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Creating a screen reader friendly web design

Screen reader accessibility plays a key role in ensuring an inclusive digital experience for those with visual impairments.

These technologies vocalize on-screen content, enabling users to navigate websites, applications, and digital interfaces.

Designing for screen reader accessibility involves creating clear and descriptive content, well designed layouts, and navigational cues that allow seamless interpretation by these tools.

What is a screen reader?

If you have ever tried to use a website with a visual impairment, you know how frustrating it can be. Websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind can be difficult or impossible to navigate for people who are blind or have impaired vision. That’s where screen readers come in.

Put simply, a screen reader is exactly what it sounds like; a software program that reads the content of a website aloud to the user.

A screen reader converts the text on the screen into speech or braille output, allowing people with sight issues to access and navigate websites independently.

Why is screen reader accessiblity important for web design?

First and foremost, it is a matter of accessibility. The internet is an essential part of modern life, and everyone should have equal access to it, regardless of their abilities. By ensuring that websites are designed with screen readers in mind, we can help to make the internet more inclusive and equitable.

But accessibility isn’t the only reason to consider screen readers in website design. Factoring in screen reader accessibility can also help to improve the user experience, not just those with sight impairments. For example, they can make it easier for the standard user too, helping them to navigate complex or lengthy pages, or to quickly find specific information on a website.

What to consider when designing?

We have put together some of the most important features of a screen reader that website designers should take into account:

🧭 Navigation

Screen readers allow users to navigate websites using keyboard commands. This means that websites should be designed to be keyboard-friendly, with clear and logical tabbing order and keyboard shortcuts.

📍 Headings and landmarks

Screen readers use headings and landmarks to help users navigate websites more easily. Websites should be designed with clear and consistent headings and landmarks to make it easier for screen readers to identify and navigate different sections of the page.

💬 Alt text

Alt text is a short description of an image that is read aloud by a screen reader. Websites should include alt text for all images to ensure that users with visual impairments can understand the content of the page. They should be clear and simple, yet adequately descriptive.

💻 Forms

Screen readers need to be able to read and interact with forms on a website. Websites should be designed with clear labeling that remains consistent, and should include error messages and instructions that can be read aloud by the screen reader.

🖇️ Links

Screen readers should be able to identify and read aloud all links on a website. Websites should be designed with link text to make it easier for screen readers to understand where each link goes. Again, these should be descriptive enough that the link destination is clear and understood.

By taking these features into account in website design, we can help to ensure that websites are accessible and user-friendly for everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Final thoughts

Screen reader accessibility is a matter of inclusivity and user experience. By designing websites with accessibility in mind, we can help to create a more equitable and user-friendly online experience overall.

At Grayscale, we are committed to designing websites that are accessible and easy to use for everyone. Two of our #HappyClients, PTS Managed Services Limited (PTS) and St John’s Cathedral Counselling Service (SJCCS) recently won a Silver Award at the Web Accessibility Recognition Scheme 2022-23 organised by the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you create an inclusive and user-friendly website.