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As a sighted person who does not know any blind people, how can I test that a web page will work reasonably on either screen reader or Braille terminal?

There is various advice what to use and not use to have accessible web site. But what I'd prefer is loading it into something restricted similarly to Braille terminal or screen reader and try it out.

The real thing is not too suitable because I can't read Braille and while I do hear, so I could try using real aural interface, I suspect some things will appear difficult for me that will be fine for actual blind person because they are used to the aural interface and I am not.

So are there any methods for emulating the capabilities of Braille terminal and/or screen reader?

I was thinking something like elinks on a 80x2 terminal? Is there some information about what might be used with Braille terminals?

  • There are many tools out there to help testing for accessibility. Try things like the Wave Toolbar which gives you loads of options (render the page as just text, highlight the various H1, H2s, turn off styles etc). You can also get free open-source screen readers such as NVDA which I highly recommend. There are also some screenreader transcribers that print to text what screenreaders read out (NVDA also does this) but you still need to know how to use the SR in the first place. But NVDA has great tutorials. – JonW May 29 '14 at 15:42
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    And then your next step is to unplug your mouse and navigate the site with just your keyboard. That is how people who are blind use the web anyway, so it's a valuable free technique to use. If you struggle with a keyboard (such as confusing tab orders, forms you can't tab into, multimedia options that hog the cursor so you can't tab back to the main page...) and can see what you're doing then imagine how hard it is for people who are blind. – JonW May 29 '14 at 15:44
  • @JonW: That would be worth upvote if you posted it as answer. – Jan Hudec May 29 '14 at 16:06
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When I worked for the US Postal Service, we focused on something called "section 508 compliance." We would test our software using a screen reader called JAWS ( http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp ). My understanding is that it is the most commonly used screen reader software for the blind, and that it is more popular than Braille (in the domain of web usage).

Here is a checklist that I used when developing to ensure compliance: http://www.hhs.gov/web/508/accessiblefiles/checklisthtml.html

More about Section 508 can be found here: http://www.section508.gov/technology-tools

If you really want to see how a blind user will use your software, the only way I can think of is to find someone who is blind and let them check it out. You may want to see if there is a school for the blind in your area to find volunteers. They might be receptive to the idea of people building software accommodating them.

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