Latest W3C column looks at web browser and screen reader compatibility

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011 15:48pm

The latest W3C column from Media Access Australia’s Dr Scott Hollier examines 2011’s updates to web browsers and screen readers and what the best options are for screen reader users.

This year has seen major technology releases with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and Mozilla Firefox 4 and updates to screen readers NVDA and JAWS.

Most updates are linked to developments in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organisation responsible for making web standards such as HTML, the code that makes web pages possible. 

There has been a major revision to this standard, called ‘HTML 5’, this year, as well as improvements to what is referred to as 'Accessible Rich Internet Applications' (WAI-ARIA), which allow web developers to create pages that screen readers can easily read.

While these have the potential for easier screen reader use on the Internet, for them to be effective, web browsers and assistive technologies not only need to incorporate the standards, but they need to be compatible with each other.

According to a review of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA screen reader support conducted by Accessible Culture in March, and confirmed by internal Media Access Australia testing, there are some good indicators as to which combination of products work best, and which products are trying to include W3C standards.

Browser-screen reader compatibility

The research confirmed that when it comes to browsers and screen readers, there are three combinations that work really well: NVDA with Firefox, JAWS with Internet Explorer and on the Mac there’s VoiceOver with Safari.

While you can mix and match, such as using NVDA with Internet Explorer, these combinations work the best for now. Google Chrome though has very limited support for screen readers at the moment and isn’t worth trying to use with a screen reader at this time.


For a more technical explanation of web browser and screen reader compatibility, and web standards such as HTML 5 and WAI-ARIA, read this month’s W3C column.


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