Screen readers. They’re just for the blind and visually impaired, right? Wrong! There’s a whole other class of screen readers and screen reader users that often get little recognition. I’m talking about people who have difficulty reading. This group contains a wide spectrum that may include, but is not limited to, people with ADHD, dyslexia, Irlen syndrome, or memory loss. And I’m accusing myself of not acknowledging this group when it comes to envisioning people who use screen readers (text to speech technology).
Things I accomplished
- Diverse Abilities and Barriers: Cognitive, Learning, and Neurological (W3C)
- Misunderstood Minds: Reading Difficulties (PBS)
- How to use a custom style sheet with Firefox
- Safari’s custom style sheet
What I learned today
There is a stark difference between screen reader use by people with reading difficulties as compared to the blind. For one, the first group doesn’t need all things read. They mostly need assistance with having some text read aloud, rather than having everything read aloud along with additional navigational aids. A couple of screen readers that benefit this group:
Another strategy that people with reading difficulties use to access content on the web is to change styles on a web page or document. This includes customizing font size, color, and family. Using true text, rather than text inside of images, makes the reading experience for this group of people more enjoyable and inclusive.
Examples of barriers that may stand between people with reading difficulties and the web content they pursue:
- Complex navigation mechanisms and page layouts.
- Complex sentences and unusual words.
- Long passages of text without images, graphs, or other illustrations.
- Moving, blinking, or flickering content, and background audio that cannot be turned off.
- Web browsers and media players that do not provide the ability to suppress animations and audio.
- Visual page designs that cannot be adapted using web browser controls or custom style sheets.