example of an issue with screen readers.
As I understand it, screen readers provide an audio version of of what is readable. In other words, “the quick brown fox” will be “spoken” out loud as “the quick brown fox”. That is fairly simple to understand.
However, it is not that simple.
It was not until I discovered Joe’s post that I finally understood what the screen reader “sees”. Here is an excerpt from his post.
Only a few years ago, it was common to see pages that explained quote this page best viewed in Internet Explorer quote left paren or Netscape right paren. Web AIM, “Designing for Screen Reader Compatibility”, as rendered by Fangs
In this case, the screen reader would read Internet Explorer ” ( as Internet Explorer as Internet Explorer quote left paren.
How many times did you have to read what I just wrote?
I admit I had to read it several times before I realized I couldn’t follow it with quote left paren. That’s a perfect example of an issue with screen readers.
Now that I understand one of the issues, I am able to start somewhere.
Designing for screen readers.
With the help of my social peers and the Internet, I discovered an easy to understand infographic courtesy of Home Office Digital based in the UK that illustrated a few simple points to keep in mind.
Why designing for screen readers matters.
I am not a fan of the word disability for two reasons. It is misleading and it is negative. History has proven over and over that people with different human conditions are capable of doing the same things a different way. To me, that’s not a disability.
As you read this, there are designers and developers that are proving that you can build the same kind of website you want in a different way.
That “different way” is an accessible way.
Do I need to say anymore?
Accessibility for screen readers.
I will be honest with you right now and tell you that I am not an expert.
In fact, I have to ask those with other disabilities to explain to me what they have to deal with or experience in order to enjoy their lives. In fact, one of my Twitter connection brought something interesting to my attention.
Screen readers can speak up to 300 words per minute.
Remember the example I wrote about before? Think how difficult it is to follow something left paren quote in semicolon unquote hypen right paren.
That difficulty alone should be good enough of a reason to be accessible to screen readers. To be honest with you, I think this is an amazing piece of technology. Granted, it is not perfect.
However, I am grateful this technology exist so I at least communicate with my audience who are blind or have low vision.
Using ALT tags as a description of images
This is an area of particular interest at the moment because of the ALT tag’s relationship with SEO topics. Without going into too much detail, I will link to various websites where they share their thoughts on this topic.
As you know, Google is the ultimate search engine. Much has been discussed about Google’s methods for finding relevant results. I got to wondering about how many words can be used in ALT tags.
This site uses Yoast SEO to help improve search engines find relevant pages for specific keywords. In my opinion, one nice feature about Yoast SEO is that it allows you to identify the strength of your ALT tags in a color-coded format.
Google is the ultimate search engine. It is always worth educating yourself on the latest Google stance on all things relating to SEO including ALT tags. Sometimes, it’s always best to get the right information directly from the source.
Resources for screen readers.
Please note that these resources are maintained by their respective owners.
Are you a screen reader user?
If you are reading this with a screen reader, you are more than welcome to educate my audience and myself about your condition requiring you to use a screen reader. Especially how we can better improve designing for screen readers.
In addition, if you find any issues with my website not being accessible to your screen reader, let me know in the comments or contact me.
I look forward to working with you to create a more inclusive world for everyone. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.