Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’

Why does Mac VoiceOver keep saying the word “simul”?

Saturday, January 12th, 2019 | Tech

I’m currently working with a client to improve the accessibility of their website for visually impaired users. This has involved a lot of time working with screen readers. As part of that, I have found a rather weird bug with Mac’s VoiceOver. It keeps saying the word “simul”.

Which isn’t a word. Maybe it’s saying simmul or simmel, or something else. None of these are words.

It happens when we give it a range to read. Something like “4-6”. The screen reader says the first number, then goes suspiciously quiet and says simul, and then starts building back up to regular volume as it gets to the final number.

I even asked about it on Stack Overflow, and everyone else was confused, too.

I wondered whether it might be a language issue. So, I tried adding a custom pronunciation, and double-checked the HTML tag had a lang attribute set to en-gb. Alas, no luck.

This is only a problem on Mac: TalkBack on Android works fine, for example.

In the end, I was able to get it to read correctly by changing the voice. By default, macOS comes with Daniel Compact set as the voice. However, when I switched to Daniel, Kate, or Kate Compact, it read it out correctly.

In a way, this is frustrating, because there is no much we can do to fix it. It’s a bug with the voice in Mac. But it is at least somewhat comforting to know that I wasn’t making some obviously silly mistake.

How to stop VoiceOver saying the word “group”

Thursday, January 10th, 2019 | Programming

You’re trying to make your website accessible. Lovely stuff. But because screen reader technology is so bad, you need to add a bunch of inline span tags with the aria-label attribute on them so that you can add additional context, or, more usually, use some kind of hack to get around a screen reader bug.

This works well. However, it also splits the whole thing into separate groups. Consider the following example:

An annual subscription costs £20.00 per year.

Looks good. Except for VoiceOver on Mac and iOS, and probably other screen readers, too, will read out something like this:

Pound two zero zero zero

Oh no! It totally ignored the decimal point and now your user, if they are able to track the weird way it read out individual numbers, thinks that your product costs two thousand pounds. So, our old friend the Aria label is here to help.

An annual subscription costs <span aria-label=”twenty pounds”>£20.00</span> per year.

Hurray! It now sounds like normal language. But it’s still confusing. Now the screenreader reads them out as three separate blocks. “An annual subscription.” “Twenty pounds, group.” “Per year.” The user has to navigate through all three of them even though it is one sentence.

The fix

To fix it, we can use the role attribute. Sometimes.

If we set it to role="text" it will work in WebKit. For example:

<span role=”text”>An annual subscription costs <span aria-label=”twenty pounds”>£20.00</span> per year.</span>

Now it will read out the entire sentence as one string, but still using the Aria label.

Is role=”text” a thing?

No. That’s the drawback. it was proposed to be included in the Aria spec, but nobody could agree on whether it should be a thing or not. So, it was left out. Therefore, it is not implemented everywhere.

It is implemented in WebKit, so will fix the problem on Chrome, iOS, etc. But it won’t fix it in some other browsers. And, you might get pulled up by linting tools and validators because it is not part of any formal specification.

Where can I put it?

Anywhere you like given that it is a made up attribute.

But there are some things to be cautious of. It should only go on a block of text where you do not mind losing any of the context inside of it. If you have an element inside the paragraph, for example, that should be treated as a separate group, then leave it off.

It shouldn’t on headings because you don’t want to lose the context. Instead, put a span tag inside the heading with it on.

Also, you need to ensure you are using the aria-label attribute for anything inside. Normally, you can use an abbr tag with a title attribute and the screen reader will read out the title. However, if you wrap it in a role="text", this will only work if you use an aria-label instead/as well as the title attribute.

Four tools to make your website more accessible

Friday, August 25th, 2017 | Tech

Making your website accessible people who are visually impaired isn’t sexy or glamorous. But it is pretty easy. And given how prevalent visual impairment is, especially among the elderly (which, all e-commerce operators should note are the people with all the money), it is time well spent.

Here are four tools that will help you tune up your website.

W3 HTML validator

Assistive technology is already out there helping people. All you have to do is provide it with the correct input. And that starts with following HTML standards. And, where possible, using semantic HTML5 tags.

These work in everything except Internet Explorer 8 and the number of users who make use IE8 is now lower than the percentage of people with visual impairment. Plus, it’s very easy to add backward compatibility in.

Once you have done this, run it through W3’s HTML validator tool. This will check that your code makes sense and so everyone’s browsers (visually impaired or not) will be able to read it correctly.

Click here to go to the W3 Validator.

WAVE

WAVE stands for the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. It’s an online tool that has been running since 2001 and is considered one of the best ways to test how accessible your website is.

All you have to do is enter the URL of your website and WAVE will give you a full report, including helpful suggestions and things to fix. You get a copy of your page highlighted with the information to make it easy to find.

Like everything on this list, it’s free.

Click here to access the tool.

a11y.css

This is a bookmarklet that scans your page for problems. If you are not familiar with a bookmarklet, it is a magic bookmark: you save it to your favourites and then when you click it, it will run the report on the current web page you are browsing.

It highlights areas of the page with possible errors that you can then review. It’s quick and simple to use but doesn’t offer as much depth as WAVE.

Click here to check it out.

MDN documentation

The Mozilla Developer Network is the de facto authority on how HTML works. This includes documentation on the ARIA standard, which is a standard designed to make web applications more accessible.

Even Mozilla’s documentation is rather hard to penetrate, but if you bare with it, you can get your head around it.

Click here to read the ARIA documentation.

Summary

Making your website accessible is pretty easy: it’s all about following standards and best practice, and maybe adding a few HTML attributes if you have code doing fancy things.

Doing so makes your website much easier to access for the visually impaired, which will mean a better world for them and more traffic for you.