Analysis of Screen Readers

Published May 28, 2024

Screen readers are an accessibility tool used by people with vision disabilities or other disabilities that make visual content difficult to read. They work by converting written content into speech and/or braille for equal access. They are part of various assistive devices on the market to make computers and other digital technology accessible.

However, few people know much about screen readers or those who use them. So let’s analyze this technology, including the users, how screen readers help, and how to use this technology for a wide variety of needs. 

Who uses screen readers?

As stated before, the primary users of screen readers are people with disabilities that make reading written content difficult. These disabilities include vision disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, cognitive disabilities, and mobility disabilities. People with these disabilities may require assistance with written content, which a screen reader provides by reading out what's written on the screen or providing a braille translation. 

Without screen readers, people with these disabilities cannot access digital content. By translating the written word into audio or braille output, screen readers allow people who could not otherwise access digital content to have the same equitable access as those without disabilities. This is especially important in today’s digital world, where 5.16 billion people use the Internet.  

Where can you find screen readers?

Developers sometimes build screen readers into computers, like VoiceOver on a Mac. There is also the option to buy software, like JAWS, for those that don’t have a computer with built-in software. Some browsers, like Chrome, also have screen reader extensions for use on the Internet. 

Depending on what a person primarily uses their computer for, the best screen reader might be a browser extension versus full software. It depends on the person. Whatever they choose, there’s a screen reader for everyone to increase access to the Internet and digital content.

How do screen readers help?

Imagine for a moment that you are a person with low vision who has to read a portion of a website dedicated to a store’s return policy. However, the text is small, and the contrast is not good, making the task impossible. How can you be expected to know whether the item you want to return is returnable?

With a screen reader, we eliminate this problem. A screen reader will read the webpage for someone with low vision, eliminating the barrier due to poor accessibility. If a user is deaf-blind, a screen reader may use Braille to translate the words for full accessibility. However, the screen reader is used. It provides a way for digital content to be accessed by those who otherwise could not do so. 

How else can a screen reader be used?

As with most technology, screen reader use is ever-growing and evolving. There are many ways a screen reader can improve people's lives every day, and one of them is with the aging population, many of whom are experiencing disabilities such as low vision and mobility problems. Though stereotypes may say that senior adults wouldn’t be able to use new technology, that is simply not true. 

Such stereotypes exist partly because of the disabilities many older people have. These disabilities make it difficult to use newer technology. When people with vision problems have difficulty reading the small print on a website, customer service representatives could misinterpret this and think the individual is asking for help because they don’t understand the technology.  A screen reader could solve this misunderstanding by interpreting the content on the page for an older person with low vision. Using technology to help instead of hinder could eliminate harmful stereotypes. 

Conclusion

Screen readers exist to help bridge the gap between digital content and those with disabilities that make accessing said digital content difficult or impossible. With a screen reader, a person can use a computer the same as someone without a disability, ensuring equal access to today’s technology. Screen readers can better the lives of all people in many ways and remove stereotypes in today’s culture. 

 

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