Beyond the Screen Reader

Published on by David A. Kennedy

You’ve heard the saying that accessibility isn’t just about screen readers. True.

Creating inclusive experiences means thinking about more than screen readers. A screen reader can intimidate you if you’re not mindful of what lies ahead. But if you began with screen reader testing, you have many paths to build upon.

The Keyboard

Keyboard users and screen reader users handle the keyboard differently. But the keyboard still represents an important paradigm for screen readers. If you haven’t used the TAB key for navigation yet, this could be a logical next step.

Further reading: Keyboard Testing.


Speaking of what screen readers rely on, let’s talk about HTML. Without well-formed, thoughtfully-selected HTML elements, screen reader users will struggle. Those elements should serve the right purpose, and that takes knowledge. If you don’t have a deep knowledge of HTML, and want to improve the experience of your work, nothing else comes close.

Further reading: HTML Basics.

Labels and Content

Once you get better with screen reader testing, you’ll pay more attention to content. Button text, calls to action, error messages and more seem like they lack enough context for screen readers users to act on. Content matters more than most of us realize. Words are design too.

Further reading: Writing for Web Accessibility.

Accessibility Tree

Now we’re getting deep into accessibility nerd territory. Welcome, by the way! The Accessibility Tree contains accessibility-related information for most HTML elements. It serves as an information layer for assistive technology. Learning more about this tree can help you understand HTML and ARIA better.

Further reading: The Accessibility Tree.

If you want to understand how a screen reader user browses the web, Léonie Watson shows you. Of course, you can go further in other areas beside the three I’ve outlined here.

You can start your accessibility testing journey with screen readers. Don’t forget to go beyond them too.

Tagged Accessibility