Screen Reader Strategy Survey

They say accessibility is about people. Inaccessibility is about people too, of course. In either case, it’s people — flesh-and-blood, living, breathing people — that interfaces are built to cater for, successfully or otherwise.

What we learn in user research is that people are unpredictable, resistant, hesitant, contrary, determined, inventive and most of all disparate. Yet we spend large amounts of our time as assistive technology testers worrying about the technicalities of which screen reader supports what with which browser on which operating system. We focus on discrete instances of what’s broken or unbroken, without considering the people using these technologies regularly and what strategies they employ to solve problems and complete tasks. In short, we don’t tend to treat screen reader users like users.

Despite having some knowledge of the conventions and controls of NVDA, JAWS et al, my sporadic test usage of screen readers is mere fumbling — fumbling around pages I’ve built looking for information I already know is there, usually while I’m looking at said pages. This really doesn’t tell me a great deal. So, I want to ask any screen reader users reading this to help me and others to fill in some gaps.

To follow is a short list of questions that you can fill in at your convenience, leaving out any that aren’t applicable or you’re not happy answering. I’m not expecting any kind of feedback that can be converted to numbers and metrics, so there’ll be no dreaded visualisations; I just want to hear how you go about things. You can send your answers to heydon@heydonworks.com and I aim to publish them, respecting your anonymity unless you wish to be cited.

Thank you.

Edit: Here are the responses!.

  • When you arrive on a new, unfamiliar web page, for which you have no prior knowledge or expectations, what actions do you perform first?
  • If, while using a web page, you suddenly find yourself lost (or in a place you didn’t expect to be) what do you do to get back on track?
  • When it becomes clear that a web page is complex, what do you do to help break down the information?
  • If you know there’s some information on a website but you don’t know where, what helps you to find it?
  • What’s the most difficult part of navigating a web page?
  • What one thing do web designers do in the design of their web pages that makes your life most difficult?
  • Which features or aspects of web pages do you consistently find the most difficult to use and why?