Reading aloud

Reading aloud

I’m trying to make my blog and other websites as accessible as possible. By ‘accessible’, I mean ‘can be used by anyone regardless of any impairments that may affect them’. This has led me to all sorts of questions that I need your help to answer.

Update: I’ve had a really helpful response from W3C based on their research. Read on below.

I’ve started with the obvious stuff, such as descriptive alt attributes on images (still work in progress), properly contrasting text, sensible tab order – the basics.

Currently I’m experimenting with having a button at the top of each blog post that reads out the article for you. You can see an example at the top of this article. (Update: experiment over, buttons are gone! See below for an explanation.)

My question is whether this actually serves anybody’s needs or not.

From an accessibility point of view, I keep coming back to thinking that anyone needing the article read out loud due to sight impairment probably already has a working screenreader, so the button adds nothing. Another guess is that maybe it’s useful to people with dyslexia.

And then there’s the possibility that people might find it useful to have the article read to them if they’re out and about and don’t want to be staring at their phone.

But I just don’t know – I’m not the target user. So if anyone’s got an informed view on this (ideally if you have accessibility needs yourself), I’d really welcome any feedback you can share in the comments below, or perhaps you could forward this request for help to people you may know with accessibility needs. Thanks in advance.

Update: I had this tremendously helpful response:

Happy to help. I am an invited expert of the w3c accessibility guidelines working group and chair of the w3c inclusive design for the immersive web community group (among other titles).

The answer is no. This is not a need. When surveyed, screen reader users responded to the question “would you rather have better websites or better assistive technology?” with over 80% saying “websites”. Importantly, this does not mean adding features of assistive technology onto a website.

Charles Hall
Invited Expert, W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group

So that seems reasonably definitive – the button to read out the article is redundant for 80% of screen reader users, validating my guess above with some survey data.

I’ll take the buttons back down again as they’re not adding anything significant. A good result!

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The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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