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Suzanne Aitchison
Suzanne Aitchison

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Assistive technologies your users might be using

I've found that when developers talk about accessibility, we often make the assumption that accessibility === screen readers. In reality, not all users with disabilities use assistive technologies, and not all assistive technologies are screen readers!

This post collects some demo videos I've found helpful in learning how some of the most popular assistive technologies help users access our apps and engage with our code.

If you know any other good demos, please do link them in the comments!

Screen reader

  • Reads the content of the screen aloud
  • Provides shortcuts to skip to certain parts of the page or perform certain actions
  • Provides contextual information about control types and state
  • Popular screen readers include JAWS (Windows), NVDA (Windows), VoiceOver (macOS and iOS) and Talkback (android mobile).

In this video, Léonie Watson discusses and demonstrates how she uses a screen reader:

Refreshable braille display

  • Can be used in conjunction with a screen reader, with screen reader output translated into braille
  • May also support typing in braille
  • Some devices have their own integrated apps for e.g. note-taking, calculations

Check out this demonstration and Q & A with a braille display user:

Screen magnification software

  • Allows users to control the size of text and graphics on the screen
  • Allows users to change cursor size, focus styles, and the colors used on the screen
  • Some magnification software has basic screen reading capabilities built-in too

This video demonstrates (an old version of) ZoomText, a popular screen magnification tool:

Switch controls

  • Primarily used by users with motor disabilities
  • Multiple formats, but commonly a large button
  • "Sip and puff" and movement sensors are also common formats of switch controls
  • A focus indicator moves through items on the screen, pressing the switch activates the control
  • Multiple switches can be used in combination
  • Some mobile devices now have gesture-based switches using the camera

Check out Christopher Hills using a two switch set up with an iPhone:

Speech input software

  • Provides a speech-operated method for typing and controlling the computer
  • Allows users to execute actions using voice commands

See a demo of the popular Dragon NaturallySpeaking:

You can also check out Josh W Comeau's write up on their experience using speech input for software development: "Hands-Free Coding".

Do you have any others to share?

If you've seen any other great demos of assistive tech, please do drop them in the comments!

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