Social media with a screen reader. What’s it like?

I had the opportunity to interview Waqas Chauhdry about how it is to use websites and social media using a screen reader. Waqas has been blind for many years, and his computer and mobile device read out the text for him.  Waqas Chauhdry Director, DEO Consultancy

Which websites and social media networks are you visiting when online?
I visit BBC news website daily. Social media networks will include Facebook and LinkedIn at least twice a month.

Which websites are your favourites? And what it is you like about them?
I’d place BBC news in the top slot because of its screen-reader friendliness plus one gets a variety of quality and well put together information in one place.

Of the following social networks: twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which do you find easiest to read and navigate? How come?
Facebook is reasonably accessible with a screen reader whereas LinkedIn is getting worse. I don’t use twitter although, many users tell me that I am not missing much there!

Have Facebook and LinkedIn improved their accessibility over the last couple of years when they have been upgrading them?
Unfortunately developers do not really understand the importance of web accessibility and usability.

More often than not, accessibility and usability is an after-thought rather than being at the heart of the design process. Therefore, it becomes a “retro-fitting job” when users start complaining about upgrades which make such networks inaccessible.

A classic case is LinkedIn, they introduced Captcha (visual verification code) as part of their log in process.

LinkedIn captcha

Although, there is an audio alternative available in theory but it is impossible to get it right therefore, rendering this useful business networking site effectively unusable for screen reader users.

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Is it a big difference to read a website on a computer compared with a mobile device?
Yes, it is in most cases. Interestingly, organisations who make their websites “mobile platform friendly” usually improve the accessibility and usability as well by removing unnecessary clutter and by following a more logical and userfriendly approach.

What is the most annoying mistakes that many website developer make when they are developing a new site?
Well where to begin! I suppose poor contrast and font, lack of appropriate caption and labelling of links, use of visual verification code (Captcha) and not using logical tabbing to name but a few.

If you can give some top tips to website developers how to build better and accessible websites what would that be?
I think the most important tip is to think about the diversity of your visitors at the design stage i.e. people of all ages, literacy skills and computer / IT knowledge etc. Then, under each category consider how will you ensure that someone with poor sight or limited mobility will access your website such as those who may not be able to use the mouse and completely rely on the keyboard.

Similarly, how do you present the content i.e. is it presented in a logical and easy to understand manner with suitable pictures, good colour contrast and font size.

Many thanks Waqas for sharing your thoughts with me. When I was working as a digital marketing manager we were always working on accessibility improvements. It’s very useful to see how people with different abilities are using your website and digital media, it will make you understand how you need to mange and design it to make it work for better for more users.

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Facebook screen shot

Waqas company DEO Consultancy  provides a web accessibility and usability audit service whereby they do a technical audit as well as conduct a panel usability test of the website with a panel of disabled users with a variety of impairments using different platforms and technologies. Evidence shows that by following their recommendations clients have significantly improved the web experience of all users as well as improved their SEO. Most clients see a 100% or more ROI in the first 12 to 18 months.