Many countries are introducing updated legislation that will provide new compliance guidelines for accessibility. These new disability laws are fundamentally fuelled by the fact that many of the everyday conveniences we use had not been invented when accessibility laws were originally created. With that in mind, it is more vital than ever for companies to ensure their websites and software applications are accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted. In this blog, we’re going to explore how organisations can use Dolphin ScreenReader and SuperNova to ensure their services are accessible and easy to use.
Introduction to Dolphin ScreenReader and SuperNova
Dolphin ScreenReader is a screen reader for Windows computers. It is a core component of SuperNova Magnifier and Screen Reader. Hotkeys are common to both products, so in this article when a reference is made to 'SuperNova' it includes both products.
This article is designed to help organisations who are new to assistive technology learn the basic controls of SuperNova for testing web content with speech. Testing with SuperNova Magnifier and ScreenReader will allow you to evaluate your site for both screen reader users and magnification users.
- Watch free online tutorials for more detailed information on using SuperNova. These include commands for controlling zoom levels, colour and other enhancements.
- View a full list of keyboard hot keys - These are commands for the English QWERTY keyboard
- For other language layouts, please refer to the in-product Help by selecting the Help Menu or pressing F1 in the SuperNova Control Panel.
When accessibility testing, it is important to ensure you are testing the accessibility of your website or application and not struggling to come to grips with the basics of using assistive technology.
To help, before planning any accessibility testing, we recommend that your organisation learns the basics of how to use relevant assistive technology products.
If you are new to screen readers, we recommend that you allocate some time (perhaps a few hours) becoming comfortable using SuperNova. Don't get discouraged if things still seem confusing after only a few minutes. Slow down the reading speed and take your time. Remember that many screen reader users do not use a mouse, so try using only the keyboard as you become more comfortable with SuperNova.
Familiarizing yourself with assistive technology can take time. The good news is that you can download a free trial of SuperNova for Windows. This allows you to run SuperNova for 30 days, unrestricted and free of charge. After this period, you can purchase an unlock code to continue using it.
The SuperNova range comes in three editions, which provide different levels of accessibility support. Dolphin ScreenReader does not include magnification but still includes focus enhancements. It also visually tracks the cursor or application focus position, as a page is scrolled down, which is helpful for sighted colleagues.
If you are looking to test the accessibility of your website without a mouse, always choose Dolphin ScreenReader or SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader. Other SuperNova editions: SuperNova Magnifier and SuperNova Magnifier & Speech do not include the virtual cursor required for web browsing with keyboard only.
Helpful guidelines for working in SuperNova
- Open SuperNova first, then the browser.
- Chrome is the most common browser among SuperNova users, followed by Firefox and Edge.
- All browser shortcut keys will work when using SuperNova.
- The page will automatically scroll while you read.
- SuperNova has an option to change the keyboard layout from the Desktop (default) to Laptop. The Desktop set requires a Numeric keypad NumPad . The Laptop set uses the Function keys. Many commands are easier to perform in this default layout.
- By default, CAPS LOCK is the SuperNova modifier key. This is a key used in many commands, we will call it the DOLPHIN key.
- If you are familiar with JAWS and prefer to use the insert key as a modifier instead, you can change this by completing the following steps:
1. Pressing CTRL + SPACE BAR to open the Control Panel
2. Pressing Alt + G to open the General Menu
3. Selecting Keyboard and Hot Keys > Hot Keys
4. Pressing Alt + M or Tab until you reach the Custom Modifier drop-down list
5. Selecting your preferred modifier key and press OK.
- Caps Lock can still be used while editing, with no impact.
Reading web pages and applications with assistive technology
Once you are familiar with your Dolphin assistive technology products, a good place to begin accessibility testing is to ensure whether text from your web page or application can be read easily by a blind or partially sighted customer.
There are many keyboard shortcuts that allow you to read web content. The following is a list of essential reading shortcuts that are available within SuperNova. With these shortcuts, you should be able to read through most content.
- NUM PAD PLUS : Read from Here (Equivalent to Jaws “Say All”)
- ↑ /↓ : Rewind/Fast Forward during Read from Here
- Ctrl + SHIFT + MINUS / EQUALS increase or decrease voice rate
- ESCAPE Stops Read from Here
- Ctrl : Mute
- NUM PAD 5 : Current line
- CTRL : + ←/→: Previous/next word
- ↑ : Previous line
- ↓ : Next line
- ← / → : Previous/Next character
- F5 / Shift + F5 - Page refresh / Hard page refresh. If you get lost, this is how you can start over.
You may want to practice reading through this page with SuperNova right now to try these commands out.
Navigating web pages and applications with assistive technology
Sighted users usually visually skim a webpage for headings, lists, tables, etc. You can navigate by these types of content in SuperNova, if the site is correctly structured and well organised.
To navigate forward and backward through links and form elements on the page, use Tab and Shift + Tab. Other shortcuts are listed below.
Navigating with Quick Nav shortcuts
The following Quick Keys will help you navigate common page elements.
- Tab : Links and form controls
- H : Headings
- 1-6 : Headings level 1-6
- SEMICOLON : Landmarks
- F : Forms
- T : Tables
- B : Buttons
- L : Lists
- I : Items in a list
- Shift + single-key shortcut: Navigates through elements in reverse order (works with most Quick Keys)
- DOLPHIN + TAB Launch Item finder. This presents a list of elements organised in tab sheets, which you can sort and navigate to. This is useful for checking a page summary.
Other Navigation Shortcuts
- DOLPHIN + 1 : List of Links
- DOLPHIN + 2 : List of Headings
- DOLPHIN + 3 : List of Frames or Objects
- DOLPHIN + 5 : List of Tables
- Ctrl + Home : Top of the page
- Ctrl + End : Bottom of the Page ( Shift + Tab when you are at the top of the page will go to the last link or form element on a page)
- Alt + D or F6 : Browser address bar
To practice reading and navigation commands, try refreshing this page and navigating to this section of the page. There are several ways you can do this - navigate to the Table of Contents and activate a link to this section and then begin reading or navigating by sentence, headings (H), lists (L), Find, Read Previous/Next line (↑/↓).
How assistive technology interacts with images
SuperNova's speech reads back any image's alternative text - alt text are descriptions that have been "tagged" or added to the image to provide a description for users with sight loss. If alternative text is not defined, a screen reader will typically ignore it, except in some cases where the image has a function.
Exploring Data Tables with assistive technology
To navigate to the next table in a page, press the T key. To navigate within a data table, hold down DOLPHIN and use ↑/↓/←/→ to move from cell to cell. If a table has proper row and column headers, pressing SHIFT + NUM PAD 0 will announce current cell information including headers. If headers are not correctly defined, this key will announce the cell position (i.e. “column 3, row 2”)
Completing forms using assistive technology
When a form control gets keyboard focus, first its label is announced by SuperNova, then it will announce the type of form control, like a drop down box or radio button. If a group of form controls - typically groups of checkboxes or radio buttons - are contained in a field set with a legend, SuperNova presents items in a field set as a group. It reads the legend when you first navigate to anything within the group.
Use the following browser keyboard controls to interact with form controls:
- Tab and Shift + Tab : Navigate through form controls.
- Space to select and deselect checkboxes.
- ↑ /↓ : Select from a group of radio buttons.
- ↑ /↓ or the first letter of an option: Select an option in a combo box
- Enter : Submit a form
View form examples and practice navigating forms >
Since screen readers use many of the keys on the keyboard for quick navigation, filling in a form or interacting with a widget presents a dilemma. For example, when pressing the "H" key, how does a screen reader know if you want to navigate to the next heading or enter the letter into a textbox?
SuperNova takes care of this by switching between two modes:
'Dolphin Cursor' is the default mode for reading and navigating the page - this is the mode where the H key takes you to the next heading. Whereas ''Forms Mode' passes almost all keystrokes on to the browser - this is the mode where the H key puts the letter H in a text box.
SuperNova will toggle between these modes automatically - assuming you are using the Tab key to navigate - based on the type of thing that has keyboard focus. SuperNova announces the change to Forms Mode with a spoken prompt. This occurs when you navigate to text boxes or other inputs or widgets that require keyboard interactions. When you exit the form, it will announce the change back to Dolphin Cursor.
Tip: Press DOLPHIN + ENTER to toggle between Forms Mode and Dolphin Cursor manually. Though this should not be necessary for widgets that are properly coded.
The end result of using asstive tech to evaluate your website
By leveraging the features of SuperNova you can simulate the experiences your customers and prospects with visual impairments will have when navigating your website. This provides an insight your competitors might not have into how your brand is perceived by a larger group of potential customers.
If you use SuperNova and Dolphin ScreenReader when you write and design websites and other brand material, you are taking an 'accessibility first' approach. This is easier and more cost-effective than retrofitting accessibility to your site!
You can also use SuperNova and Dolphin ScreenReader to check accessibility of other content. This might include electronic or written material such as company emails, newsletters, brochures etc.
Download a free trial of SuperNova today to get started on your inclusion and accessibility project.
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