You have great content, high-quality graphics, relevant backlinks, inspiring quotations, and everything that makes web content rich … but are you engaging everyone who comes to your site?
Web accessibility is a hot topic. It is becoming increasingly vital for anyone with a digital presence to be aware of — businesses, educational institutions, news hubs, blogs, etc. It’s not just a headline, it’s a real-world legal concern that should have us all sitting up and paying attention.
Behind the legality, accessibility is also a moral issue that touches at the core of human-to-human relations. If a woman who is blind visits your website and can’t navigate through because it lacks accessibility features, is it right to just shrug and ignore her in favor of other clients?
And, as an entrepreneur or internet influencer, it’s basic business sense to ensure a potential client isn’t blocked from working with you by your website’s level of accessibility.
Listening to Read
Text-to-speech or speech synthesizing technology has been around for a long time and it’s only gotten smarter as the Digital Age continues to shape our tech-dependent society. There are a lot of different forms it can take, but a basic function they all share is the conversion of written/typed text into synthesized speech.
This technology benefits a broader spectrum of the population than you may realize.
While individuals who are deaf may be the first demographic to spring to mind, consider also those who have difficulty reading. This could mean those who struggle with literacy skills or for whom English is a secondary language.
It could also be of use to someone who is trying to tackle some household chores, but wants to run through their RSS feed before the kids get home from school. Catching up on the headlines and getting the dishes done at the same time? Done!
There are many ways screen readers and other text-to-speech technologies (often referred to as “assistive technology”) can support users if your website is formatted to work with them.
As a website owner, you need to be sure your content is accessible.
NonVisual Desktop Access
One of the simplest ways you can be sure your website will work with screen readers is by downloading one yourself. While this may be a bit daunting, especially when you’re seeing price tags in the four-digit range, there are alternatives out there that won’t break your bank.
My personal favorite is NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA). Produced by NV Access, NVDA is available as a free download. Developed for users by users, their site offers the option of giving a donation, which I highly recommend as a great way to support the group’s continuing efforts to maintain the program.
You can grab the free software here: NVDA Download
For an introduction to NVDA (and to get a sense of just how important web accessibility is) be sure to check out the following video: “NVDA: The Free Software Empowering Blind People World Wide”
Learning to Use Your New Tool
NVDA is exceptionally easy to use once you have it installed on your computer. As with any new program, however, you’ll want to find a beginner’s tutorial to figure out just how to get the most out of it. Trial and error only gets you so far!
The following video will get you started: “Learn NVDA: Using the Internet, Part I”
“Accessible design is good design – it benefits people who don’t have disabilities as well as people who do. Accessibility is all about removing barriers and providing the benefits of technology to everyone.”
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