Accessible Web Content & Intellectual Disabilities

According to Cornell University, in 2011 there was an estimated 14,144,300 (4.9%) people in the United States with a cognitive disability.  Broadly speaking, intellectual disabilities pertain to difficulties with memory; problem-solving:  attention, reading, linguistic, and verbal comprehension; math comprehension; and visual comprehension. Intellectual disabilities range from mild, moderate or severe and many people have one or more intellectual disability. Users with intellectual disabilities are often forgotten or are an afterthought when it comes to Web design.

Testing websites for accessibility has typically included automated testing, manual testing with Favelets and toolbars, and testing with screen readers, such as JAWS and NVDA. These testing methodologies are primarily concerned with those who have visual disabilities.   The purpose of our research was to determine if accessibility testers should also be including text-to-speech software tools as part of their regular testing practices to ensure that those with intellectual disabilities will have full access to a website or a Web application.  

This session will summarize the research that we conducted the following text-to-speech software:

  • Natural Reader is the leading free text-to-speech software program that allows users to read web content through a floating toolbar or using browser toolbars to read aloud content and have text highlighted as it being read.  It is available on both the PC and MAC platform.  
  • Kurzweil 3000 is a text to speech learning tool that has a powerful suite of tools that gets integrates within Firefox.  Their powerful patented dual highlighting of screen text significantly helps with reading performance.
  • Read&Write Gold is a flexible literacy software solution that helps with reading writing, studying and research.  The customizable toolbar allows users to easily read and highlight web content, OCR content on images, and integrates with all mainstream applications.

By ensuring that websites and applications can be used with these tools, users with intellectual disabilities will have a better experience by improving reading, comprehension, spelling and concentration by listening to text as it is highlighted while being read. 

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