16 July 2018

Are web screen readers enough?

“…thanks but we don’t need accessible formats, we use a website screen reader on our site…”


Photo of person working on laptop with screen showing blurred out spreadsheet.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

This is unfortunately something we’re hearing more and more from our clients, but unfortunately, it’s a misunderstanding which may create further barriers. We explain why…

Although web screen readers such as Browsealoud and ReciteMe are highly impressive and welcome new communication tools, they are not a cure-all and do not function as regular screen readers.

So first off, what are they, if they’re not regular screen readers? The website describes Browsealoud as support software “which helps website visitors who require online reading support and those who simply prefer to listen to information instead of reading it”. It is promoted as particularly useful for people with print disabilities (e.g. dyslexia) or with English as a second language, which is great news.

However Texthelp – the company who produce Browsealoud – state that the software is only useful for “those with mild visual impairments”, as users need some vision to navigate around the screen and use the toolbar.

This is what concerns us when our clients say they don’t need accessible formats because they already have web screen readers. When people mistakenly rely on this type of software for people with more severe visual impairments, it creates barriers to communication and renders online content inaccessible.

Furthermore, when making reasonable adjustments for service users and clients, it’s essential to offer information in people’s preferred format. This could be Braille, Audio, Large Print, E-text, or Easy Read. So although we welcome website reading support software, it cannot replace accessible formats entirely. Relying on this alone mean your clients are missing out on your information.

Get In Touch

This is where A2i can help you! For a chat about your accessible information needs with our friendly team, get in touch. Or to request a quote, use our quote form.

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