Accessible Publishing Summit 2023
John: Hello this is John with NNELS and in this demo on Diversity of Reading I’m going to be demonstrating JAWS screen reader with Bookshelf which is a reading app by VitalSource. And I’m running JAWS 2022 with Windows 11; the BookShelf version is an older version designed for Windows 7 and Windows 8. I found that the newer version didn’t work very well with this version of JAWS, so I ended up using the older version for this demo. And we will demo a book created by NNELS for these series of presentations that has a variety of elements that we can demonstrate how they are read by assistive technology and once I do the JAWS demo I will do a brief demo of Read Aloud in another reading app called Bookworm and finish with some thoughts on some different reading apps. So we’ll start going through the book here; I will not cover all the text in the book but try to give you enough context so that you’ll get a sense of how these different elements are read when I read them with JAWS. So we’ll start with the cover page.
Screen reader: Cover Page
John: In this case all it says is “cover page” even though there is an alternative text description of the cover image, it isn’t read with this combination of screen reader and the reading app. So we’ll move to the next section.
Screen reader: Document page has one region and no links title page title page region page i NNELS accessible publishing Summit demo-2023 title page region end.
John: And there we heard the title page and JAWS is quite customizable as far as what it reads. I have adjusted it a little bit so a couple of things are indicated that are not read by default so we can get a sense of what the possibilities are but most of this will apply even with default settings. So we heard the text of the title page along with the page number at the beginning and that’s all we have here, I’ll move on to the next section.
Screen reader: Accessible publishing Summit demo Dash 2023 page has one region and two links copyright page copyright page region page ii CC0 public domain accessible publish publishing.
John: And here we have the copyright page and you’ll notice some of these Pages say there’s a region and that’s just a area of text defined by the author of the book. It’s possible to give a label to a region of text and for example this copyright page doesn’t have a visible label in the text but that’s been added as a label for this region. Some regions will have a visible heading in the text for the label, it just depends on the section. One thing about this section is there’s a link further down in the text that goes to the NNELS website. We’ll just move down till we find that.
Screen reader: No rights reserved published by colon link national network for Equitable Library service.
John: And I’m just moving down by line. so there we had the link and if I activated that it would launch my browser and go to the NNELS website. Now links can be helpful especially if the reader is using maybe a touch screen device that has… Where entering URLs or copying and pasting a URL isn’t as efficient than with a keyboard but they are useful on computers as well to be able to open a URL without needing to manually copy an address. So we’ll move to the next section.
Screen reader: Page has no links dedication block quote page iii To all readers block quote end.
John: So we have dedication, I’ll skip past this and we’ll move to the first chapter of the book.
Screen reader: page 1 chapter 1A novel Dash like chapter heading level 1 page has six settings and no links chapter one chapter.
John: And so we’ll stop the reading there so we can go through some of it in more detail. So the first thing we have is a heading and it’s a two line heading but it’s been quoted as the one heading element so that if I move by headings it will only land on the heading once instead of “Chapter One” as the first line and “A novel-like chapter” for the heading as the second line, but when it’s coded as one element, if I move by heading it only stops once on that entire heading. And I’ll move down, we’ll get to the epigraph.
Screen reader: level one page one chapter one heading level one the novel dash like chapter block quote left quote forget what you think you know vampires exist right quote em dash Blade block quote end. 3 May Bistritz. There we had an epigraph and it’s marked up as a Block quote. It-it sets it off a little bit from the text. Now there is, as an aside, there is an accessibility role that can be set on an element like a block quote or a paragraph, to mark it up as an epigraph. Using that doesn’t cause any trouble with reading systems that I’ve tried but it isn’t supported from what I found either. So it is available to mark an epigraph so that a screen reader could potentially indicate that it’s an epigraph but it hasn’t received support to this point from my experience. So now we have the – I’m starting the text of the chapter and I’ll just move through these sections. This chapter is divided up by headings so I’ll just move through the headings and we can read some of the different elements.
Screen reader: A section with a block quote heading level two.
John: So here we have a block quotation and JAWS, as we saw with the epigraph, it does indicate when a block quote starts and ends so if I move down…
Screen reader: I will now share a letter I received from my love block quote 17 Chatham Street.
John: All right so now we’re getting into the content of the letter and I could continue reading this as I’ve read normally as I read the text. Another thing I can do when it’s marked up as a block quote, if I know I want to skip past the to the end of this I can skip to the end of the element and it will skip past the block quote; in this case skip to the end of it so I don’t have to read the whole thing if I don’t want to I can skip to the text after the block quote.
Screen reader: Block quote end.
John: So it’s jumped me to the end here and I’ll keep moving down.
Screen reader: heading level two a section with a context break.
John: Now we come to a context break and context breaks can be marked up visually in various ways such as an asterisk or some blank space but if they aren’t marked up in the way that screen readers are able to indicate them, then there’s no indication of the context break. In this case it is marked up so we’ll move down.
Screen reader: He displayed a skill in page three the choice of ground and the use of light troops and in securing his own supplies whilst he cut off those of the enemy with Karthikaya himself God of War might have envied. Separator, Doctor Heraclius Gloss was a very learned man although no.
John: And so there we had the paragraph and then the context break and then the start of the next paragraph. And the context break—the separator there—that tells me there’s some… a change of context there between these paragraphs. And also it indicated the page break; Now page breaks can be marked up in the text as it is here and typically I found that reading systems will either read them or they may not read them at all but they don’t give users a choice and this is one area where I’d like to see some flexibility- that even though page breaks are marked up in this book if the reading system offered or a screen reader offered a choice where the break could be indicated or skipped that would give readers an option of skipping them if they didn’t necessarily want to hear the page breaks in the middle of the sentence. But the fact that they are marked up does give the possibilities of being able to know exactly where the text of a page starts, if I wanted to go to a page number I can find out where that text starts or if I wanted to cite a passage in the book then I can tell exactly what page that’s on. So even though there is the issue now of screen readers reading the page numbers mid-sentence in some cases I would say in my opinion it’s still useful to have them since it does give the added benefit of knowing where the page divisions are. So I’ll skip to the next section.
Screen reader: A section with dash and without dash a language shift. heading level two
John: So here we have language shift.
Screen reader: Heading level three with a marked up language shift.
John: Which is a piece of text that’s in a secondary language other than the different language other than the main text so here we have English and French.
Screen reader: The French expression avoir l’esprit de l’escalier refers to an inability to think of a witty comeback left parenth or any sort of intelligent response right parenth until it’s too late to be of any use.
John: So in this section it’s had the language shift marked up and we heard the proper French pronunciation. Now we’ll hear it without the language shift.
Screen reader: Heading level three without a marked up language shift the French expression avoir l’esprit de l’escalier refers to an inability to think of…
John: So in that case the reading flow is smoother but it doesn’t have proper French pronunciation there and that’s… Often the trade-off is that text-to-speech systems need to switch voices to read in another language so it does create a pause and in some cases a different voice depending on the screen reader or reading system, how it’s speech is configured. And typically at NNELS we advise doing it for phrases or sentences but not as much for single words and there’s no hard and fast rule in some cases but it’s more just something to be aware of that it does cause a voice change like this and if you have a lot of single words where there’s language shifts, it can be a bit jarring. So now we’ll skip to the second chapter.
Screen reader: chapter 2 a more scholarly chapter heading level one.
John: And there’s the heading now the start of this is the same with an epigraph so I’ll skip to the next heading here.
Screen reader: Section with lists heading level two.
John: And now we have the list, I’ll just read through some of the texts before the list here.
Screen reader: The practical man may justly observe at this point that the world of single vision is the only world he knows colon that it appears to him to be colon list of three items bullet real semicolon bullet solid semicolon bullet and self Dash consistent.
John: there we have a list of three items and I was able to arrow through them. I can also move forward and backward by list items so if I move backwards:
Screen reader: bullet solid semicolon bullet real semicolon.
John: in this case it’s not making a much of a difference since each list item is on its own line but if it was a reference section for example with like a bibliography or a set of footnotes or endnotes where there was a title of the work followed by a URL it might be on multiple lines so in that case moving by list items can be a benefit. Another thing that can help, this list has only has one level of hierarchy so there’s just one level of the three items but if let’s say the first item had three sub items that were indented underneath it, it’s possible to mark that up as a nested lists so JAWS can indicate that the next three items are underneath this first one. And if the list is just marked up as a set of paragraphs with indentation used to show the hierarchy that hierarchy is lost with the screen reader. And I’ll skip to the next section; there is also a numbered list here but it’s… The navigation is about the same as the bulleted one.
Screen reader: Images section heading level two.
John: Now we have images, and in this section we have two images. There’s a regular one with some alt text and one following that that has a longer inscription it needs more description so we’ll view the regular one.
Screen reader: heading level three regular image one day when he was strolling in the square at Balancon, he saw a large wooden hut from which came the sound of terrible howling, while on the platform a mountebank incoherently invited the crowd to come and see the terrible Apache tamer Tomahawk or rumbling Thunder. A drawing of a shirtless white man he reaches upwards with one arm against the starry night skies next reads colon per aspera ad astra. Graphic. Figure 1 colon illustration from Finland in the 19th century
John: and so in that case we had the text followed by the image description that was read and then the figure caption now in this case JAWS isn’t indicating the fact that the image and the caption are in a figure element which kind of sets it off from the text around it so it kind of groups the two together, and also one more other thing to point out about the image description is that it does have some Latin text at the end there; now an image description like this is just a string of text it doesn’t offer any capability of specifying markup like lists or tables or language shifts but in this case, in my opinion, it isn’t too big of a deal since I am able to go through text in detail if I want to spell words and so forth. And otherwise this image description is short enough to fit in alt text like this so in my opinion that’s… it’s okay. We’ll move over to the next image.
Screen reader: Image with linked long description heading level 3. A map of the Camerton and Limpley Stoke railway in north Somerset. click the link below to navigate to long description graphic.
John: And so there we have the alt text and I’ll move down.
Screen reader: Figure 2 colon Map from The Map that Changed the World.
John: I have the figure caption.
Screen reader: Link long description for figure two.
John: and here we have the long description. I’ll activate that and this opens…goes to another page in the ebook with the description.
Screen reader: Long description for Figure two. Link. Document. Page has two headings and one link heading level two figure two colon map from the map that changed the world a map of the Camerton and Limpley Stoke Railway.
John: And this is a set of paragraphs here that describes the map in more detail and I can read this just like any other, just like another section of text in the book. So now I will tab I’ll get to a link that’s a backlink that returns back to the image
Screen reader: Return to Figure Two. Link.
John: if I activate that:
Screen reader: Document. Page has one region 12 headings and one link. A Map of the Camerton and Limpley Stoke Railway and North Somerset click the link below to navigate to long… navigate…
John: So now we’re back to the image and it landed us on the text of that image. And the last thing I’ll show here is a table. This book does also have footnotes and endnotes but in this reading app they don’t work particularly well in that JAWS does read the note reference like the star or the footnote or a number one for the endnote reference but they aren’t indicated as a link and also the footnote isn’t read as any different than a regular paragraph; it doesn’t indicate its a footnote. But some combinations of reading apps and screen readers will um support that better
Screen reader: Page seven. Section with a footnote and an endnote. Footnote section. End note section. Heading level three. Section with a table heading level two.
John: So I was just skipping by heading there to get to the table. Now tables can be marked up so that the screen reader is able to properly indicate what the headers are for the content cells as I move through. So I’ll move down.
Screen reader: table with three columns and five rows.
John: it tells me the size…
Screen reader: name of emperor.
John: Now I’m getting into the content so I’m on the first cell at the top left. I’ll move down, I can move through this table by rows and columns so I’ll move down the column.
Screen reader: Augustus row two…
John: So I have the… that’s the name of the emperor, and if I move to the right…
Screen reader: Length of reign in years: 41 column two.
John: So now we’ve got the length of reign in years; that’s the heading for the column, and it read the number after it which is the content in the cell. And if tables are marked up for example as an image I don’t have this option to navigate the table in as much detail and in that case if it does need to be presented as an image the best alternative would be to have a long description for that that would link to a table in a different area of the book that is coded up as a table so that I have the navigation options. So that’s all I will demonstrate for the moment here with this book, but I will switch to the Bookworm app to show Read Aloud. And now we’ll play a little bit of the Read Aloud of the first chapter. Read Aloud: Chapter One. A novel-like chapter. Forget what you think you know. Vampires exist. Blade May 3rd Stopped.
John: So as we see here, it read the text but it didn’t read any of the information about it like the fact that the chapter heading was a heading, or that there was the block quote for the epigraph. And typically Read Aloud can be useful especially for users that want to hear the text read out but might be able to see the visual content; maybe somebody with a disability like dyslexia. Or, a blind user might use this in the case where they just want to listen to the text but they don’t hear so much about the formatting or the semantics of it. But typically I would use a screen reader most of the time because that gives me more information about the text, of the structure of the book, and more navigation – a richer navigation experience.
So that’s what I have for the demo, but I would like to end with some thoughts about some different reading apps.
I’ll start with Adobe Digital Editions; it was one of them that I reviewed. It does read most of the text but it doesn’t read headings very well–the fact that text is a heading, or image descriptions, things like that that I was getting with the Bookshelf experience. You know in some cases with unprotected EPUB books there is a separate view that does give more of this information, but most of the books I’ve tried in Adobe Digital Editions don’t have that option. And it does sometimes tend to crash, depending on the ebook, when opening it with a screen reader.
The Bookshelf app that we covered here, it’s similar in that VitalSource does have a collection of books that’s designed to be read in the app but it does also offer the option to sideload books which is what we did here—loaded the book into it.
Now the newer version of Bookshelf, I found it to be a little bit more sluggish when navigating with a screen reader then the older one here. And also, er, certain types of navigation like activating a link or maybe going to a page tended to throw the focus off of the reading area so that I needed to navigate back to the reading area which is a little bit inefficient, and also tends to not put the focus at the desired point. If, for example, I wanted to navigate back from an endnote back to the reference, if the focus is thrown off I might be placed in the correct document once I navigate to the reading area but I’m not put into focus of the note reference. So that’s the downside in those cases when focus gets taken off of the reading area.
Another one I looked at was Dolphin Easy Reader. For the most part it reads the text quite well although there are some situations such as links to footnotes and that kind of thing not working with a screen reader that doesn’t work to navigate to the link, and page breaks aren’t read at all with that the particular app; I wasn’t sure whether it’s a design decision or whether it’s just a fact of the way the reading system is implemented that these links aren’t read.
Another one I looked at here was Bookworm; that’s the one we used for the Read Aloud. This one presents the text of the book in basically a text box and does have some options to navigate, keys to move to different elements like headings and tables, but it doesn’t give this richer reading experience as when I was able to read the context of the elements as I’m reading. So once in a text box I don’t get the context that what I’m moving past is a heading or the table navigation. Now this app does have a Web view to be able to view the content in a browser, and that offers some more navigation possibilities but it doesn’t offer the example… the option, for example, to move between sections easily without choosing a section from the contents listing or go-to-page functionality.
Another one I’ll mention here is Google Play Books. This one works by letting you upload a book into the… through your browser and read it in a browser. The text was read okay but the main disadvantage here is that it presented the text one page at a time instead of typically, reading applications will present a document at a time, so in this case we had each chapter of the book in a separate document, so in Bookshelf we were able to read a chapter at a time, versus um when I need to read a page at a time I need to frequently use the option to move to the next page and then navigate to the top of the page to keep reading. So it’s not as smooth of a reading experience.
And one app that works quite well with screen readers is Thorium and the… my colleague Ka is demonstrating that in another presentation but in general I found that that one works quite well for navigating pages, and focus is – it tends to be placed correctly in most cases on the correct position in the text.
And the last thing I’ll mention here so as you see there’s a… it depends both on having a accessible reading system combination of reading system and screen reader, and also good markup in the book to have that content read well. Sometimes DRM or Digital Rights Management is used which limits the book so that it can only be read with a particular reading system, and if that system doesn’t have very good accessibility then a user – screen reader user – is limited to whatever accessibility that system does provide so it can be an accessibility failure is it doesn’t provide a good reading experience. Or, for example if it only provides Read Aloud like functionality where I can hear the text but not the information about it with the structure, then that can be not as useful. And it’s helpful if books are marked up well since if reading systems do improve in the future then that content will be available already, it’s just a matter of the reading system taking advantage of content that’s marked up. And as well, if books are made available through systems like CELA and NNELS where readers can read with their preferred reading system, then they’re able to take advantage of any accessibility that their reading system offers, for any content that’s well marked up in the book. They’re not limited to a particular reading app. And so I hope this presentation has given you a good sense of the variation there can be in reading systems when used with a screen reader and the different types of experiences that readers will have.