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How People Use Assistive Technology

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology ensures that individuals with disabilities can interact with websites and digital content effectively. The types of assistive technology needed to interact with a website can vary depending on the specific disability and the individual's needs.

Many people use a combination of different assistive technologies to accomplish their goals. For example, I have a friend who is visually impaired, and he uses a screen reader and screen magnification software. People who use sip-and-puff technology often use speech-to-text technology.

This blog post will focus on three types of assistive technology related to website use.

  • Screen readers
  • Magnification software
  • Alternative input methods

Screen Readers

A screen reader is "software that processes content on the desktop and in web browsers and converts it to other forms such as text-to-speech and Braille. Screen readers typically provide other functions such as shortcut keys, different modes for processing content and interacting with it, and the ability to highlight the text that is being read aloud." ~ W3C, Web Accessibility Initiative

The most common screen readers in use are 

  • JAWS (Job Access with Speech)
  • NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)
  • Voiceover (OSx and IOS)
  • Talkback (Android)

How Do People Use Screen Readers?

Magnification Software

Screen magnification software is helpful for people with low vision. "Screen magnification software, sometimes called screen enlargement software, is computer software that enlarges everything on a computer screen. Because the screen image is enlarged, the user only sees part of the screen at a time." ~ Laura Jones, Perkins School for the Blind

Some commonly used screen magnification software include:

  • MAGic
  • Windows Magnifier
  • Zoom on Macs
  • ZoomText

How Do People Use Magnification Software?

Alternative Input Methods

An alternative input method is a different approach to entering text and activating commands on a computer or cell phone. While keyboards and mice are the most common input methods, they may not be suitable for everyone. Some individuals might require a different device or software combination to achieve their desired outcomes.

Some alternative input methods or devices are:
~ W3C, Web Accessibility Initiative

  • Voice recognition, eye tracking, and other approaches for hands-free interaction.
  • On-screen keyboards, touch-screens, sip-and-puff switches, and single-key switches
  • Trackballs, joysticks, touchpads, specially designed mice, and other pointing devices

How Do People Use an Alternative Input Method?

Website developers and designers should incorporate testing with assistive technologies into their web content development process whenever possible to help ensure adherence to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Resources

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
Content Marketing Practitioner
DubBot