Accessibility Testing: Screen Readers

The U.S. National Cancer Institute recently did a user study of screen reader users.

The Communication Technologies Branch of the United States National Cancer Institute (part of National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services) has been conducting usability testing with people with disabilities, specifically blind and lowvision users, to

* understand the relationship between accessibility and usability
* understand how blind and low-vision users work with Web sites
* develop research-based guidelines for accessibility and usability
* assess the usability of specific Web sites for blind and low-vision users

It looks like they studied 16 users. Which makes the findings non-scientific, but still helpful (same as with Eyetrack III.

They had about 16 findings as well. All pretty interesting. Check out the article to get more detail about each.

  1. Screen-reader users scan with their ears.
  2. Screen-reader users must understand the browser, the screen reader, and the Web sites – quite a mental load.
  3. Many users do not know or use all the features of the software.
  4. The software does an amazing job but still mispronounces words.
  5. Many screen-reader users do not want a special version (“text version”).
  6. Many want to skip the navigation but do not do so.
  7. Many users jump from link to link or use a Links List box.
  8. The Find feature does not cycle through the page – and the screen reader moves the cursor as it talks.
  9. When the ALT-tag and the text on a page differ, users may type the wrong information in the Find dialogue box
  10. Some users are poor spellers, which makes searching difficult.
  11. Anchor links can work well, but not if the page refreshes.
  12. Some screen-reader users jump from heading to heading.
  13. First, screen-reader users must find the form.
  14. Users do not want to switch back and forth between text and fields.
  15. If screen-reader users are in form-filling (Edit) mode, they do not hear any text that is not part of a field.
  16. When filling out a field makes the page refresh, the software starts reading from the top as if it were a new page.

They had an interesting quote in their conclusion:

Richard Rubenstein and Harry Hersh said some years ago about software development [7, p. 29]:

In the absence of detailed information, we all work from assumptions about who the user is, what he or she does, and what type of system would meet his or her needs. Following these assumptions, we tend to design for ourselves, not for other people.






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