Replacing Vision - Using a Screen Reader


Introduction:

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 (denoted "Control-Option").

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 Control-Option-Shift-F11.

Note: This ADE requires the use of headphones or speakers.



What to Do:

  1. To begin, please view the QuickTime video "Introduction to the Screen Reader". (To view the captions, click on the red CC icon.)

  2. To get up and running on Mac OS X:

    1. 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 keys.

    2. 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 finished.

    3. 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 Control-Option-D).
      • 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 this application.

    4. 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 pages.  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 Control-Option-Semicolon.
    1. To read the entire window press Control-Option-W
    2. To move the focus of the VoiceOver cursor use Control-Option-Up Arrow, Control-Option-Down Arrow, Control-Option-Left Arrow, and Control-Option-Right Arrow.
    3. To Read all text under the the focus of the VoiceOver cursor, press Control-Option-A (e.g., if VoiceOver tells you that the cursor has focus for "HTML content",then Control-Option-A will read the entire webpage).
    4. 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).
    5. To Perform the default action for a selected item (e.g. follow a link)  press Control-Option- Spacebar.
    6. 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 are:

What to Hand-in:

Submit a written report that:

  1. Answers the following questions:

  2. State three ways that your experience with VoiceOver was different from Windows XP's Narrator.

  3. Describe your experience with this ADE (what worked, what did not work, where you had some trouble, where you had lots of trouble, etc.).

  4. Feedback
    1. What were your expectations of this ADE?
    2. 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.
    3. 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 choice.
    4. Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
    5. 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.
    6. 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: