A number of people on our HTML and CSS training course seem a little intimidated by the idea of using a screen reader like Windows Eyes and Thunder screen readers. I have had one or two technical issues running these on my laptop, as it’s never configured in exactly the same way as I usually have it on my desktop, but hopefully it’s enough to give people an idea about what was involved in testing for accessibilty.
I would like to reiterate the point that working and testing with a screen reader does take a lot of getting used to, but if you put the initial effort in, it will become a lot easier with a little experience. This will greatly help you to understand the workflow of a user that works with a screen reader and ultimately help you create more accessible websites.
The free screen reader that I demonstrate is called Thunder and is available as a download for unlimited use with WebbIE (text based browser – download link to Thunder). The other screen reader that I demonstrated was Windows Eyes from GWMicro (download link to Windows Eyes).
As a point of interest, here are a couple of links to demonstrations of screen readers by sighted and unsighted users. Some are very interesting…
1. JAWS reading headings at the speed of an average screen reader user…
2. Accessing the web using JAWS screen reading software
3. YouTube is inaccessible to screen reader users
4. Demonstration of Thunder Screen Reader by users
5. Victor Tsaran: “An Introduction to Screen Readers”