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Understanding screen-reader navigation: a tale of two rooms

By Ryan Jones.

[Editor’s note: This is an edited version of an article originally published by The Paciello Group, an international accessibility agency. The original post is linked to at the end of this article. Its author, Ryan Jones, is a project manager and trainer at The Paciello Group.]

For those of us who use screen-reading software such as JAWS, NVDA, or VoiceOver to access information on the web, the user experience can be quite different from those who can visually see the content. One of my goals throughout the many accessibility-focused training classes I have led has been to help others more accurately understand what it is like for someone using screen-reading software to navigate through a web page.

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Websites, not assistive tech, are key to accessibility, say screen-reader users

New research into screen-reader usage has revealed the majority of users feel that improving existing websites would have a bigger impact on accessibility compared to better assistive technology.

The newly published findings are taken from the seventh Screen Reader User Survey by non-profit organisation WebAIM, conducted in October 2017. A total of 1,792 people responded to the survey, 89.2% of which reported using a screen-reader due to a disability.

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Facebook uses AI to open up photos for blind users

Blind and visually impaired users of Facebook will be able to find out which of their friends are in photos thanks to facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition is already used by the social networking site – for example, to suggest friends that users may want to tag in photos – but the company recently extended the use of this feature for screen-reader users. The new feature means that those users will be able to hear which of their friends are in photographs that appear on the user’s news feed, even if those friends are not tagged in the picture.

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Interview – Jackie Brown, Chair of the British Computer Association of the Blind: finding your game-changer

When Jackie Brown was introduced to the speech synthesiser on the Acorn BBC Micro computer in 1984, it was to be the beginning of a valuable and productive interest in assistive technology. Jackie, who is blind, continued to use and explore different technologies as they evolved, finding them beneficial to her career as a writer.

In 2007 Jackie subscribed to the email list of the British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB). She went on to edit the BCAB newsletter and stood for the Board of Trustees in 2015 before becoming Secretary. In November 2017, Jackie was appointed as BCAB Chair. e-Access Bulletin spoke to Jackie about her work within BCAB and aims for the organisation, and about the kinds of assistive technology she uses on a daily basis.

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New accessible ATM app points users in the right direction

A new app that helps blind and visually impaired users track down accessible ATMs has been launched.

The free LINK ATM Locator lets users search for cash machines that have a range of usability features, including: audio assistance; wheelchair access; free-to-use ATMs; £5 note dispensing; mobile phone top-up facilities; and PIN number management.

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Many US government sites not accessible for disabled users, claims new research

Various high-profile US government websites, including major service portals, are not accessible for users with disabilities, according to a new study.

The ‘Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites’ report found that 42% of US federal sites tested failed to meet the necessary accessibility criteria.

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Online shopping ‘not as inclusive as it should be,’ new research finds

The websites of six popular UK retailers would not achieve the basic standard of online content accessibility, according to new research by a usability consultancy.

After a series of ‘mini-accessibility audits,’ accessibility design consultancy User Vision found that some online shoppers with impairments would have difficulty purchasing items from each of the websites examined, due to a number of common barriers.

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One third of councils fail web accessibility testing in UK-wide survey

An annual review of council websites across the UK has revealed that one third of local government sites failed first-stage testing to find out how accessible their websites are for users with disabilities.

Carried out by Socitm (the Society of IT Management), the Better Connected survey is a nationwide examination to evaluate local authority websites on a range of factors.

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Accessibility without the excessive price: affordable tech site launched

A new online resource has been launched to help people make informed choices about low-cost accessible technology.

The Affordable Access project (found at the following link:
eab.li/2o )
provides easy-to-understand information on a wide range of products and devices, all for under 250 Australian Dollars (equivalent to around £150 / 190 US Dollars). Technology covered on the site includes: tablet computers, smartphones, apps, desktop computers and TV streaming devices.

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The Kindle begins to find its voice with text-to-speech

Amazon is making its Kindle e-readers more accessible for visually impaired users by introducing a screen-reader feature.

The VoiceView screen-reading function is now available on the Kindle Paperwhite model by plugging in the ‘Kindle Audio Adaptor’, a USB device designed by Amazon specifically for use with the Kindle. Users plug the adaptor into the Paperwhite charging jack, before plugging in headphones to the adaptor, and can then listen to e-books and navigate the Kindle interface through text-to-speech and touch-screen functionality, with eight adjustable reading speeds.

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