WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Word Accessibility with JAWS


From: Cliff Tyllick
Date: Sep 17, 2008 5:30PM

Karen pointed out that:

Text boxes are inherently inaccessible to screen readers since they sort of
float over the document as objects.

On the issue of text boxes themselves, perhaps requirements to be accessible will force writers and designers to do something they should have been doing all along--that is, identify strong callouts to the text boxes. Otherwise, the "floating" is not just an artifact of Word---it's intrinsic to sloppy writing.

I have found that if you embed a bookmark at the beginning of the text box, then you can link to that bookmark from the text. This link should be the strong callout that good writing calls for. Then, at the end of the text box, you can link back to the text. If there's already a bookmark in the text (the next heading, for example), you can use that as the target of the link. If not, you can add a bookmark to point to.

This gives the reader using assistive technology almost the same interface as the sighted reader---a signal that the text box is there, and the ability to choose to either read it or ignore it.

I haven't fully tested it, but it seems to work as designed when the Word document is read in JAWS. I don't think I've made a PDF of such a document, let alone tested one. That would be interesting to follow up on.

Cliff Tyllick
Web development coordinator
Agency Communications Division
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality