Users who are visually impaired may use a piece of software called a screen reader to navigate the web.
Screen readers announce the text on a page out loud so that someone who is visually impaired can use it. They also typically communicate additional information about the page, such as the heading structure and other landmarks.
Both macOS and Windows 10 include free screen reader software. Users on older versions of Windows or Linux have free third-party options to choose from.
Enabling a screen reader
- On macOS
System Preferences, click the
Accessibilitytab, then click
Voice Over. Check the
- On Windows 10
Ease of Access. Slide the
- On older Windows devices
- You can install NVDA for free.
- On Linux
- You can install Orca for free.
Using a screen reader
In order to build accessible web experiences, it’s important to understand how a screen reader announces the content of what you build.
If you’ve never used one before, opening up a site you’ve built, turning on a screen reader, and using the
tab key on your keyboard to move through the links or interacting with content on the site can be very enlightening.
Open up any site or project you’ve worked on, turn on a screen reader, and tab through elements. What is the experience like? Do you know what’s going on?
Note: using a screen reader for the first time is an awkward, clumsy experience. You don’t have to be an expert. The point right now is to get a taste for what your website is like for people who can’t see the layout or changes to it.