Written by Amaya Webster
Reading software, devices or apps we use to read eBooks, are commonplace nowadays. Accessible reading systems have ushered in a new era for digital content, also for people with disabilities.
But what does it mean for a reading system to be accessible? The simple definition is that accessible reading systems support reading with eyes, ears, and fingers. In reality, this definition is more complex. For content to be accessible, a person might need braille, a special font, high contrast display, or text read for them. These are just a few examples.
There isn’t a simple definition of accessibility because the needs of people aren’t simple. To address various requirements, assistive technologies have been developed to work in conjunction with reading systems.
There are screen readers that read digital text aloud, refreshable braille displays that allow people to read digital content in braille, fonts for people with dyslexia, and much more.
How do you know if the reading system you are using will meet your accessibility needs?
Furthermore, how do you find out if the reading system you want to use, will work with the assistive technology you own, or vice versa? The answer, you very well may not know.
Trying to figure out what tools will meet one’s needs is a daunting task, which is where the DAISY Reading Systems Testers group comes in. We have identified and continue to identify the types of assistive technology and reading systems that are most commonly used by people with different disabilities.
We then work with volunteers to test how well various combinations of reading systems and assistive technology handle the diverse range of ways that content can be made accessible. Can the contrast, font size and color combinations be adjusted? Can the text be read using a screen reader or a refreshable braille display? Is page navigable? How about word-level highlighting?
All of these things we check and then record how the reading systems and assistive technology combinations handle the various tasks. Then we publish the results to the EPUBTest website. If, however, a reading system doesn’t perform well, we attempt to work with the developer to address the accessibility issues, retest and publish the updated results.
Our goal isn’t to embarrass manufacturers; it’s to increase the accessibility capabilities of these systems and make it easy for people to determine what combination best fits their needs.
This is an ongoing endeavor with much to learn and discover. This year, we aim to accomplish 20 more tests, expanding our focus to include the tools used by people with dyslexia and/or low vision.
We are currently recruiting volunteers who have knowledge in these areas. With the help of new volunteers, we hope to determine which reading systems and assistive technology devices should be tested and what those tests should be.
If you, or someone you know, would be interested in helping in this capacity, or interested in doing the actual testing let us know. You can email the group’s Community Manager directly at amayaw[at]Benetech[dot]org.
The more people involved, the greater impact we can make!