Screen Reader 101: How Advice from a Blind Person Helps a Deaf Person

By Rhea Althea Guntalilib: For Entire Post, Click Here…

“What is a screen reader anyway?” I remember asking this very same question when being introduced to the wonderful world of assistive technologies. The person told me that a screen reader is a computer that talks. For the life of me, I could not comprehend how a blind person like me can use a computer, regardless if it talks or not. Eventually, I learned that it happens through a screen reader software.

To add context, a screen reader is a text-to-speech app that allows people who are blind or have low vision to use devices such as computers and mobile phones. It converts screen elements such as images, buttons, icons, and so on into audio outputs that are perceivable to the blind person.

A Quick Overview of Screen Readers

Actually, WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey No. 9  states the bulk of survey respondents who say they use a screen reader are blind or have low vision. However, they’re not the only ones using screen readers.

Here are the types of disabilities people using screen readers have:

  • Blindness: 80%
  • Low vision / visually-impaired: 22%
  • Deafness or hard of hearing: 7%
  • Cognitive or learning disability: 3%
  • Motor: 2%
  • Other: 4%

Additionally, almost 20% have multiple disabilities and 6% report being deaf and blind. Some people with dyslexia and processing disorders find it easier to use a screen reader than to read.

Screen readers come in different versions and brands as well as paid and free. WebAIM says 54% of the respondents say they use Job Access with Speech or JAWS, a paid software. Non-Visual Desktop Access or NVDA  comes right behind at 31% making it the most popular free open-source version. Screen reader apps come in multiple voices in different languages called synthesizers.

If you or you know someone who wants to use a screen reader for whatever reason, this article will help you get started with screen readers as it answers the most frequently asked questions.

What is the best advice for getting started with screen readers?

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