Most companies either don’t have the resources or aren’t willing to invest in assistive technologies so that they can actively test their web products, so their employees are forced to simply follow the rules (WAI) as best they can and hope that their final product is at least somewhat accessible. Victor Tsaran’s video introduction to screen readers is very useful as it allows a peek into real life screen reader usage. I wonder how many people will be surprised by the last couple minutes of the video?
He highlighted the following important points (with a little of my own two cents thrown in as well):
Screen readers users can navigate via links, headings, and lists. All of the above should thus be marked-up appropriately using semantic HTML or XHTML and should have descriptive and unique text associated with them.
He showed how he could pull up lists of all the links on a page. You should ask your self if you have used an identical link text for more than one link on a page. The worst example of this is “click here” but “find out more!” is my personal favorite — about what?!?
We also saw in the video that he could pull up a list of all the headings (H1-H6) in a page and shuffle through the content. This was his best way of getting an overview of a website, something sighted people can have at a glance. So keeping this in mind, big text is *not* the same thing as a heading. Consider styling each of your potential headings to encourage that they be used appropriately.
Finally, lists should be marked up as such, whether they have bullets or numbers, are horizontal or vertical, etc. This will allow your users to hear how many items there are in the list and decide if they would like to hear individual elements or skip to the end of the group. Lists include one LI per item; a series of A tags does not constitute a list.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video, I did. Victor, is there any chance you would be willing to do another video on flash interactions with your screen reader?