Karna Vidya Foundation

Empowerment through Employment for Persons with Visual Impairment.

( Rehabilitation, career guidance and counseling services to persons with visual Impairments children and adults for education, livelihood opportunities.)

What are the benefits of testing web content with screen readers?

Listening to your web content rather than looking at it can be an “eye-opening” experience (pardon the pun) that takes sighted users out of their normal comfort zone. It gives sighted users a chance to evaluate their content from an entirely different perspective: from the perspective of a blind person. A lot of times you’ll end up finding mistakes that would have been hard to catch visually. For example, spelling mistakes become very obvious when you hear words mispronounced by the screen reader. Screen readers are also very good for checking the accuracy and quality of image alternative text. Screen readers can also help you identify problems with reading order, table markup, form elements, and many other aspects of accessibility.
Should I always test my web content for accessibility using a screen reader?
Perhaps. If you know how to use a screen reader, this kind of test can be extremely valuable, especially for more complex or dynamic content. If you don’t know how to use a screen reader, testing with a screen reader can be frustrating and counterproductive. In fact, you could mistakenly think that nearly everything you’ve created is inaccessible, when the real problem may be that you just don’t know how to use a screen reader properly. WebAIM provides articles on Using JAWS to Evaluate Web Accessibility, Using NVDA to Evaluate Web Accessibility, and Using VoiceOver to Evaluate Web Accessibility which teach basic usage of these popular screen readers.
So if I don’t know how to use a screen reader, I shouldn’t even try?
Well, that would be an easy way out, but before you start making excuses, let’s take a look at what you’d be missing out on. Screen reader users are one of the primary beneficiaries of your accessibility efforts, so it makes sense to understand their needs. Of course, you don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that accessibility is only relevant to screen reader users. Too many people focus on blindness to the exclusion of people with other disability types (motor, auditory, cognitive, low vision, etc.) whose needs are just as relevant.
Although a screen reader isn’t a “browser” in the same way that Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer are browsers (in fact, in most cases the screen reader depends on those browsers), screen readers are a way of accessing web content that is different from the way that sighted people use browsers. If you don’t understand these differences, you won’t understand what the accessibility challenges are for screen reader users, and you won’t be able to design effectively for this audience.
What are the main differences between the way sighted users and screen reader users access web content?

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