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discussion?Fwd: Improving usability for screen reader users

From: David Poehlman <david.poehlman@handsontechnologeyes.com>
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005 08:54:43 -0400
Message-Id: <6129B5CD-28C3-4B47-8DED-CC32B984F941@handsontechnologeyes.com>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

In particular, how does this affect other usability?

Jonnie Apple Seed
With His:
Hands-On Technolog(eye)s

OUT-LAW News, July 21, 2005
> UK law requires that websites are usable, not just accessible. But  
> usability
> is sometimes overlooked. Here, usability and accessibility firm  
> Webcredible
> gives tips for improving a site's usability for those who rely on  
> screen
> readers.
> A screen reader is software that interprets the contents of a  
> screen and
> presents it to a visually impaired user as speech or by driving a  
> Braille
> display. Popular screen readers include JAWS, Hal and WindowsEyes.
> Simply ensuring your website is accessible to screen reader users is
> unfortunately not enough to ensure these users can find what  
> they're looking
> for in a reasonably quick and efficient manner. Even if your site is
> accessible to screen reader users, its usability could be so  
> incredibly poor
> that they needn't have bothered coming to your site.
> Webcredible has provided the following simple-to-implement  
> guidelines that
> you can follow, which not only drastically improve usability for  
> screen
> reader users, but for all web users:
> 1. Descriptive headings
> The use of on-page headings is one of the most important usability  
> features
> for screen reader users, as it helps them more easily understand  
> the page
> structure. Although text on the page may appear to be a heading for  
> sighted
> users, it must be labelled as a heading within the HTML code for  
> screen
> reader users to know it is a heading.
> Screen readers don't look at web pages - they read through the HTML  
> code. If
> a piece of text is called a heading within the HTML code then the  
> screen
> reader will announce that it's a heading. If not, screen reader  
> users won't
> actually know if something that visually appears to be a heading is  
> actually
> a heading.
> Another usability benefit of using headings for screen reader  
> users, is that
> these users can call up a list of on-page headings and jump to the  
> section
> of the page in which they're most interested. This works in much  
> the same
> way as sighted web users scanning through web pages by glancing at  
> headings.
> If headings are descriptive of the content contained beneath them  
> it becomes
> far easier for screen reader users to find the information which  
> they're
> after.
> 2. Descriptive link text
> Screen reader users can browse through web pages by calling up a  
> list of
> on-page links, and activating the link in which they're most  
> interested. As
> such, non-descriptive link text such as 'click here' should be  
> avoided at
> all costs as it makes no sense whatsoever out of context.
> The good news is that the use of descriptive link texts represents a
> usability benefit for everyone. When we scan through web pages, one  
> of the
> items that stands out to us is link text. 'Click here' is totally
> meaningless to web users scanning through pages and forces users to  
> hunt
> through surrounding text to discover the link destination.
> 3. Lists
> Using lists within the HTML code is extremely useful for screen reader
> users, as screen readers announce the number of items in each list  
> before
> reading out the list items. This helps these users know what to  
> expect when
> hearing a list of items (such as site navigation).
> This works in mush the same way as an answer phone telling you how  
> many
> messages you have, before listening to them. By informing you of  
> how many
> messages you have, you instantly know what to expect. If there's  
> only one or
> two messages you can probably remember them; much more and you'll  
> probably
> want to get a pen and paper and make notes.
> The use of lists is really just a behind-the-scenes change to the  
> code and
> needn't affect the visual appearance of the website.
> 4. Logical linearization
> Screen reader users generally have to listen to web pages from  
> start to
> finish, top to bottom, left to right. Sighted web users on the  
> other hand
> can glance through a web page almost randomly, spotting important
> information wherever it may appear on the page. Because of this,  
> important
> information should always be placed towards the top of the page.
> One example of how not to do this is to place instructions for a  
> form at the
> bottom of the page.
> Placing important information towards the top of the page actually  
> benefits
> everyone, as the important information is now in the place where  
> sighted
> users look first - the top of the page.
> 5. Short, succinct ALT text
> ALT text is the alternative text for images that gets read out to  
> screen
> reader users. Any website offering even basic accessibility will  
> provide
> this alternative text. Some websites try to over-explain the  
> information
> conveyed by images, forcing screen reader users to have to listen  
> to a lot
> of unnecessary and irrelevant information.
> Screen reader users often take longer than sighted web users to  
> work through
> websites, so help make their surfing time easier with succinct ALT  
> text.
> 6. Short, front-loaded paragraphs
> Front-loading means placing the conclusion first, followed by the  
> what, why,
> when, where and how. By placing the conclusion first, screen reader  
> users
> can instantly gain an understanding of what the paragraph's about.  
> They can
> then decide whether they want to keep on listening or if they want  
> to skip
> to the next paragraph (which they can easily do with the screen  
> reader). If
> the paragraphs are short, they can do this safe in the knowledge  
> that they
> won't be missing extra information.
> Front-loading content obviously benefits everyone, as web users no  
> longer
> have to search around for the main point of each paragraph.
> 7. Descriptive page title
> The page title is the very first thing that screen reader users  
> hear when
> arriving at any web page, so it's truly essential that it's  
> descriptive of
> the page. Again, this benefits everyone as users can use the page  
> title to
> orientate themselves and confirm that they're on the page they  
> think they're
> on. This is especially true for web users on dial-up connections  
> where the
> page title displays a number of seconds before the rest of the page.
> Conclusion
> There are a number of relatively simple and painless things that  
> can be done
> to improve usability for screen reader users. Fortunately, nearly  
> all of
> them improve usability for all web users, meaning everyone benefits  
> - which
> is never a bad thing.
> C Webcredible 2005
> www.out-law.com/page-5931
Received on Monday, 25 July 2005 12:54:51 UTC

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