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RE: Best practices for screen readers

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 2006 11:31:26 -0700
To: "'Bianca Taulman'" <bianca.taulman@laf.org>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <005e01c6e975$a58ec340$c48e40ab@Piglet>

Bianca Taulman wrote:
> I am using Home Page Reader and I've noticed a couple of things.

Hello Bianca - welcome to the world of web accessibility.

While I would be the last person to discourage anyone from testing, like
browsers themselves the different screen reading technologies handle things
differently.  Sometimes these differences are subtle, other times less so.
So while testing using HPR is a Good Thing(tm), like all test results they
need to taken in both context and with a grain of salt.

> 1. When using breadcrumb navigation, it seems to be confusing to me
> (especially since it reads "greater than" for the arrows between the
> links). How do breadcrumbs fit into best practices for accessibility?

Breadcrumb navigation is generally a useful thing, not only for the visually
impaired, but for those with some types of cognitive disability - heck,
knowing where you are on *any* large site is a useful thing to many users,
never mind those who may be using Adaptive Technology.  While the method
that AT deals with the navigation may seem confusing or awkward to you, this
is in part because you are still unfamiliar with the tool.  As has been
pointed out, regular users of screen reading technologies can both adjust
the amount of punctuation they hear (often known as verbosity settings); as
well (and I believe this was pointed out too), daily users of adaptive
technology have become accustomed to this type of "shorthand" and they get

> 2. Is there a way to make the screen reader know that a number is a
> phone number or street address so it reads 2-9-1-6 instead of 2,916? 

We need to be careful that we are not "marking up" content for any specific
tool, be it a particular browser or Adaptive Technology.  If you clearly
indicate in your code: < p>Telephone: (650) 123-4567< /p> then users will
know what it is despite how it *may* be read aloud.  That said, some testing
I did a while back indicated that "fancy" telephone notation (650.123.4567)
can be confusing to speech output tools, and so I would personally
discourage this.

The key is to develop/code to standards and leave the rendering to the
user-agents.  Regular users of "any" browser/AT are quite accustomed to the
quirks of their tools, and have most likely already developed personal
strategies to adjust to these quirks.  The last thing content authors should
be trying to do is adjust user-experience - leave that to the user!

> 3. Is there a way to use markup to have the reader pause, for example
> between reading a list of links? 

Again, use clear appropriate punctuation and leave the rest to the user and
*their* user-agent.  Trust me, they'll deal with it just fine.

> I look forward to being a part of this list, thank you!

It is good to have fresh faces show up... Old dogs like me who've been
kicking around on this list since the beginning of time need your fresh
perspectives and questions.  Don't be shy, keep asking, and welcome aboard!

John Foliot 
Academic Technology Specialist 
Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Stanford University
560 Escondido Mall 
Meyer Library 181 
Stanford, CA 94305-3093 
Received on Friday, 6 October 2006 18:31:51 UTC

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