Screen Reader Testing
Ideally, users of assistive technologies such as screen readers should be involved in the testing of new and modified websites. However, this is not always possible due to logistical, budgetary or time constraints. In this case we recommend an expert review, and we use the JAWS screen reader because it is the most widely-used.
We have conducted user testing with disabled participants and assistive technologies since 2004, so we have a deep understanding of the issues that they face and we can recognise most aspects of a website's design that will present a barrier.
Some of the issues are technical, but others are cognitive. It is common for screen reader users to be able to hear all the content but not understand it! With our experience, we can recognise where this is likely to occur.
Why Not Test With Other Assistive Technologies?
If time and budget allow, we do recommend testing with other assistive technologies, and we have expertise with others such as the ZoomText screen magnifier and Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software.
However, if there is only time or budget to test with one, we recommend testing with a screen reader because it covers some issues that affect people with other disabilities and assistive technologies. For instance:
- It reveals issues relating to keyboard accessibility.
- It linearises pages in the same way as text browsers.
- It is more dependent on the underlying coding than other assistive technologies.
- Some cognitive issues, such as spatial relationships and consistency of design and terminology, will also affect some sighted users.