Skip to main content

Visual impairment is probably one of the first limitations that comes to mind when you think of digital accessibility. Not so strange, when you consider that more than 250,000 Dutch people have a visual impairment. The same figures from the Eye Fund show that 85% of these people are 50 years or older. Especially due to aging, the size of this group has increased considerably over the past ten years. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years.

It is extremely annoying for this group that more and more communication is being transmitted in a textual way, especially online. As a web developer, marketer or content creator you can ensure that visually impaired people and blind also get the message of your website, blog, pdf or word document. In this blog, one of the solutions for more inclusive web content is discussed.

What is a screen reader?

American researched from 2019 showed that the internet is not accessible to blind users. For example, transactions could not be carried out or a customer service was not available for the group. A way in which it can be made easier for the blind and visually impaired to find their way online by using a screen reader.

A screen reader is software that “reads” written content for the user. Not only websites and documents can be read in this way, also operating systems themselves, such as Windows and iOS are accessible to blind and visually impaired people. Dozens of different screen readers are available. Below is a small overview of the most used screen reader options in the Netherlands.

Screen reader for Windows

Jaws, job access with speech is the most used software package for blind and visually impaired worldwide. Jaws is made for professional use. For example, Word, Excel and Outlook can be used with it. Specific programs, such as Remote Desktop or Citrix, can also be controlled with Jaws.

Screen reader for iOS

The devices from Apple, iPhone, iPad and MacBook, work with the IOS operating system. This system contains a built-in screen reader. In the settings, it is possible to select the “Voiceover” under “Accessibility”. This position then reads everything that the user clicks on. Note, after selecting this option, voiceover changes the way your device must be used. For example, the double click takes over the function of a single click.

Braille display

The braille display is a very different form of screen readers. Firstly, this is about hardware, not software. The device is often placed under the keyboard by the blind and visually impaired. Another difference with the aforementioned solutions is that the braille display ensures that the blind can read the text instead of hearing it.

Purple phones attached to a wall

Content Creation and Screen Readers

When creating a website, it is important to take into account the way in which screen readers process content. The tips below can be used directly by developers and content creators.

Make images readable for screen readers

One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding alternative text to the HTML code of images. In these ways, screen readers also know what can be seen in the image. Bonus: By adding the alternative text, the website will also score better in search engines, such as Google. Because, accessible code is also excellent code for Google (SEO).

Taking languages into account

For screen readers it is important to know in which language a text is written. Web developers can help with this by giving a language attribute to the HTML code of a text. Also note that if you display a quote from a language other than the basic language on your site, you also indicate this. Take Contact For more applications of language attributes in HTML.

Add semantic code for more structure

Another tip that benefits both accessibility and the SEO of your website: add semantic code to your page to structure. Think of “footer”, “header”, “section” and “article”.

Anchor add texts to links

By adding anchor texts to HTML on the left, it becomes easier for a screen reader to understand and therefore read the text. This goes on both for text links and clickable buttons.

Working together for accessibility

Experience shows that websites and similar projects are often built-in teams. The SCRUM card game Thinking in limitations helps you and your team to take accessibility while developing a project. Not only is the awareness about digital accessibility in this way increases, you also encourage each other to develop a digital project together that is accessible to everyone.

Vincent van Brakel

Vincent van Brakel researches the accessibility of websites and apps for Digitaal Toegankelijk. Vincent also writes about everything that has to do with digital accessibility and shares practical tips on