A screen reader is a type of software that enables those who are blind or visually impaired to interact with mainstream applications, such as web browsers, on both desktop and mobile platforms.
Screen readers perform two primary functions. First, they provide access to the on-screen display via voice output, a refreshable Braille display, or through magnification. Second, they replace the mouse and make user interaction with an app or website more efficient through the use of a robust set of keyboard commands or touch gestures if used on a mobile device with a touch screen. Desktop screen readers read left to right, top to bottom.
Screen Reader Compatibility with Comcast Products
Comcast products are tested with the latest versions of JAWS and NVDA on Windows and VoiceOver on Mac OSX. For mobile apps, we recommend you use the latest versions of VoiceOver on iOS devices and TalkBack on Android devices. For the best results with all of our products, we recommend that you have the latest version of your preferred screen reader installed at all times.
- JAWS (Job Access With Speech) – A licensed screen reader for Windows, allowing blind and low-vision users to output to either text-to-speech or Braille displays. Includes a mode specifically designed for use with web browsers including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari and Mozilla Firefox. JAWS is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Server, in both 32 and 64-bit variants.
- NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) - A free, open source screen reader for 32 or 64-bit versions of Windows XP or later. NVDA is bundled with eSpeak, a multi-lingual text-to-speech synthesizer, and it will also output to Braille displays.
- VoiceOver - Screen reader included with Mac OSX (10.4 or later) and with Apple iOS (iPhone 3GS or later, all iPad versions, and 3rd generation or later iPod Touch).
- TalkBack - Screen reader for Android Devices with Android 4.0 or later.
Navigating Web Pages with Screen Readers
There are several approaches that you can take to navigate a webpage when using a screen reader. It is important to note that many of the issues that arise when using a screen reader are not caused by the technology itself, but rather by web content that was not designed to support screen readers.
- TAB & SHIFT-TAB: Allows you to move forward and backward through actionable elements including links, form input fields and other controls. Pressing TAB moves forward and SHIFT-TAB moves backward. This is a standard keyboard shortcut in all popular web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome).
- Links List: Displays all of the hyperlinks on the page list form. Keystrokes can also be used to quickly navigate these lists. For example, typing the p key filters for links that begin with “p.” This can be extremely helpful on repeat visits to a website, or when directed to find a specific link on a page.
- Page Header Navigation: Screen readers allow the display of all page headers in a list, enabling you to quickly skim sections of a page. You can quickly reach the desired section by highlighting the header in the list and pressing the Enter key.
- Landmarks: Enable screen readers to efficiently locate specific regions of a page. They behave similar to page headers and may be used in lieu of page headers. Comcast’s webmail interface makes extensive use of landmarks.
- Single Letter Commands: Offer a simplified method to quickly navigate a webpage. For example, pressing the letter "h" while reading a page with JAWS or NVDA will skip between page headers. Pressing "f" will jump between form elements (input fields, buttons, etc.). Pressing ";" in JAWS will skip between landmarks.