When you’re building an accessible e-learning course, one requirement is that your content work on screen readers. (If you’re not familiar with screen readers, check out this article before continuing: Accessible E-Learning & Screen Readers: What You Need to Know.) 

If you’re using Storyline 360 to build your course, you’re in luck! The accessible player works automatically on a variety of screen readers

However, this doesn’t mean you can skip testing your course on screen readers. It’s always a good idea to test your e-learning courses in the same environment as your learners to ensure they’re getting a good experience. For accessible courses, this includes testing them out with a screen reader.

But if you’ve never used a screen reader before, testing your course with one can be a challenge. After all, unlike your learners, you’re not used to screen readers, so you don’t know what to expect. 

That’s why we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll walk you through what to do, step by step. Here goes.

1. Get Comfortable with Your Screen Reader

If you’ve never used a screen reader before, it’s important to set aside some time to understand the technology and get familiar with the screen reader controls so you don’t feel confused and overwhelmed when you go to test your course. To get to know the screen reader your learners are using, follow these steps:

  1. Screen readers are software, so you can easily download and install one if it’s not already on your device.
  2. Learn the basic keyboard shortcuts (for computers) or multitouch gestures (for touchscreen devices) for your screen reader. 
  3. Close your eyes and try “reading” something like a Wikipedia article just to get a feel for the experience.
  4. When you’re done, make note of anything that stood out to you. You might notice, for example:
    • How the screen reader often provides context for what it’s reading by saying whether it’s part of the site navigation, a heading, a list, a link, etc.
    • Some screen readers read punctuation out loud (dash, comma, etc.).
    • Some screen readers (like NVDA and JAWS) stop reading after 100 characters. If you’d like it to continue, you can customize this setting or use the down arrow to continue reading.

The big takeaway is to spend some time getting to know the screen reader your learners will be using. By testing out your course with the same screen reader your learners use, you’ll have a better feel for how it works and what your learners can expect.

2. Learn How Storyline 360 Content Works with Screen Readers

In step 1, we suggested you use a website like Wikipedia to “read” content. For the most part, screen readers interact with Storyline 360 content the same way they do websites. However, there are some differences to know about—changes we’ve made to improve the experience. 

Following is a quick rundown of these important differences:

  • Your screen reader won’t read slide content automatically. Normally, screen readers automatically start reading visual content when it appears. This can be problematic with e-learning courses, since there’s often audio or video that autoplays when you arrive on a slide. For this reason, when you arrive on a slide, the screen reader will read the slide title and then wait for the learner to explore the rest of the content. For more details on this, check out our article Screen Readers Don’t Auto-Read Content.
  • By default, objects are read from left to right, starting at the top of the slide. However, as the course author, you can customize the order in which your screen reader reads content. Customizing the Focus Order of Slide Objects includes a tutorial that walks you through how to do this, step by step.
  • By default, screen readers read all the objects on the screen. However, as the course author, you can hide certain objects—for example, decorative images—so the screen reader skips over them. To do that, you can either remove that object from the focus order or right-click on the object, select Accessibility, and uncheck the Object Is Visible to Accessibility Tools box, as shown below.

For more information about how Storyline 360 content works with screen readers, check out these helpful resources: 

3. Review Your Storyline 360 Course with a Screen Reader

Now that you’ve taken the screen reader your learners will be using for a trial run and you’ve read up on how Storyline 360 content works with screen readers, you’re ready to test-drive your course.

Start by ensuring your screen reader is activated, then launch your course. From there, close your eyes and move through the course as a learner would—using the keyboard shortcuts or multitouch gestures. 

When you open your course, start by quickly going through all the content on the first slide. Screen reader users often move through the entire content of a page (or in this case, a slide) to get a feel for how it’s set up before deciding what to do. Test out this experience and see what it’s like. 

Then, start over and review the slide slowly, listening to the audio description for each item one by one. Continue moving through your course in this way, ensuring that you’re able to make it through from start to finish without getting stuck. As you go along, ask yourself the questions outlined in this article: A Checklist for QA Testing Courses with a Screen Reader.

If you run into any technical difficulties, check your screen reader’s user manual to ensure you’re using the keyboard shortcuts correctly. If you are, head over to this article to see if you can find an explanation for what you’re seeing: 5 Common Questions About How Storyline 360 Courses Work with Screen Readers. If not, feel free to reach out to our support team. They’ll be happy to help you figure out what’s going on.

4. Ask a Learner to Review Your Course

Once you’ve reviewed your course with a screen reader and made any necessary adjustments, it’s a good idea to ask a learner who’s familiar with screen readers to review your course as well.

Since they’re accustomed to consuming content in this way, they’re sure to give you helpful feedback about the experience. Ask them to make note of any areas where they felt lost, the navigation was confusing, or the content was hard to understand. 

The Bottom Line

Using a screen reader to access an e-learning course is a completely different experience than clicking through a course with your mouse and taking it in visually. With Storyline 360, you can be confident that your course will work with a screen reader, but the only way to ensure that the learning experience is a great one is to test it out for yourself. 

Looking for more tips on creating and testing your accessible courses? Check out these helpful resources:

Do you have any experience testing your Storyline 360 content on screen readers? We’d love to hear how it went. Let us know in the comments!

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.

20 Comments
Lisa Spirko

Apologies for my bluntness, but why bother mentioning NVDA in this article? This implies that Storyline supports NVDA, when it certainly does not (https://articulate.com/support/article/Articulate-Storyline-and-Section-508-Accessibility). This lack of support is a serious problem because, despite JAWS being the "industry standard" screen reader, the reality is that most learners with vision problems probably use a free or low cost screen reader like NVDA. Because of the continual 508-related problems we have with Storyline, whether coupled with NVDA or not, we are unable to legally claim that we produce 508-compliant courses that meet the requirements of our contractual obligations. I know that I am not the only Storyline user who has complained about this. Articulate really needs to s... Expand

Nicole Legault
Lisa Spirko

Thank you, Nicole. We appreciate that Articulate is looking at ways to improve accessibility, and we hope that you guys will resolve these issues soon. Unfortunately, because the issues we're encountering on my team impact screen reader users and keyboard navigation users, we have decided that we can only work toward 508 compliance in our Storyline-developed courses for other disability groups, like learners who are hearing impaired, have cognitive disabilities, have low vision but use screen enlargers (not screen readers), and limited motor skills and use an adaptive mouse (not keyboards). We will need to be sure we have other 508-compliant deliverables in place for learners who use screen readers or navigate only with a keyboard until Articulate resolves these issues or until we find ... Expand

Lisa Spirko

Our department is fortunate in that we offer many different types of deliverables, not just online courses. We are taking an approach of making our deliverables as a collection (not individually) compliant for 508/accessibility ("there's something for everyone"). In our view, it would be very difficult or impossible to make each of our deliverables accessible for every possible type of disability, especially our online courses and webinars. Therefore, we are striving to make our online courses compliant for hearing impaired and people with color blindness or low vision who do NOT use screen readers or rely on keyboard navigation (i.e. compliant color contrast, closed captions, transcripts). Those learners who use screen readers and keyboard navigation--who can't take our courses because of... Expand

Darla Woodworth

From what I have read on Articulate's community forums (and other sites) is that NVDA does "everything" that JAWS does. I support Lisa's request in asking Articulate to support the use of NVDA as a choice for developers and learners. I think NVDA is used more than JAWS for a variety of reasons, one of which that hasn't been mentioned is that NVDA lets developers read what is being read by the screen reader - helping us (okay, me) with my limited speed listening capabilities. I guess I am asking Articulate (and the staff that answer questions on the forum) to quit dismissing NVDA as an alternative - making it sound like NVDA isn't a quality product and JAWS is our only answer. Nicole, thanks for working on this tough issue. I am surprised and pleased that you listed NVDA as ... Expand

Nicole Legault

Hi all, We’ve been working hard on the accessibility features in Rise. And our ultimate goal is to be Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant. We’ve built Rise to follow Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) standards for common navigation features, such as buttons, links, and forms. For custom features that aren’t covered by ARIA, such as interactive markers and sorting activities, we’ve focused on making the custom keyboard navigation feel natural and intuitive. We do not yet provide full keyboard navigation support for learners who require a screen reader, but we are actively working on this. You can always keep up to date on the latest Rise features on the What’s New page. As part of our plan to get Rise to be WCAG compliant, we’re also hiring a 3rd pa... Expand

Michelle Kenoyer

Hi Nicole, Apologies for commenting on this article a couple of years late, but I'm curious to learn more about the specifics of testing a Storyline 360 course with a screen-reading tool such as NVDA. I don't have access to the JAWS screen reader, so NVDA is all i have for testing. Your article is very well-done, but is more of a "why it's necessary" than a true "How-to" for using a screen reader to test specific items in a Storyline course with a screen reader. Do you have some best practices that Storyline designers and testers could use/look for specifically (in addition to the usual things like tab order, alt text, etc.)? My team and I have found a reference guide of NVDA keyboard navigation shortcuts (https://dequeuniversity.com/screenreaders/nvda-keyboard-shortcuts#nvda-nvda_sh... Expand

Diarmaid Collins
instructional design