Using Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can mean the difference between a site visitor successfully navigating and utilizing a website or leaving frustrated without obtaining any information due to limited functionality. As technology evolves it is becoming easier to create similar web experiences through traditional web browsing and those using assistive technology. This can be accomplished by making cognitive choices when building sites, so they are conducive to these technologies.
JAWS is a common screen reading software. Watch a video that demonstrates the navigation of websites using assistive technology. It is important that websites have the following at minimum in place to avoid blocking a screen reader from performing to its maximum potential:
- Serve as titles for various sections of a web page
- Allow the user to jump to sections of a page without having to read through all of the content each time
- Need to be nested properly in order of importance: H1 (page title), H2, H3, etc. through H6 - lower headings can be used to create subgroups
- If headings are skipped, a user might assume there is no further information, or they may not properly understand the section breakdown
Image ALT Text
- Used to describe the image
- Should contain enough information to describe the content of the image, but not too lengthy - between a few words and a sentence or two
- Images missing alt text will be skipped over by screen readers, which can be useful for decorative images, but is uncommon
- Images used as links should be avoided, but if necessary, the image alt text should describe where the the image link is going, not the content of the image
- Should tell the user the kind of information they can expect to find on the page
- Should not be too lengthy
- Page titles should not be repeated immediately below the breadcrumbs as a heading
- Avoid using text like "Click Here" or "More"
- Short URLs are okay (e.g. www.kent.edu/accessibility), but long URLs should be avoided (e.g. http://www.kent.edu/accessibility/using-assistive-technology) - screen readers will read everything in the URL!
- Try to use sensible wording for links, such as "Visit the Accessibility website" or "Visit Student Accessibility Services for more information"
- There should be a heading or table caption to alert the user when they've reached a table on a page
- All tables should have a header row
- Avoid using tables to format content on a page - tables should strictly be used for data and information
- If a table becomes too lengthy or complex, it is recommended to break it up into smaller tables
- All Kent State University staff and faculty should be using Qualtrics when creating and sharing forms
- Avoid using inaccessible question types, such as sliders or drag and drops
- For forms with multiple pages, uses words like "Back" or "Next" instead of graphics like ">>" (will read as "right double angle bracket")
- Make sure questions are numbered so that users can track progress
- Use Qualtrics' built-in Survey Accessibility Tool
Unsuccessful JAWS Navigation
It is important that websites are setup with accessibility in mind. The following is an example of an unsuccessful navigation of an embedded Google Calendar. JAWS reads each row as a separate table in this video and links are un-clickable. This is a prime example of how a person with a disability can find this to be very limiting.