Accessibility Jumpstart 5: Using Assistive Tech

Entry categories Accessibility
Fisherman by Kōno Bairei (1844-1895). Digitally enhanced from our own original 1913 edition of Barei Gakan.

In the last article, I covered the most common Assistive Technologies (AT) on the market. However hearing about it, versus using assistive tech or seeing in action is a whole different story. When I first began testing accessibility I was surprised to learn that most users of AT take time to explore the general structure and outline of a page before just diving right in. If you want to explore what the experience is like for yourself, feel free to use the helpful guides below.

JAWS

While this one costs some serious money for software these days, it is (or was) the gold standard. While JAWS has a few interaction modes, Forms and Browse are the most well-known. WebAIM has a much more comprehensive list of key commands while in these modes, but here are some of my most used ones.

General
DescriptionKeys
Stop read backControl
Read current item againInsert Tab
Slow down voiceControl Alt Page down
Speed up voiceControl Alt Page up
Leave Forms modeNum pad +
Exploration
DescriptionKeys
Move to main regionQ
Next regionR
List headingsInsert F6
Next headingH
Heading at level 1 through 61 through 6
Next clickable element/
Next form controlF
Next buttonB
List linksInsert F7
Next listL
Next item in a listI
Next articleO
Next paragraphP
Next tableT
Next tab control (tab list and tab panel)'
Next graphicG

NVDA

Like JAWS, NVDA has similar key commands. Again, WebAIM has a more robust list than I have here.

General
DescriptionKeys
Stop read backControl
Read current item againInsert Tab
Slow down voiceInsert Control
Speed up voiceInsert Control
Leave Forms modeInsert Space
Exploration
DescriptionKeys
Next landmarkD
Next headingH
Heading at level 1 through 61 through 6
Next form fieldF
Next buttonB
Next listL
Next item in a listI
Next paragraphP
Next tableT
Next graphicG
Next embedded object (video, audio)O

Voiceover on MacOS

Voiceover on MacOS works a little differently than screen readers on Windows, but the same general ideas still apply. Again, top notch overview by WebAIM on key commands.

General
DescriptionKeys
Toggle Voiceover on or offCommand F5
Stop read backControl
Exploration
DescriptionKeys
Activate rotor (page element menu)Control Option U
Next headingControl Option Command H
Next linkControl Option Command L
Next form fieldControl Option Command J
Next tableControl Option Command T
Next listControl Option Command X
Next graphicControl Option Command G

Voiceover on iOS

Voiceover on iOS is different than its MacOS counterpart. This is far and away the most popular mobile AT. Navigation is very different, and exploration is done by touch. Turning on Voiceover will change how your iOS device works, so be ready.

General commands
DescriptionCommand
Discover items on screenDrag
Toggle mute for Voiceover3 finger double-tap
Act on focused item1 finger double-tap
Exploration
DescriptionCommand
Speak entire screen from top of page2 finger swipe up
Activate rotor selection (page element menu)2 finger rotate
Select next item (even if not interactive)1 finger swipe right
Select previous item1 finger swipe left
Select next chosen rotor item1 finger swipe down
Select previous chosen rotor item1 finger swipe up
Scroll page3 finger swipe down or up

Dragon Naturally Speaking

And finally, Dragon Naturally Speaking has its own set of commands to interact and navigate with on the web. Nuance, the company that makes Dragon has a nice cheat sheet of commands as well.

General commands
DescriptionVoice command
Finds and clicks a specific object. This why icon-only buttons can be a problem.“Click {link or button name}”
Presses the keyboard key of same name. Tab and enter are used often.“Press {key name}”
Move through list items quickly“Move down {number}”

There are a slew of text entry commands, and mouse moving commands as well, but I typically find that using assistive tech in sanity checking UI is the most beneficial exercise at the moment.

Conclusion

Hopefully this helps you have a general sense of how people use the internet with assistive technology, and helps you get your feet wet using assistive tech. Its also important to remember, just because you have played with AT doesn’t mean you understand what the experience is like.

In the next part, we will be covering a bit on testing users who interact with assistive technology everyday. See you soon!


Want to read the rest of the series?

  1. What Is Accessibility?
  2. Standards
  3. The Law
  4. Assistive Technology
  5. Using Assistive Technology
  6. User Testing
  7. Dev & Design Tools
  8. Staying Current with Accessibility
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