Users with screen reader devices will scan and skim your web page in a manner somewhat similar to the way a visual user will. Screen readers can be programmed to read only headings, subheadings and links. When something of interest pops out from this “skimming” process, the user can stop and have all the information in a particular section of the page read completely.
The first step is to write meaningful headings and subheadings that contain important words and phrases. The first paragraph under each heading should clarify what the section of the page content is about.
Next, make sure that link text is informative. Link text should give users some idea what they will find when they click. Link text like “here” or “click here” is not informative. The link text in this example is descriptive and informative: Google is trying a similar thing with HTML5 Rocks. It’s obvious that a click will take the user to HTML5 Rocks.
Finally, write alt text that gives an alternative description of the content or function of an image. For example, in book reviews such as the recent one of Mobile Design and Development, the alt text for the image of the book cover is “get Mobile Design and Development at Amazon.” While it does not say that the image is a book cover, it does tell the user what happens if the image is clicked–functional alt text.
These tips are best practice for all users. Optimizing your writing for users who are surfing your page with their ears will improve your page for users who are scanning the page visually, too. Like many practices that have been adopted as accessibility requirements, good writing benefits all users, not just those with visual impairments.
2 thoughts on “Optimize your writing for users with impaired vision”
This lesson was brought home to me when I watched a woman with severe glaucoma surfing the net with here nose about a cm from the screen, and that with the magnifier on.
On a slightly different topic, have you tried this readability plugin? It works fairly well for making long articles easier to read online: http://www.gregfalken.com/2010/06/readability-will-change-the-way-you-read-online/
Masha, Thanks for your comments. I have tried both Readability and Readable. I like Readable better cross-platform, but they are both excellent.