To almost every person who uses the Internet, the images and text on the screen are an effortless way to browse for information. For millions of other people who do not take their sense of sight for granted, the Internet is the place unlike anything a normal person will ever experience. Everything to begin with, is words that are read out by a robotic voice. The layout of a webpage means nothing. Images are sometimes translatable into a description; at other times, they are merely ignored. Words and sentences are things to listen to and not to be read. Finding your way around the page can be cumbersome. Still, somehow, blind people use the Internet all the time; they even use the same equipment that people with normal eyesight do. How does all this happen.
Microsoft Narrator, the text-to-speech program included in all Windows operating systems, is about the most common way that blind people use; it helps them read anything out of a browser. On the Mac, VoiceOver does just about the same thing. The problem with text-to-speech screen reading software is that there is no way to know what is important. The narrator starts from the very top of the screen and works its way to the very bottom, working its way through every useless item of information there might be. When you hover your mouse pointer over a picture, you usually get a little tooltip about what the picture is about. Sometimes, there’s a meta-tag that has a description. That’s all blind people using the Internet get to know about what the picture is about. Sometimes, to help the listener tell the difference between a picture and a written sentence, the screen reader uses a different voice for pictures.
Websites these days are trying to comply with the new W3C standard for accessibility. Websites following the standard try to design their pages so that tags are properly used, headers are used as much as possible to help describe paragraphs, and so on. But even a website that does all of this can be difficult to understand. Take Facebook, for instance; the layout of the Facebook page isn’t really conventional, the way a book is laid out. And even when blind people take the trouble to master how to get about Facebooke, when the company changes the design of the website, everything has to be relearned. Blind people tend to use the mobile version of Facebook that is kind of stripped-down. It helps them take in information on Facebook in the most efficient manner possible. The Americans With Disabilities Act is trying to ram through legislation that will make the entire Internet a lot more easier for screen reading software.