Raise your hand if the first time you used a screen reader was when you wanted to test an accessible course you created with Storyline 360. Ok, now raise your hand if you ran into some trouble navigating but were unsure whether it was a problem with the course itself, with the screen reader, or simply user error. If you’re still reading this article, I’m going to guess you raised your hand for both of those statements. 

Know this: you’re not alone! We get questions about how Storyline 360 content should work on screen readers all the time. And it makes sense! If you’ve never used a screen reader before, how are you supposed to know what’s normal and what isn’t?  

In this article, we’ll give you the answers to the top 5 most frequently asked questions we get from Storyline 360 users about how content should work on screen readers. Let’s take a look!

1. Why doesn’t my screen reader read slide content automatically?

With most websites, screen readers start reading visual content as soon as it appears on screen. However, Storyline 360 courses are handled a little differently. That’s because e-learning courses often contain audio or video that autoplays when you arrive on a slide. This means that if the screen reader starts reading on-screen text immediately, the screen reader audio competes with the course audio—making it impossible for the learner to hear and understand either one.

When your learner arrives on a slide, if they’re using a screen reader it will read the slide title and wait for the learner to explore the rest of the content. You can learn more about why and how this works in our article Screen Readers Don’t Auto-Read Content.

2.  Why does the screen reader say things that aren’t written on the screen, like “heading” and “navigation”?

Since most people using screen readers have visual impairments, screen readers try to provide them with as much context as possible to help them understand what’s going on. For this reason, you’ll notice that the screen reader will say things like “heading” before reading a title, or “navigation” before reading the names of the buttons. Some screen readers read punctuation out loud (“dash,” “comma,” etc.) by default, and others don’t. Screen readers control the way this works, not Storyline 360 course settings. You might be able to customize some of these options directly in your screen reader, but there’s no way to ensure that every learner’s settings are the same.

3. Why does the screen reader sometimes stop reading the on-screen text before the end? 

Some screen readers (like NVDA and JAWS) stop reading after a certain number of characters (for example, 100 or 150). If you’d like it to continue, you can customize this setting or use the down arrow to continue reading. To find out how to do this, refer to your screen reader’s user guide.

4. How does the screen reader decide the order in which to read my slide content?

By default, objects are read from left to right, starting at the top of the slide. However, thanks to the focus order feature in Storyline 360, you can personalize the order to fit your needs. Here’s a tutorial that walks you through how to do that, step by step: Customizing the Focus Order of Slide Objects.

5. Why doesn’t keyboard navigation work the same for screen reader users and keyboard-only users?

Both types of users use their keyboards to navigate the course, but not for the same reason. So we tailored the navigation to their specific needs. Here’s a table that lays out the differences:


Who are the learners?

What are their needs?

How does keyboard navigation work?

How does the navigation fit their needs?

Screen Reader Users

Primarily people with visual impairments—like partial sight, low vision, color blindness, legal blindness, and total blindness.

These users can’t rely on their vision to interact with content, so they need the content to be read aloud to them or displayed in braille on a refreshable braille display

Learners move through all the objects on the slide (static and interactive) using the screen reader navigation keys, listening to (or reading via their refreshable braille display) the descriptions as they go. If they want to skip over static content, they can press Shift and Tab at the same time.

Learners can decide whether they want to move through every item on the screen or only the interactive items. That way, they can access the full course content if they’d like, or skip over to quickly access the interactive parts if they’re reviewing content they’ve already consumed, for example.

Keyboard-Only Users

People who can see, but can’t or prefer not to use a mouse, often because of pain or a physical disability.

These users can see the course content, so they don’t need it read aloud to them. They just need to be able to navigate using their keyboard instead of their mouse.

Learners move through interactive objects only (skipping static objects like text and images) by pressing on Tab and Shift+Tab.

It allows learners to navigate the course quickly, skipping over static objects, since they can see them for themselves. 


Find out more about how navigation differs for these two types of users here: Navigation Is Easier.

More Resources

Hopefully you found the answers to these questions helpful! What other questions do you have about how Storyline 360 courses work with screen readers? Drop them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Want to learn more about creating accessible e-learning? Check out these helpful resources: 

Want to try building an accessible e-learning course in Storyline 360, but don’t have Articulate 360? Start a free 60-day trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

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