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sushant_ranjan
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Introduction

Users with visual disabilities either don’t have vision or have a very low vision, which makes it difficult for them to look at the user interface (like a computer screen or mobile device screen) and hence, they use an assistive technology called Screen Reader which reads the contents & controls of the screen and helps users with visual impairment use computers & other software applications.

Screen Reader

Screen Reader is a software which converts the visual information coming from the computer screen to speech or braille using a speech synthesizer. Screen reader reads the following:

  • Static texts - Headings, paragraphs, line of text, etc.

  • Alternative texts for images & other graphical elements

  • Name, role, value, status (as applicable) information for interactive UI elements (like, buttons, input fields, links, checkboxes, etc.)

  • Programmatically associated text like, labels for form elements, corresponding column headers for table cells, live announcements, error messages etc.


Some of the popular screen readers are as follows:

  1. JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows

  2. NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) for Windows

  3. Voice Over for Mac & iOS (inbuilt)

  4. Narrator for Windows (inbuilt)

  5. Talkback for Android (inbuilt)


Desktop Screen Reader

On a desktop computer, users with visual disabilities navigate using keyboard.

Keyboard shortcuts for JAWS screen reader

Keyboard Shortcuts for NVDA screen reader

Keyboard Shortcuts for Voice Over screen reader (on Mac desktop computer)

Mobile Screen Reader

Modern mobile devices have inbuilt screen readers (Talkback for Android & Voice Over for iOS). Screen reader in mobile devices are operated using the touch gestures.

Talkback gestures on Android

Voice Over gestures on iOS

Benefits of Screen Reader

Screen Reader enables person with visual impairment use computer & other software application, access & collaborate on internet & social media, play computer games, communicate through email & other messaging software, write a program, etc. and perform their job or task independently.

SAP Software & Screen Reader Support

SAP applications have wide support for the screen readers. Every application is tested thoroughly with screen readers like, JAWS & Voice Over by central accessibility testing team before being released. SAP products are made compatible with screen readers right from the design phase and it is committed to provide an accessible experience to users with visual disabilities.

Conclusion

There are approx. 250 million people worldwide who have some kind of vision impairments, out of which 36 million people have no vision at all. Screen Readers are important assistive technology which enables them to access and use digital technologies. Screen reader does not just have ability to read text aloud, but it also allows user to jump to different elements on the screen using keyboard navigation or touch gestures. Apart from that, screen reader like JAWS can also produce the equivalent braille on a refreshable braille display.

References: Freedom Scientific, WebAIM, Deque University, W3C
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