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Exercise: explore screen reader technology

In this step we would like you to explore screen reader technology that is usually used to access a computer or mobile technology if someone is blind like Carole or has a severe visual impairment like Maria.

Using a screen reader is also an excellent way of finding out whether the content that you have created is accessible i.e. easy to read using assistive technologies.

The software enables electronic speech or speech synthesis to say aloud all the actions undertaken on the device as well as the menus, buttons and other navigational elements plus the content of documents and web pages.

Watch Neal Ewers, who you met in Step 1.1, give an introduction to screen readers in a YouTube video.

Exercise: try out a screen reader

Download a screen reader. If you have one already installed open it for use. Read the instructions and use the screen reader while doing some basic desktop tasks, such as write a document, access a website, read a spreadsheet. If you have good vision, ideally you should look away from your screen (better still dim it or turn it off) and turn over your mouse if you are using one!

There are a number of possible desktop screen readers that you could use. These include:

  • NVDA Screenreader. This is the Non Visual Desktop Access Screen Reader for Windows from the Non Visual Access Group, NVAccess. A nice feature is that a portable version can be created and this can be run from a USB stick. Select Create portable version when following download steps.

  • Narrator is built into the Windows operating system but does not work with all applications. On older versions of Windows (Windows XP/7) the Thunder screen reader is an option, but once again only works with the system and basic applications.

  • For MAC users the VoiceOver screen reader is already built in .
  • For Linux Users the ORCA screen reader can be considered.

You may find WebAim’s article on ‘How Screen Readers Read Content’ helpful.

How did you get on? Was it easy to use? Did you encounter content that was difficult to access? Were there unexpected difficulties?

© This work is a derivative of a work created by Dublin Institute of Technology and Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton