Screen Readers

As someone who uses Assistive Technology (AT) to make it through her day, I’m telling you, you non-AT users can get pretty… weird. Something about interacting with an assistive technology (AT) user like me causes some normally very composed and astute people to lose a bit of their cool. I get it. I’m sure when I roll up in my wheelchair not in full control of my own body and chatting with my mom using my word board, I can catch the average bear off guard.

Ensure that your product works with assistive technology

Assistive technology (AT) is a term that describes the tools that people with disabilities use to access websites and applications. To ensure compatibility between the assistive technology and your product, Interactive Accessibility will confirm that assistive technology can work with the product and that the product is usable for people with disabilities. 

The leading screen reader from Freedom Scientific just released a new version. In JAWS version 14, there is now support for Windows 8 and it also includes many other features and enhancements:

  • Flexible Web for smoother reading - this feature hides sections of content such as Google ad frames and JAWS can now be configured to start ready at the ARIA main landmark or the apge h1 heading
  • Easier selection of text in HTML page
  • Unwanted Flash and Frame announcements removed - JAWS 14 now filters out empty flash and frames objects to make the page reading as smooth as possible
  • ARIA is now fully supported - all of the latest industry standard ARIA tags and elements that can be applied to Web pages are now supported. See JAWS Support for ARIA (Word file) for more details.
  • New commands to move from one separator to another - pressing the Navigation Quick Key Dash or Shift + Dash to move to the next or previous separator (<hr> HTML tag) in IE or Firefox

View the complete list of JAWS 14 enhancements.


The new beta  version of GW Micro's product, Window-Eyes, was released on Monday October 22.  Window-Eyes is one of the leading screen readers that users with visual impairments use to produce an auditory version of the information on the computer screen.

Learn more about Window-Eyes.

New Window-Eyes 8.0 features:

  • Application now runs in Windows Safe Mode, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
  • Support for JAVA applications such as OpenOffice
  • Remote assistance features
  • Improved support for Outlook 2007 and 2010
  • Performance enhancements
  • New keyboard layout

Internet Enhancements include:

  • Support for Internet Explorer 10 - Window-Eyes 8.0 Beta 1 includes full support for Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 as well as both the desktop and modern apps in Windows 8

  • WAI-ARIA for rich internet applications is now supported outside of Browse Mode in Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox

  • Updated Tab Handling - To improve general website navigation, presses of the Tab and Shift-Tab keys are now passed directly to the underlying browser. Therefore, any dynamic web applications which use ARIA controls or that specify a custom Tab order will now work seamlessly when you are in or out of Browse Mode.

  • Automatic Form Interaction - there is now an option to automatically turn Browse Mode off whenever a form element is reached via the Tab or Shift-Tab keys.  Note that you can always re-enable Browse Mode by pressing Control-Shift-A or, new in Window-Eyes 8.0 Beta 1, with the Escape key. It is important to remember that the automatic toggling of Browse Mode only applies when you are Tabbing through websites. Navigating by any other means (such as with the Arrows or dedicated Browse Mode element keys) will leave you in browse Mode as they always have.

  • The expand and collapse state of drop down boxes are now announced

  • HTML message boxes are now being read in Firefox 4 and newer

See a full list of new features.


British scientists have paired video game console cameras with a pair of ordinary glasses to create an eye control device that will allow the severely disabled to use a computer. The device costs just $65.

Watch the video

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy will host a free, live audio discussion as part its AT Works series about accessible technology in the workplace. Inspiring Innovation — Engaging Citizens in the Development of Accessible Workplace Technology, will be held on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 from 2 - 3 p.m. Eastern Time. 

You can participate in this event by conference-call and the event will be live audio-captioned. No registration is required. 

Visit for more information about how assistive and accessible technologies can advance the employment and independence of people with disabilities.

In a study conducted by Google in 2008, it was found that there are more deaf and hard of hearing users with access needs in the US than all of the Internet users in Spain!  

How would the loss of your hearing affect you on the Internet?

There are three types of auditory impairments, any of which can be caused by accident, illness, environment, heredity, aging:

Pull up your favorite website, close your eyes, and imagine trying to use it.  Yes, that is extreme, but users users with disabilities face serious challenges trying to use inaccessible websites.  Vision disabilities affect website users in different ways depending on the type and severity of the disability.  The good news is that we can make it significantly easier for users by following some accessibility guidelines.

Ensuring That Users of All Abilities Can Use Your Product

A product that is technically accessible might still be unusable, especially for people with disabilities using assistive technology.  Accessibility testing involves measuring the ease in which users can complete common tasks on your website.


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