Screen Reader - Basic Website Testing

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Testing with Screen Readers [Web pages]

When it comes to web accessibility, people with sight loss who use screen readers to complete online tasks is often the thing that people think of. This is where gaps appear. How do screen readers really work? Are they all the same? And why should you conduct screen reader testing on your website?

What are screen readers?

Screen readers are specialist text-to-speech software that can be used by people with varying degrees of sight loss to access website content, generally these applications are used on a computer or mobile device. They are designed to run on up-to-date operating systems, like Windows, iOS and Android. The content screen readers work with include but are not limited to emails, word processing, spread sheets, web pages and many other applications.

Screen readers work by announcing site content such as headings, links, non-link text, images and more; they do this via an installed speech synthesizer.

Along with speech output, some screen reader applications allow the user to enhance the visual aspect of content altering the appearance of a web page. An example of this is the user increasing the size of the whole screen, changing mouse pointers, or adapting the screen colour. These changes are helpful for users who have limited vision or even users with colour blindness.

Many severely sight impaired users cannot accurately navigate web content with a mouse, so they will typically control their screen reader using only keyboard commands. This enables them to use a computer to perform the same tasks as a sighted user, but not all screen readers are the same. As with most technologies, there are several options to choose from. These can be either paid-for or free. Some come built-in to the user’s device, such as the software that runs on the Android or iOS platforms.

Free: NVDA, Windows Narrator, VoiceOver (macOS/iOS).

Paid-for: JAWS [Job Access With Speech], Dolphin SuperNova.

Screen reader Setup – at first logon

Please Note: It is advisable to enable Focus visual cues to allow sighted users to see where the software is whilst on a webpage. This is recommended as screen readers use an invisible cursor to move around any webpage. To enable this feature if it is not already on, please see below.


Focus mode is already turned on in JAWS, on a webpage you will see the red box around the focal point as demonstrated below.

Image of the Focus box that JAWS puts around an element.


Focus mode is already turned on in Narrator. When the application starts you should see a coloured box like in the below image.

image of the Focus box around an element with Narrator


The Focus highlighting option within NVDA is not enabled to start with and needs to be turned on. To do this please do the following.

Press windows key plus B to go to the system tray

Locate NVDA with left or right arrow and press the application key when on it [or right mouse click]

Go to preferences, then Settings and press enter.

Arrow down to Vision, then press tab until you get to Enable Highlighting, and press spacebar to select the option.

Tab to the OK button and press enter.

Image of the focus box with NVDA

Testing using specific keystrokes

With all screen readers you can move through links in various ways. Some SR allow you to move directly on the live page from one to the other, but also allow the user to list links to move and digest the information.

JAWS, JAWS Key + F7 – This is a specific to only show Links.

Narrator, Insert or Caps Lock + F7 Opens a dialogue selection.

NVDA, NVDA Key + F7 Opens a dialogue selection.

Headings information

JAWS, JAWS Key + F6 – This is a specific to only show Headings.

Narrator, Insert or Caps Lock + F6 Opens a dialogue selection. Select headings.

NVDA, NVDA Key + F7 Opens a dialogue selection. Select headings.

Form Fields

This option includes all form elements with JAWS, or you can choose which element you want to look at with Narrator and NVDA.

JAWS, JAWS Key + F5 – This is a specific to only show Form elements.

Narrator, Insert or Caps Lock + F7 Opens a dialogue selection. Select From fields.

NVDA, NVDA Key + F7 Opens a dialogue selection. Select Form fields.


JAWS, JAWS key + control + G to list or just press G or shift G.

Narrator, Not available.

NVDA, Press the letter G or shift G to go backwards.

Region [Landmark]

JAWS: Move to main region press INSERT, Q. No list option for main region. List regions press INSERT, control and R.

Narrator: Caps Lock + F7 – select Landmarks

NVDA: Caps Lock + F7 – Select Landmarks

Regions explained

Most web pages have an overall structure that is consistent with other web pages. For example, they tend to have a banner with branding and other high-level content, one or more lists of links for navigation within the website, a section where the main content resides, and a footer. Many pages also have a sidebar with complementary content, and a section of the page dedicated to search. All users benefit from a consistent, predictable page structure as it helps them to easily find content that typically can be found within these page regions.

For sighted users, page regions can easily be located by visual cues. They are typically positioned in predictable places, and often have a background colour or border that differentiates them from surrounding content.
Screen reader users need to understand the page structure just like everyone else. If page regions are coded properly, screen reader users can understand the overall structure of the page and can easily jump directly to a specific page region. There are two methods for coding web pages in a way that explicitly identifies these common page regions. Both are described on the Techniques page, linked in the following section.

Example of webpage construction with explanations of different areas
All the Screen Reading products use the same or similar quick keystrokes when using the internet. If you do not want to list all the elements as above, you can move directly to an area by pressing the correct lettered key. Please see a list of quick keystrokes as below.

JAWS Internet Keystrokes

Navigation Quick Keys

Tip: If you press and hold SHIFT before pressing one of the following Navigation Quick Keys, you can move to the previous instance of that element, for example, press A to move to the next radio button, press SHIFT+A to move to the previous radio button.

In addition, if you press and hold CTRL+INSERT while pressing keystrokes with an asterisk (*) next to them, JAWS displays a list of those elements on the page.

Description and Keystroke

Next Radio Button A

Next Button B

Next Combo Box, List Box, or Tree View C

Next Different Element D

Next Edit Box E

Next Form Control F

Next Graphic G

Next Heading H

Next Item in a List I

Jump to Line J

Next PlaceMarker K

Next List L

Next Frame M

Skip Past Links N

Next Article O

Next Paragraph P

Move to Main Region Q

Next Region R

Next Same Element S

Next Table T

Next Unvisited Link U

Next Visited Link V

Next Check Box X

Next Division Z

Next Tab Control APOSTROPHE

Next Separator DASH

Next Clickable Element SLASH

Next Mouse Over Element SEMICOLON*


Previous Element SHIFT+COMMA

NVDA – Internet Single Letter Navigation Full keystroke list

The following keys by themselves jump to the next available element, while adding the shift key causes them to jump to the previous element:

h: heading

l: list

i: list item

t: table

k: link

n: nonlinked text

f: form field

u: unvisited link

v: visited link

e: edit field

b: button

x: checkbox

c: combo box

r: radio button

q: block quote

s: separator

m: frame

g: graphic

d: landmark

o: embedded object (audio and video player, application, dialog, etc.)

1 to 6: headings at levels 1 to 6 respectively

a: annotation (comment, editor revision, etc.)

w: spelling error

Narrator Internet Keystrokes

E Next edit box

R Next Radio Button

T Next Table

I Next List Item

D Next region or Landmark

F Next Form field

H Next Heading

K Next link

X Next checkbox

C Next combo box

B Next button

Full keystroke list.

NVDA: Full NVDA Keystroke list

JAWS: Full JAWS Keystroke list

Narrator: Full Narrator Keystroke list in PDF

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Site preferences

Please feel free to display our site, your way by finding the preferences that work best for you. We do not track any data or preferences at all, should you select any options in the groups below, we store a small non-identifiable token to your browser's Local Storage, this is required for your preferencesto persist across pages accordion be present on repeat visits. You can remove those tokens if you wish, by simply selecting Unset, from each preference group.


Code block theme

Code theme help

Code block themes can be changed independent of the site theme.

  • Default: (Unset) Code blocks will have the same theme as the site theme.
  • Light 1: will be default for users viewing the light theme, this maintains the minimum 7:1 (WCAG Level AAA) contrast ratio we have used throughout the site, it can be quite difficult to identify the differences in colour between various syntax types, due to the similarities in colour at that contrast ratio
  • Light 2: drops the contrast for syntax highlighting down to WCAG Level AA standards (greater than 4.5:1)
  • Dark: Syntax highlighting has a minimum contrast of 7:1 and due to the dark background differences in colour may appear much more perceivable


Motion & animation

Motion & animation help

  • Default (Unset): Obeys device settings, if present. If no preference is set, there are subtle animations on this site which will be shown. If you have opted for reduce motion, smooth scrolling as well as expanding and collapsing animations will no longer be present, fading transtitions and micro animations will still be still present.
  • None: All animations and transitions are completely removed, including fade transitions.


Underline all links

Underline all links help

  • Default (Unset): Most links are underlined, with a few exceptions such as: the top level links in the main navigation (on large screens), cards, tags and icon links.
  • Yes: Will add underlines to the exceptions outlined above, resulting in every link being underlined

Text and paragraphs

Font size (main content)

Font size help

This setting does not apply to the site's header or footer regions

  • Default (Unset): Font sizes are set to site defaults
  • Selecting Large or Largest will increase the font size of the main content, the size of the increase depends on various factors such as your display size and/or zoom level. The easiest way to determine which option suits you best would be to view this text after clicking either size's button
Letter spacing

Letter spacing help

  • Default (Unset): Default letter spacing applies
  • Increased: Multiplies the font size by 0.12 and adds the sum as spacing between each character
Line height

Line height help

  • Default (Unset): all text has a minimum line height of 1.5 times the size of the text
  • Increased: all text has a line height of twice the size of the text
Line width

Line width help

  • Default (Unset): all text has a maximum line width of 80 REM units (this averages around 110 characters per line)
  • Decreased: all text has a maximum line width of 55 CH units (this averages around 80 characters per line)
Paragraph spacing

Paragraph spacing help

  • Default (Unset): The space between paragraphs is equivalent to 1.5 times the height of the paragraph's text
  • Increased: The space between paragraphs is equivalent to 2.25 times the height of the paragraph's text
Word spacing preference

Word spacing help

  • Default (Unset): No modifications to word spacing are present
  • Increased: Spaces between words are equivalent to 0.16 times the font size