Last week I wrote about some Best Practices for Creating Compliant eLearning. I'd like to follow up that article with information about screen readers.
Screen readers are programs designed to allow visually impaired learners to navigate through a website or eLearning lesson by reading the content aloud.
Two popular screen readers are JAWS (Job Access With Speech) and Window-Eyes. According to Microsoft, "Windows 8 has built-in assistive technologies that work with both Windows 8 applications and with desktop software to provide seamless access to the entire Windows experience."
If you'd like to see a review of some of the top screen readers, Top 10 Reviews has some great information. For instance, there's a section in the article that deals with compatible applications, something that is often overlooked.
According to the article, "This (compatibility) is one category that should not vary (between screen readers) no matter what your vision level is. You want your software to be compatible with the basics of your computer--word processing applications, internet, email, PDF reading--but not all screen readers are. The best ones work well with newer versions of Microsoft Office, especially Word and Excel. They also include at least two different internet browser options, usually Internet Explorer and Firefox. A variety of email applications is nice, but at the least the software should work with Outlook and Outlook Express."
Each screen reader uses different methods to translate screen information into speech. As you create eLearning projects in Captivate, you can certainly add accessibility, but you cannot control how a screen reader interprets the accessible components you add to any one lesson. For instance, you cannot force a screen reader to read screen text exactly when you want, or how you want. For that reason, it is best practice to test your projects with multiple screen readers and learn for yourself how each screen reader behaves.
Tips for Testing Screen Reader Compliance
Adobe has invested significant resources into Captivate to ensure the lessons you create have the capability of being compliant. And Adobe offers the following tips for testing your lessons for compliance:
- If you are designing your projects to work with screen readers, download several screen readers. Then test each project by playing it in a browser with the screen reader enabled.
- Ensure that the screen reader is not attempting to "talk over" places in your project where you have inserted separate audio.
- Several screen reader applications provide a demonstration version of the software as a free download. Try as many as you can to ensure compatibility across screen readers.
- If you are creating interactive content, test it and verify that users can navigate your content effectively using only the keyboard. Screen readers work in different ways when processing input from the keyboard. For this reason, your Adobe Captivate content might not receive keystrokes as you intended. Make sure that you test all keyboard shortcuts.
See also: Establishing a screen reader test plan