Web Accessibility, Part 3: Creating Screen Reader-Friendly Web Pages
Since 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has held fast to its goal: "To lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding." One important aspect of fulfilling that objective is ensuring that information in cyberspace is accessible to everyone, regardless of disability.
With that in mind, a number of guidelines have emerged from the W3C to help you, the Web developer, create Web pages that are easily accessed by those with various disabilities.
In this article, the spotlight is on creating screen reader-friendly Web pages. You'll discover a few good Web page construction methods to get you on the right track. Screen readers enable people with no vision to "listen" to onscreen content via synthesized speech output through computer speakers. When it comes to Web pages, listening can be a real challenge.
Where's the Logic?
If you were building an action-packed Web site in Flash, you'd assemble your media and files together in a logical sequence to produce dazzling visual effects. The resulting visual effects wouldn't make sense if they were assembled in an illogical sequence, or if you left out a file or a step. You can think of the media assembly process in Flash as the underlying structure of the visual result.
On the other hand, we often construct the underlying structure of a Web page in an illogical manner to produce a visually pleasing Web page. Although it may look good, the output of that Web page from a screen reader doesn't make sense to the listener. A screen reader depends on the underlying structure of a Web page, rather then its visual result.