Creating and Delivering Content for Screen Readers

About: The following article will highlight some recommended ways to create and deliver content suitable for use with screen readers. Screen readers are used to relay text on screen in a different format, to aid candidates who are blind or visually impaired. The text can be transferred to speech, sound icons or through a Braille output device.   

Writing content compatible with a screen reader  


The following points provide advice on writing items suitable for use with a screen reader:
  • Include any initial instructional text at the beginning of the item. When a candidate is using a screen reader they will only be able to hear in a chronological flow of text and therefore any necessary instructions presented after a question may be overlooked. 
  • Use semi-colons (;), commas (,) or full stops (.) after bullet points to separate each point, which may otherwise be read as continuous text.
  • Do not write words purely in CAPITAL LETTERS as they may be read out as single letters by some screen reading programmes.
  • Separate bullet points with an extra space.
  • Only use signs and symbols if absolutely necessary, e.g. asterisks or dashes (both short and long), as these will be spoken and may be distracting to the candidate.
  • Long dashes should be avoided: use colons to make the voice pause.
  • Use straight double quotation marks, (for example "She said… ") Avoid single curly or slanting quotation marks.
  • Avoid roman numerals and the abbreviation “No.” for number.
  • Consider whether abbreviations and acronyms need full stops, try to avoid abbreviations unless necessary and ensure any made are understandable to the candidate and do not have more than one meaning in the context.
  • Use hyphens in compound words to aid text reading pronunciation.
  • Avoid homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings or spellings, e.g. patience and patients).

Remember: A clear and logical layout is very important when using screen reader software. JAWS reads content from the top of the page downwards, so content should be spaced out clearly and on separate rows where appropriate.


Delivering a test with a screen reader  


The following points provide advice when delivering tests which require the use of a screen reader:  
  • Ensure the screen reader software is installed onto the relevant computers and all necessary equipment is available beforehand, such as headphones.  
  •  When candidates use a screen reader for the first time it can feel unnatural or uncomfortable. Consider allowing any unpractised candidates or candidates who are using a new version of the software for the first time, to use the screen reader software in practice scenarios before use in summative assessments. 
  • Consider turning 'num lock' off the candidate's keyboards, as the arrows in the number pad are often used to navigate around the screen. 
Note: Screen readers are not compatible with SecureClient delivery.

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