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Priority 4 Website Accessibility Errors for Screen Readers

If you a sighted visitor to this website, I would ask you to closer your eyes for a minute. How are you going to navigate through this website? A mouse is of no use because you cannot see what to select. What are you going to do?

This is the problem that many people have to face every day. They have to rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers. A screen reader is software that attempts to "read" the contents of a website through the audio output of your computer, using a computer-generated voice. As a mouse cannot be used, visitors relying on assistive technology will use a keyboard, in conjunction with screen reading software such as JAWS, NVDA or Voice Over.

The Tab Test

Many visitors are extremely adept at using assistive technology to navigate a website and usually will use the cursor keys to navigate through a website. However, there are some visitors who will have extremely limited movement and may be restricted to just being able to use the Tab key to navigate and the Enter key to select. If you look at this website and start pressing the tab key, you should see each page on the menu highlighted in turn, along with child pages under the Audit page and the grandchildren under the Metric child page.

Once you get past the menu, you should see each child page highlighted in turn as you continue to press the tab key. It is far easier to see this for yourself than to describe it!

This is a basic accessibility function we call The Tab Test and over 99% of websites fail this test. It is easy to fix and any automated checker (including Google) is able to recognise whether a website passes this test or not. Check your own website right now, does it pass this test?

There are other tests that can be applied to screen readers and it is important that your website is able to be navigable by someone using one. However, less than 20% of people with significant visual impairments are totally blind. The rest of this group of people may have sufficient visual ability to use a screen magnifier, rather than a screen reader. I remember visiting West Sussex Association for the Blind many years ago and saw such equipment first-hand. A screen magnifier does exactly what it sounds like, it is a piece of glass or perspex that physically sits in front of screen and magnifies a part of it, making it easier to read. That works except, for example, when you have a completely unnecessary cookie banner tucked away at the bottom of the website: it would never be seen by someone with a screen magnifier. However, we will leave the toxic subject of Cookie Banners for another time.

If you are concerned that your website may be unsuitable for assistive technology such as screen readers, please get in touch with us for a free 15 minute consultation by following this link.