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Assistive Technology: a video tour of accessibility

Last updated: July 18, 2014

Getting our own experiences of accessibility inspires us to think and validates what we do with accessibility in mind. I’ve started putting together this list of videos that demonstrate accessibility in order to help others gain insight into how assistive technology is used, particularly with regards to the Web, and its value to those who use it.

If you’re new to accessibility, these videos may give you some practical insight as to why accessibility is important. Even better, if you’re just starting out building websites, these videos will hopefully lead you to consider accessibility in your work, which tends to provide a solid foundation for using best practices.

Note: I intend to rearrange this page so that the videos are under more useful headings.

Related blog entry: Experiencing accessibility (and a video tour).

Yahoo! Video

There are a few interesting accessibility-related videos on Yahoo! Screen. I’ll hand-pick a couple of them:

An introduction to screen readers Victor Tsaran.

Victor Tsaran gives an overview of screen reader software, which reads out what’s on the screen to a user. Typically, people who use screen readers are blind or visually impaired, but it may be used by other people. For example, a dyslexic person may find it helpful to have text read out to them by their computer, as it may be easier for them to understand that way than having to read a large block of text.

Victor demonstrates how he uses a screen reader to navigate his computer’s desktop and browse the Web. It’s a good overall introduction to how screen readers are used, including a range of common approaches to navigating the Web.

At the very end of the video, Victor demonstrates the speed at which he will typically set his screen reader to speak to him. It’s interesting to note that he switches to a different synthesiser to improve responsiveness, but at the cost of lower quality speech. Update: Victor tells me that this is still an issue for him on Windows, but the Alex voice on Apple’s VoiceOver is more responsive.

It's also interesting to listen to the speed at which screen reader users run their speech output.

Introduction to screen magnifiers Karo Caran.

Karo Caran takes you through typical usage of ZoomText, which is software that can zoom the screen up to make it easier to see, but also reads out focussed elements of the page in much the same way as a screen reader.

Karo says something a few minutes into the video that’s good to bear in mind when designing any page for accessibility.

“[Web pages are] like a big puzzle that you have to put together for yourself.”

Karo Caran

When using screen magnification software, you only see a part of your screen or a Web page at any one time. It’s difficult to “see the wood from the trees” and get a handle on where we actually are — a bit like trying to read a book a couple of inches away from the page. The first time that any of us visit a Web page, we scan the page to familiarise ourselves with it. As a sighted person, I mostly do this without even thinking, but it can be a useful thing to bear in mind when trying to make a website accessible. Users of screen magnification and screen reader software will often spend some time familiarising theirself with a page the first time they visit it, especially so if it’s the home page of a site they have never been to before.

I also like Web accessibility analogies. Karo draws a nice analogy in this video between Verseille Gardens and Web pages… no really! Check out the video to see what I mean.

Doug Geoffray: "From the mouth of a screen reader"

This will be more interesting to those who want to know more about the gritty, technical details of how screen readers work. Doug Geoffray, founder of GW Micro, presents an interesting background in screen reader history and a great insight into how their screen reader, Window-Eyes, actually works.


AbilityNet have put together a playlist of YouTube videos and a host of YouTube favourites relating to assistive techology (via Steve Lee — thanks). AbilityNet’s own videos includes a particularly interesting clip from the BBC’s “Click” programme that covers voice recognition software.

The Barnsley Assistive Technology Team also have a series of video case studies on YouTube with more detail on the Barnsley Assistive Technology Team website.

Grant Broome also has a set of videos that illustrate the need for switch access technology in software applications.

AssistiveWare have some videos showing assistive technology in action with more videos on the AssistiveWare website (via Henny).

Professor Megan Conway of the University of Hawaii at Manoa demonstrates the ZoomText screen magnifier and how an FM radio transmitter and receiver may be used by people with hearing difficulties.

More on YouTube


WebAIM video introductions to Web accessibility: Two short videos, mostly aimed at educational institutions, which help you to understand the user’s perspective. One video introduces Web accessibility, assistive technologies including screen readers and pointing devices, and the problems faced by people with different types of disability. The other is a short video in which disabled students share their experiences on the Web.

University of Wisconsin System

This resource from the Division of Information Technology (was the Trace Research Center) at the University of Wisconsin provides another good introductory series for those who are new to assistive technology. Their Introduction to the Screen Reader was one of the first videos I saw when first researching screen readers a few years ago, but there are also further videos covering screen magnification and Web design tips.

“A World Denied: web accessibility the movie”

A video launched by Socitm (Society for IT Management) in association with AbilityNet. Its aim is to raise awareness of Web accessibility among decision-makers in both public and private sectors, in much the same way as PAS 78.

More videos