Creating Screen-Reader Friendly Resources
Screen readers work by reading aloud text content presented on a screen, and they may be used in combination with other assistive technologies like a screen magnifier. Most screen readers are software-based, and offer a number of features. They are controlled via keyboard commands, using a standard or Braille keyboard and can identify the cursor’s position, read text, locate particular words or text in a set color, and perform other key tasks. Screen readers can also work with Braille display technology.
When users are using a screen reader to understand a website, they need an array of information, including what language is being used; however, they may not need as much information when they’re reading documents.
Making Documents Accessible to Screen Readers
While video content is often quite accessible to users, either through carefully describing what is on the screen or integrating audio descriptions along with a video file, text-based files may pose additional challenges for users with vision impairments.
Learning how to create screen reader-friendly documents can enable you to improve accessibility for users. The tips here apply to a variety of document types, but are most relevant for the types of documents content owners are likely to provide to users, including .PDF, .DOCX, and .PPT files.
“Including headings and subheadings in your content is important, as 67.5% of screen reader users jump through headings as their primary way to navigate content.”
- Create a logical underlying structure. This typically relies upon tags. These tags, just like tags in a website, help the screen reader software to understand the correct order of information in a document.
- Provide alternate text (or alt text) information about image and graphics. For instance, if you have presented an image of a red car, driving down a highway alongside the beach, the alternate text should enable the user to listen to the screen reader to understand that there is a picture on the document and the content of that picture. Longer alternate text descriptions may be needed for some graphics.
- Incorporate navigation aids, such as a table of contents or bookmarks to improve the ease of navigation for all users.
- Avoid the use of unusual or specific fonts. These can confuse screen readers, leading to difficulty for users.
- Keep paragraphs short. The most common way to read content is by paragraph, so keeping paragraphs short enables users to go back and re-read content on a page more easily.
- Incorporate headings and subheadings. Screen readers can jump to headings, which is a primary way users navigate pages (67.5%), according to WEB Aim’s Screen Reader User Survey.
Provide Accessible Digital Documents for All Users
In classrooms and offices, many people rely upon documents in both paper and digital formats, whether these are meeting minutes, supports for multimedia presentations, or other course materials. To meet the needs of students who use screen readers, consider providing content prior to the meeting or providing the document in a digital form. The YuJa Enterprise Video Platform enables:
- The ability to upload a variety of file types directly into a media collection, which makes documents available to every user.
- Math equation support for screen readers. Math equations can be read aloud to users, including equations embedded in documents and included in images.
- The ability for content owners to upload documents directly associated with a particular media file. These documents can be viewed while viewing the media or can be downloaded for a later or separate review.
Listed are some of the most effective ways institutions can supplement media-based learning and information sharing while providing users who need screen readers and other assistive technologies with an improved understanding of content.
Increasing Accessibility with Audio Descriptions
Audio descriptions are an additional audio track within a video that describes what is on the screen that’s not spoken. Designed to meet the needs of visually impaired users, these helpful narratives are sometimes called descriptive video.
Audio description tracks fill in information that may be missing in the standard audio track, but is displayed to viewers visually. This information may include information about actions being taken, characters, scene changes, and more.
Audio Description Helps Paint a Comprehensive Picture for the Visually Impaired
Imagine a video for a history course on 17th century Holland; the screen shows the image of a painting by Vermeer. The standard audio track may offer information relating to the painting, but doesn’t provide a student who cannot see the screen any information about exactly what is on the screen.
In this case, the audio track might say, “An aged oil painting of a young woman with a blue and light yellow scarf over her hair contrasts against a dark background. The woman’s head is tilted slightly as she looks directly at the viewer over her left shoulder. The young woman wears a pearl earring that nearly touches her white collar under a yellow garment. Heavy folds of the garment suggest coarse fabric unusual for the time period.”
Now, the user who cannot see the painting has an idea or point of reference for additional content in the video.
The American Council of the Blind and has numerous audio description examples on their Audio Description Project page, which helps “promote and advocate for the use of high-quality Audio Description in television, movies, performing arts, museums, educational materials and other venues where the presentation of visual media is critical to the understanding and appreciation of the content.”
Using Audio Descriptions in Your Video Content
Audio description tracks enable the user to toggle between two audio streams, including the standard audio and the additional audio description.
There are several different ways to make use of audio descriptions in video content.
- Video creators can opt to include audio descriptions in their main soundtrack. While this can be challenging, it saves any need for an additional track. For instance, an instructor might say, “the screen shows a PowerPoint slide detailing…”.
- Audio description tracks can simply be uploaded as a secondary track. This track can include only the essential audio to fill in information the student requires.
- An audio description track that includes the full lecture content can also be produced and made available as an alternate track.
Adding Audio Descriptions to Videos with the YuJa Video Platform
YuJa’s Video Platform fully complies with accessibility requirements related to audio descriptions. YuJa’s HTML5 Media Player provides built-in capabilities to add separate, user-enabled Audio Description tags to a video.
YuJa continues to improve accessibility features in the HTML5 Media Player to enhance the learning experience for all students.