a user showing how assistive technology works on twitter

[VIDEO] Understanding Assistive Technology: How Does a Blind Person Use Twitter?

For people who are blind or low vision, screen reading software enables them to browse the web and use applications. We asked Level Access business analyst, Meaghan Roper, to show us how she uses Twitter on her laptop and her iPhone.

Many screen reader users can listen at speeds similar to the speed sighted people skim. Meaghan was kind to her sighted audience and slowed down the speed of her screen readers so you can follow along easier.

Things you may notice about using a screen reader

Meaghan uses the “B” key to hop between buttons on the page. On a regular web page, she could use the “H” key to hop between headlines. The ability to browse a website in this way depends entirely on the code underpinning the content. If headings do not have the proper tags—for example, if they are made by increasing the font rather than tagging it as a headline—a person using a screen reader cannot read the page as quickly.

There are times when Meaghan has to skip through several buttons to get to where she wants to be. This is one of the reasons why Meaghan prefers to use Twitter on her iPhone. The interface on the iPhone is simplified so there is less content to skim through to get where she wants to be. On some websites, it can be difficult and time-consuming to skim through all of the menus and advertisements to get to the main content. (A skip to main content button is a best practice for websites. It benefits screen reader users and those who navigate by keyboard. They can skip directly to the most important content on the page.)

When Meaghan sent the tweet on her laptop, there was no audible confirmation. Since Meaghan is a seasoned Twitter user, she knows that when her screen reader’s focus lands back on the tweet button, that her tweet has gone out. But what if you were brand new to Twitter? Having a confirmation would eliminate any confusion or uncertainty. On the mobile app, when you send a tweet, there is an audible notification that confirms it has been sent.

Curious about screen readers?

The easiest place to try is with your smartphone or tablet. Under the Settings, find accessibility and then switch on VoiceOver (iOS) or TalkBack (Android). You can also use Siri or Google Assistant to turn your screen reader on and off.

For more information about using assistive technology, check out our two recent articles on understanding assistive technology for people who are blind and for people with low vision.

Many thanks to Meaghan Roper for starring in this video and sharing her experience with us.