You Talkin’ To Me? An Introduction to Screen Readers

The Accessibility 101 Series
Presented by My Blind Spot®

You Talkin’ To Me? An Introduction to Screen Readers

Computers – and digital devices in general – tend to have very visual interfaces. But how does a person who cannot see well, if at all, interact with these devices? For most blind or low-vision people, screen readers are their bridge to the digital world.

It’s not difficult to guess what a screen reader does – it reads what’s on the screen! This specialized software takes all of the content presented visually on the screen and audibly announces it to the user. In this way, non-visual users can navigate, operate, and interact with digital devices just as any other user does. However, there is a catch: websites and applications must be coded correctly in order for the screen reader to accurately convey what is presented on the screen visually. An improperly coded website can wreak havoc on the screen reader’s ability to perform its job and can make performing even the most basic of functions on that website impossible for people with disabilities that rely on the screen reader.

There are many different screen readers available, but the most popular are Job Access With Speech (known commonly as JAWS), NonVisual Desktop Access (known commonly as NVDA), and VoiceOver which is specific to Apple devices. It is important to note that if a website or application is coded correctly, any and every screen reader should be able to do its job perfectly.

In future articles we will dive into the “hows” and “whys” of making websites and applications accessible, so please join us!

Author: Jon Buonaspina

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