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Understanding the Challenges Faced by Screen Readers
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Understanding the Challenges Faced by Screen Readers

Cartoon drawing of a computer screen with a speaker symbol in front of it

Screen readers are tools, for individuals who have impairments as they encounter various obstacles while navigating through the extensive array of websites. These challenges arise due to the nature of web design, technological limitations and the evolving digital landscape. It is essential for developers and designers to comprehend these hurdles in order to create experiences.

Our exceptional team includes three individuals who're blind and rely on screen readers. Krista and Mede use JAWS, while Lleona uses NVDA. Their contributions during website accessibility audits are truly invaluable.

Now lets delve into the challenges confronted by screen readers;

Insufficient Semantic Structure

Websites often lack a structure and proper HTML markup, which makes navigation challenging for screen readers. When websites do not adhere to accessibility standards, crucial elements like headings, landmarks and labels may be missing. Without HTML tags such, as `<header>` `<nav>` `<main>` and `<footer>` screen readers struggle to interpret the organization of content. This absence of structure hampers users ability to navigate web pages efficiently resulting in frustration and difficulty accessing information.

When multimedia content, such, as images, videos and audio doesn't have text or transcripts it creates difficulties for screen readers. These assistive technologies rely on alternative text descriptions to convey information to users. Without text important information or context provided by multimedia content can be missed by users. Similarly videos and audio lacking transcripts or captions become inaccessible to individuals who depend on screen readers. This hampers their ability to fully comprehend and engage with the content.

Modern websites often include elements like dropdown menus, modal dialogs and interactive forms in order to enhance the user experience. However these elements can pose challenges for screen reader users when it comes to navigating and interacting with them effectively. Inaccessible forms may lack labels, instructions or error messages which makes it difficult for users to accurately input data. Additionally dynamic content and interfaces may not be keyboard accessible which prevents navigation and interaction.

Screen reader users face challenges when dealing with navigation mechanisms and keyboard focus management on websites. Websites that heavily rely on JavaScript for navigation or implement custom controls may disrupt the tab order and keyboard focus sequence. As a result of this disruption in navigation flow, for these users becomes challenging.
The difficulty of navigating websites is worsened by menus and links that're not easily accessible and have labels making it harder for users to find the information they need efficiently.

Lack of Awareness and Understanding

One of the challenges, in web accessibility is that developers and designers often lack awareness and understanding. They may not be familiar with accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). May not fully grasp the importance of designing with accessibility in mind. As a result they end up creating websites without considering users with disabilities, which creates barriers and excludes a significant portion of the population from accessing online content.

Conclusion

To address the challenges faced by screen readers it is crucial to prioritize web accessibility in todays landscape. This requires an effort from developers, designers, content creators and stakeholders to adhere to accessibility standards and follow practices. By ensuring structure providing descriptive alternatives for multimedia content optimizing interactive elements for keyboard accessibility and raising awareness, about web accessibility we can establish a more inclusive online environment where all users – including those who rely on screen readers – can seamlessly access and engage with digital content.
Would you be interested, in learning more?
 
Consider the possibility of conducting an accessibility review for your website 
Schedule a 1 hour consultation on any aspect related to website accessibility
 
Clive Loseby
Access by Design
 
Enhancing your accessibility;
· Crafting an appealing and WCAG 2.2 compliant Accessible Website
· Providing a Website Accessibility Audit
· Delivering award winning Accessible Web Design, in Chichester