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I couldn’t buy my sister the present she really wanted for her birthday because none of the fields were labelled on the website
Ashleigh is 24 and lives in Surbiton. She recently finished an arts degree and now works as an administrative assistant for a local children’s charity.
Ashleigh is partially sighted, having lost most of her sight in her teens due to a genetic condition. She uses a screen reader to help her read web content.
She has a support worker at her job for 3 mornings a week to help her with paper-based work. People there use Google Drive and Google Docs but she prefers to be sent Word documents as they work better with her screen reader.
Devices and technology
Ashleigh has been using JAWS for about 8 years - it’s a screen reader, which converts text into speech so blind and partially sighted people can read web content. Ashleigh uses it on a notebook at work and a Windows desktop computer at home. Before JAWS she used ZoomText (a screen magnifier), but it became too difficult as her sight got worse.
She has an iPhone 6 which she set up by herself. It’s got some good features like VoiceOver and Speak Screen, which help her find her way around her phone.
She’d like to get a MacBook in the future so she can have the same kind of features on a laptop, but she would need to save up for a long time.
Goals and wishes
Ashleigh wants to be able to use any website she wants.
She also wants to be more independent.
Content that can’t be read by JAWS
When something on a website doesn’t work with Ashleigh’s screen reader, she has to look for a phone number to call or ask someone to help her, which she finds annoying.
Her screen reader can’t read forms if they don’t have proper labels. Sometimes she’ll guess what she needs to enter, but she won’t do that for things like financial transactions where it’s too risky.
Sometimes when she’s shopping online, she can’t visualise the item she’s looking at because there’s no description that her screen reader can understand.
Content that’s hard to navigate quickly
Ashleigh uses a keyboard instead of a mouse or trackpad, and gets annoyed when she’s forced to tab through lots of things before she gets to the content she’s looking for.
She finds it hard to tell quickly what’s on a page if there aren’t good headings.
Making things work for Ashleigh
|What to do||Further reading|
|Follow best practice for accessible form design - for example, make sure fields are labelled and can be read by screen readers.||
Components for user interfaces, part of the GOV.UK Design System.
Tutorial on forms from W3C.
Using the fieldset and legend elements, post on the GDS Accessibility blog.
|Test to make sure any new information that appears on screen is announced by screen readers - this includes error messages, and progress or confirmation messages.||
Testing with assistive technologies, guidance in the service manual.
Alerts!, video tutorial by Google Chrome Developers.
Hiding and updating content, guidance on Web Fundamentals (Google).
|Make sure people can use your service with a keyboard. Try out some common user journeys.||Dump your mouse for an hour, on the GDS Accessibility blog.|
|Write headings that help users find what they’re looking for quickly. Write descriptive links and page titles.||Structuring your content, guidance on GOV.UK.|
|Use alt text for images that describes the image’s content or conveys the same information (unless it’s decorative).||
Writing alt text, guidance on GOV.UK.
Tutorial on images by W3C.
Five golden rules for compliant alt text, blog post on AbilityNet.
|Do user research with people who use screen readers.||
User research for government services: an introduction, guidance on GOV.UK.
Research with blind users on mobile devices, post on the GDS Accessibility blog.
You may find the following resources useful:
- Designing for users of screenreaders - poster designed by the Home Office (text version)
- How to create content that works well with screen readers, post on the GDS Accessibility blog
- Designing for screen reader compatibility, article by WebAIM
- Accessibility and me: Chris Moore, post on the GDS Accessibility blog
Statistics about sight loss
Nearly 2 million people in the UK are blind or partially sighted.
Only one-third of people registered blind or partially sighted are in paid work.
Over one-third of blind or partially sighted people also have depression, making it the most common secondary condition for those with sight loss.