With a better understanding of user needs, digital access to all is possible. The following is a brief collection of assistive technology used by individuals with disabilities to navigate websites and electronic files. When designing a website or an electronic file, consider how your web page or document structure will be read by an AT User.

Introduction to Assistive Technology and How it is Used on a Website

See how  JAWS, a screen reader navigates a browser to the search screen and hear what the user is prompted to do with different keyboard keys.   

The following video prepared by the state of Texas offers an overview of assistive technology.  Assistive Technology

What could you learn about access in 100 days?   Learn about one web designer’s journey doing just that.

Narration Software

Screen reading software delivers the content of the monitor through synthetic speech. The software is a voice output screen reading program that reads content and the structure of a web page, document, email and more.   In a web page, it reads headers and sub headers; table of contents, hyperlinks; a picture’s alt text description, and the content of the page. Screen reader users use a keyboard or Braille output device to navigate, but they do not use a mouse. Many operating systems used to access the web such as desk tops, tablets and smart phones, offer built in narration software.

Here are a few examples of a narration program.

  • JAWS is the most commonly used screen-reading software and is used in the work force. There is a purchase for the software license.
  • VoiceOver for the Mac is built into the operating system of both mobile and desktop/laptop Apple devices. More from apple
  • Windows Narrator is built into the windows operating system and is found in the Ease of Access under the settings menu (or control panel).
  • Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) is free to use for the PC, though a donation is suggested since they fund their development entirely through donations

Learn how to use NDVA, a free screen reader. This is a session lead by Jim Fettgather for Missouris Assistive Technology’s Let’s Talk ICT.  

Magnification Software

Magnification programs help the user enlarge everything that is found on the computer screen. Magnification software can also read outloud similar to the narration software.  With new technology, a hybrid combination of a screen reader plus magnification software can allow the user to toggle back and forth between functions or use them at the same time.

Here are a few examples:

  • Fusion is a hybrid combination of a screen reader plus magnification software.
  • Zoomtext is a magnifier/reader software program.
  • Microsoft Magnifier is built into the windows operating system and is found in the Ease of Access under the settings menu.
  • Apple Accessibility page explains options such as Zoom, that are built into the operating system of both mobile and desktop/laptop Apple devices.
  • The American Foundation for the Blind has an excellent break down of some of the screen magnification systems.

Speech Recognition

Speech recognition software allows text to be created from voice input. The person speaks and the computer translates this speech into text. The person can speak what would be typed in a form field or email or state commands to edit through a process of speech recognition. Speech recognition navigates a webpage with voice commands or mouse input.   Dragon for PC or MAC

Other examples of mouse driven input devices:

Eye-Gaze Technology

A computer can be navigated with eye-gaze technology. This technology allows the user to look at different data elements on the screen. The technology locates where on the screen the person is looking and the associated data is processed as input to the computer. Eye gaze controlled devices replace the standard keyboard and mouse, allowing the user to navigate and control the computer or augmentative communication device using only the eyes. The navigation is similar to how a mouse operates, allowing point and click commands. 

  • PCEye Mini is a portable example of eye controlled input.

Head Mouse

This device is for people who cannot or have limited use of their hands. A head mouse uses an optical sensor to track a “target” placed on the user’s forehead, glasses, hat, etc. The sensor connects with the mouse. This movement is controlled by the movement of the user’s head. 

Mouth Movement

A user that has functional use of the mouth, cheek or tongue can use a joystick operated USB mouse for computer access. The mouth, cheek, chin or tongue uses a joystick to move the cursor around the screen. It can perform right-click, left-click and double-click actions with the sip and puff switches built-in to the device.

  • The Jouse3 is an example of mouth controlled input.

Switch Access

Switch access is another type of mouse input that has a software component along with a physical input switch. It replaces the traditional mouse and keyboard. The switch software accesses an onscreen keyboard.  The individual that uses a switch, uses any functional gesture the user has control over. The switch can be activated by their head, eye lid, skin, tongue, knuckle or foot. The switch interacts with scanning software that moves automatically from one element of the user interface to the next element. When the user wants to perform an action on the highlighted element, the switch is pressed and the action is performed.

  • Switches can be viewed in our ETC Device Loan library.

Other Keyboard Input Devices

Braille Display

A refreshable Braille display or Braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, usually by means of round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface. Blind computer users who cannot use a computer monitor can use it to read text output. Some devices have an attached Qwerty keyboard. Braille devices are also used in conjunction with a screen reading software such as JAWS or NVDA.  


Captioning provides subtitles or captions for individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing through text information on the screen that is otherwise only available through sound for someone that hears. Providing a text transcription of what is being said, explains who is speaking and what other sounds are occurring in the video. It can also benefit an individual with a cognitive or learning disability allowing them to stop and rewind to reread the content of the video.

Audio Descriptions

An audio description provides accessibility of the visual images for videos, and other art forms for people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired. Recording an announcement of visual images in a video allows a person who is blind or visually impaired the experience to known what is being shown. Learn more about this service at:

What You Need to Know About Color Related to ICT

Color is used by sites, on forms and more to convey a required action or direction. For an individual that is blind or color blind, a direction specified by color is not received. A best practice is to never use colors to indicate content importance or action required to proceed.

Color is also used for creativity in web design. Colors can be selected because it is trendy or a color helps communicate a company’s image such as bold or friendly. When the colors used do not offer contrast in the background and the font, a barrier to others occurs. For example a light gray font on a white background can look like a shadow to someone with low vision. Distinguishing words is difficult. Ensure a strong color contrast between foreground and background on every document, slide or web page to allow someone with low vision or partial color blindness to clearly read the content.   Understand more about color contrast

Techniques for text emphasis:

Techniques for text emphasis:

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