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RE: Accessibility Observations


From: Mark Magennis
Date: Feb 26, 2002 9:28AM

How people use screen readers is an interesting question. In user tests I
have found surprisingly little typical behaviour, even amongst experienced
screen reader users. Although individuals seem to have their own preferred
behaviours which they tend to stick to, I haven't seen many generally agreed
upon approaches. For example, I've seen individuals use each of the
following strategies when they arrive at a page.

- Read through the entire contents of the page before doing anything.

- Skip quickly through the contents, only reading the start of each section,
until you find a section that seems appropriate, then read that and decide
what to do.

- Read or skip until you reach link that looks like it will get you closer
to what you want, then follow it.

- If there a lot of links on the page, list them all and follow the most
appropriate one without reading anything on the page.

Sometimes it depends on the nature of the page, as in the last example. I
haven't done enough testing to say much about that though. I have also
noticed a lot of variation in users' knowledge of their screen readers.

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who has done more than my very
limited testing. And if anyone wants to provide a large amount of funding,
I'd love to do some in depth research into this issue :-)

I'm not sure whether "skip navigation" is quite the right concept. I would
think it would be better to have links that go to named places rather than
links that simply avoid things but don't tell you where you'll end up. So
"go to main content" would seem better than "skip navigation". Or if there
is more than one main content, a table of contents would seem like a good


Dr. Mark Magennis Head of Usability

Frontend - Usability Engineering & Interface Design
40 Westland Row, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland

Visit our Usability Infocentre at:

<EMAIL REMOVED> tel: +353 1 241 1616
http://www.frontend.com fax: +353 1 241 1601

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Van Dijck [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
> Sent: 26 February 2002 13:27
> Subject: Re: Accessibility Observations

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