Replacing Vision - Using a Screen Reader
This ADE will provide you with a quick
introduction to using a screen reader while navigating a user interface.
In this ADE your goal will be to use a
screen reader (i.e., software that converts text to speech) to navigate
and read several web pages written in white-on-white text and answer a
few questions about each page.
At the end of this ADE, you will have
experienced some of the difficulties of navigating and using websites
with a screen reader and be able to discuss the impact of using speech
as a primary modality in navigation and reading tasks.
The Department's computer labs provide
two choices for screen readers: Microsoft's Windows Narrator and
Apple's VoiceOver. Microsoft chooses to support third party
screen reader development and, as a result, provides Windows Narrator
as a very limited screen reading tool (it is mostly used during
operating system and AT software installs). Apple developed their
own product for Mac OS X, VoiceOver, as part of the operating
system. We will use VoiceOver because it is a screen reader on
par with third-party products used on top of the Windows operating
system (such as JAWS), but available to us at no extra cost.
The Apple Keyboard:
This section provides a few notes on the
Apple environment. The Apple keyboard
provided in the computer lab conforms to current ISO
keyboard standards but is slightly
different from the Windows keyboard.
Control Option Command Spacebar Command Option Control
Using VoiceOver from the Apple Keyboard:
VoiceOver is an integrated component of
Mac OS X. To turn on VoiceOver at any time (yes it
even works with the login screen) press Command-F5.
VoiceOver has its own reserved keyboard
commands which only function while it is turned on. All VoiceOver
commands start with simultaneously holding down the Control and Option keys
Once logged in you can adjust the
VoiceOver settings allowing you to set whether you want to hear some
punctuation, which voice to use, the pitch and speed of the voice, etc.
These settings can be found by pressing Control-Option-F8 at any
time. For now, please do not use the Caption Panel feature.
Press Command-W to close the window when finished.
You can blank the screen entirely using
Note: This ADE requires the use of
headphones or speakers.
What to Do:
- To begin, please view the QuickTime video "Introduction to the Screen
(To view the captions, click on the red CC icon.)
- To get up and running on Mac OS X:
- Press Command-F5 to start VoiceOver. Login with your NSID and
password as usual. Use the TAB key to move from the user
name to the password boxes. The entire login screen can be
explored by holding down Control-Option and using the arrow
- Once logged in you can adjust the VoiceOver settings if you wish.
This will allow you to set whether you want to hear punctuation,
which voice to use, the pitch and speed of the voice, etc.
These settings can be found by pressing Control-Option-F8 at any
time. For now, please do not use the Caption Panel
feature. Press Command-W to close the window when
- The bar of icons that sits at the bottom of your screen is the
"Dock". It provides easy access to some of the Apple applications
on the Mac (e.g., Mail, Safari, iTunes, Address Book, and
QuickTime Player), displays which applications are currently
running, and holds windows in their minimized state. It is also
the place to find the Trash (the icon looks like a waste
basket). The Apple browser Safari can be launched from the
Dock. While you could use the mouse to access the Dock,
let's use the keyboard for now:
- Press Control-F3 to select the Dock (or VoiceOver command
- Use the Left and Right Arrow keys to move between Dock icons
and find "Safari".
- Once you have found Safari, press the Enter key to launch
- In Safari, use Command-L to open a new location and type in
the address to the Replacing Vision - Using a Screen Reader
homepage (the page you are reading now):
- The bar of text at the top of the screen is the Menu bar.
You can access it through the keyboard by pressing Control-F2
(or VoiceOver command Control-Option-M). "Open Location"
can be found under "File".
Use VoiceOver to navigate and read the three web pages listed
below. You will find that, visually, these pages appear to be
written in white-on-white text (i.e., you will only see white).
You will also find that these pages will not allow you to select the
text (i.e., no cheating!). Forms will need to be filled in using
keyboard commands (i.e., press TAB key to move among form elements,
press Spacebar to fill a checkbox or radio button).
Note: There is absolutely no
guarantee that these webpages are fully accessible. You
are expected to only refer to these pages when completing this
assignment. Do not explore the source pages.
The following are useful keyboard commands for browsing these
Note: All VoiceOver commands start with holding down both Control and
Option keys simultaneously.
You can Lock and Unlock the Control and Option keys with
- To read the entire window press Control-Option-W
- To move the focus of the VoiceOver cursor use
- To Read all text under the the focus of the VoiceOver cursor,
(e.g., if VoiceOver tells you that the cursor has focus for "HTML
content",then Control-Option-A will read the entire webpage).
- Summaries of the webpage can be read with Control-Option-I (all items in the window) or
Control-Option-U (all URL
links in a document).
- To Perform the default action for a selected item (e.g. follow a
link) press Control-Option-
- To move from link to link use the Tab key or use
Control-Option-U to get a
list of all links and scroll the list using the arrow keys.
If while doing this exercise you get seriously lost, the Replacing
Visions - Using a Screen Reader homepage
(the page you are reading now) can be reached from any of these three
pages using access key Control-4 on Mac (or ALT-4 on PC). The webpages
What to Hand-in:
Submit a written report that:
- Answers the following questions:
- According to Page 1:
- What mathematical puzzle is discussed on this page?
- Outside of the obvious applications to computer science, what
applications of this puzzle are discussed?
- In the three-peg problem discussed on Page 1, how many moves
would be needed to move 8 plates?
- According to Page 2:
- What two things can web developers do to make navigating
- How can you group a set of form controls in HTML?
- What is a "legend" and why would you use it?
- According to Page 3:
- What is USST?
- What competition is described?
- What might the abbreviation "ISAS" stand for and why is it on
- State three ways that your experience with VoiceOver was
different from Windows XP's Narrator.
- Describe your experience with this ADE (what worked, what did not
work, where you had some trouble, where you had lots of trouble,
- What were your expectations of this ADE?
- Did this ADE meet your expectations? Provide a rating between 1 and
7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means
absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- Did you feel that the video(s) for this ADE was appropriate? Why or
why not? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at
all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your
- Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
- Did you feel that the questions above got you to think about the
real and serious issues regarding this ADE? Provide a rating
between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and
7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- If you have any suggestions on how to improve this ADE, please
include it here.
What Else You Can Do (optional - not required):
If you would like to try using other screen readers, check out:
The above list of key commands should be all you need for this ADE
exercise. However, for more information on VoiceOver and Mac OS X: