Craig Francis

Screen Readers

Screen Readers allow visitors to access a website without the use of a monitor.

They do this by describing the page using an output like an audio voice or braille display, of which the description includes the content and structure of the page.

It should be noted that screen readers are not necessarily used just by the blind, they can also used by people with with learning difficulties, cognitive issues, partially sighted, etc. For these users, the screen reader becomes more of an additional aid, which helps them get better access to the websites content.

When developing a website, the authors need to be aware that screen readers currently cannot read text found in images, most interactive content becomes confusing or even unusable (Flash / JavaScript), and that simple references like "on the left", have no meaning, as a screen reader only reads though the page top to bottom.

Please see below for some more specific notes, of which I want to say a big thank you to Steve, John and Tom from Test Partners, who gave a wonderful demonstration of a screen reader in use. This demonstration allowed me to create most of the notes below, however I also want to point out that Steve Green wrote the list about the "normal JAWS behaviour" on the GAWDS mailing list, which has been duplicated here for everyone's reference.

Normal JAWS behaviour

General notes







Example screen readers

Notes regarding these screen readers are from Alex Midence.

Other screen readers:

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, I don't include comments due to the admin time required, but if you email me, I will reply and make appropriate updates. Also, if you would like to take a copy of this article, please read the terms this article is released under. This article was originally written Wednesday 16th August 2006 and was updated on Thursday 10th February 2011.