If you have not already read the WebAIM screen reader survey I would really encourage you to head over there and give it a read through. Some really interesting revelations that comes out from this survey. I am going to discuss a couple of the topics that I found particularly interesting reading.
No surprise here but, it is still one of the most overlooked aspects found on one site after the other. Having six levels of headings and complete control over their look, size etc. there really is no reason why developers should ignore using headings to give structure to their web documents and ensure a natural flow that makes navigating a page intuitive for screen reader users.
Up to 90.7% of screen reader users uses heading to navigate when available.
I found it surprising that such a large percentage of screen reader users rely so heavily on search. But the next important aspect to know is how screen reader users go about finding your search functionality.
36% stated - Jump to the first form element in a page
For the most part I reckon that this would not be to much of a problem however, it is worth taking note of as with some layouts designed using absolute positioning you may be placing your search form after your contact form.
Now here is a surprise! I was always aware of the fact that adding site maps to a site was a good way to better search engine indexing and as a result ranking but, I was also under the impression that screen reader user found these particularly useful and made use of them frequently however, from the survey results very few actually use them with as many as 24% responding that they never use site maps.
Should you retire your site maps then? I don’t think so but I will be placing more of my time and focus on XML site maps and ensure that my HTML site map at least gets you to the important sections of the site.
Surprisingly it seems that screen reader users, especially experienced users, do not find pop-up windows particularly difficult. Still, I prefer to stay away from these and when I cannot avoid it, I find it best to provide a clear indication as to the result of clicking on the link. Normally this would be adding ‘Opens In New Window’ inside the title attribute of the link.
For the most part this was an even split and it was found that in some cases, users using screen readers to evaluate the accessibility of their web 2.0 apps found it less accessible then screen reader users that has a disability. However, their is definitely a lot of room for improvement here and, as I will be doing, I would encourage everyone to read up about ARIA and start implementing it.
This is one that is probably going to be very controversial and a lot of words will be thrown left and right but, from the research gained from the survey 71.5% of screen reader users reported that Flash is difficult while only 14.2% reported that it is easy. A significant number indeed. It must be said however that there are a lot of people doing some awesome work in improving the accessibility of Flash content. Check out DoodleDoo.com for and example of this.
I found the research results particularly interesting and there are more topics covered then I did here. I look forward to the rest of the results that WebAIM will be releasing and of course, to your comments.