Skip to content

Sounds like a good idea: how to get started testing with a screen reader

This is a text version of the PDF of the slides for a talk I’m giving at A11y Camp 2022.

Chapter 1: Introduction. Why test, and a demo

Why test with a screen reader?

  1. People who use our products use screen readers.
  2. It highlights problems quickly and clearly.

Disclaimer: I’m a tester, not an everyday user

Chapter 2: Testing tips. What to test, what good sounds like

1. Testing the page title

Does it describe the contents or purpose of the page?

2. Testing the h1

Is it the first heading? Does it describe the contents or purpose of the page? Is similar to the title?

3. Testing the headings

Is everything that looks like a heading marked up as a heading? Are the headings nested correctly?

4. Testing everything else (LOL OMG wat 😱)

Hold on. Let’s take a break.

Aside: the two modes of (desktop) screen readers.

Browse mode

The page is read out in the HTML source order.

There are single-key shortcuts for headings, links, images, and more.

Forms mode

The person uses the Tab key to move to the next focusable element.

Text, images, and disabled form elements do not receive focus.

Okay, let’s try again.

4. Testing everything else (for real this time)

Hmm, well. Maybe it’s more like…

4. Testing interactive elements

  • Links
  • Buttons
  • Form fields

What to test

  1. Can I reach it and use it?
  2. Does it have an accessible name?
  3. Does it have a good name?

Links go places.

Link text should describe the destination.

What’s good text for a button?

Buttons do stuff.

Button text should describe the action.

What’s a good name for a field?

Fields gather data.

Field name describes the input.

Chapter 3: Setup tips. Getting started getting started

Setup Part 1: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

  • Desktop: keyboard shortcuts
  • Mobile: accessibility shortcut
  • Details (and some other tweaks) in the Appendix

Setup Part 2: “Quiet, please!” and “Speak up!”

  • Desktop: Control to stop
  • Desktop: Insert + , VO + a to start
  • Mobile: Two-finger tap

Epilogue: How to continue testing with a screen reader

Deque guides: NVDA; JAWS; VoiceOver Mac OS; VoiceOver iOS; TalkBack

What else to test

  • Field help text
  • Error handling
  • Focus management

What screen reader(s) should we test with?

The ones our customers use. But some testing is way better than no testing.


Setup Part 1: VoiceOver on iOS

  • Settings → Accessibility → General > Accessibility Shortcut → select VoiceOver
  • Use the Accessibility Shortcut to switch VoiceOver on and off quickly. This lets you triple-click the side button to stop / start VoiceOver

Setup Part 1: TalkBack on Android

  • Settings → Accessibility → Volume key shortcut. Select Use service and choose TalkBack as the Shortcut service.
  • Use the shortcut service to switch TalkBack on and off quickly. This lets you hold both volume keys for 3 seconds to start / stop TalkBack.

Tweaks for testing: NVDA

  • Preferences > Vision, check “Enable Highlighting”
  • Tools > Speech Viewer: Open the Speech Viewer

Tweaks for testing: VoiceOver on iOS

If you want to see the text of VoiceOver on screen, go to Settings → Accessibility → VoiceOver, Caption Panel

Tweaks for testing: TalkBack on Android

If you want to see the text of TalkBack on screen, go to Settings → Accessibility, Caption preferences → Use captions