Text box and caption with screen readers

Jeanette wrote an enlightening chapter on Alt Text in Using the Size and Position Window.  I did not know that a screen reader announces the name given to the object on the Timeline.  It raised a question about an object designed for text content like a Text Box or a Caption.  If nothing is entered into the "Alternative text" field but the "Object is visible to accessibility tools" box is checked, will a screen reader read the text the object displays on screen in the courseware?  If the object is designed for text content, does a screen reader still announce the name given the object on the Timeline?

10 Replies
Ashley Terwilliger

Hi David, 

Are you using text entry boxes or just text boxes that are displaying information? If it's a regular text box/caption display content and you haven't enabled alt text but left the object visible to accessibility tools, in my experience it reads the object as it is on the timeline. 

I found one thread where a user shared a workaround for the text entry box, to let the user know that they'll need to enter text in the next box. This other thread discusses a lot of the screen reader options, tab order, etc. It's a fairly long thread and dates back to 2012 - but a lot of good information in there as well. 

David Ward

I'm referring to the objects called "Text Box" and "Caption" on the Insert ribbon (not a text entry box because its purpose is for the user to input data) or any other object designed for displaying text content on screen in courseware.  For example, let's say I insert a text box,  check the "Object is visible to accessibility tools" box, and name it "123" in the Timeline.  If I leave the "Alternative text" field empty and enter the text "ABC" to be displayed on screen in the courseware, which of the following will a screen reader do?

  • Announce "123" only
  • Announce "123" then read "ABC"
  • Read "ABC" without announcing the name of the object
  • Announce and read nothing, since the "Alternative text" field is empty

Then what will a screen reader do when I add the text "XYZ" to the "Alternative text" field with no other changes to the text box 123?

  • Announce "123" then read "XYZ"
  • Announce "123" then read "ABCXYZ"
  • Announce "123" then read "XYZABC"
  • Read "XYZ"  without announcing the name of the object
  • Read "ABCXYZ"  without announcing the name of the object
  • Read "XYZABC"  without announcing the name of the object

I know this is very specific but it's critical to understand precisely how screen readers will respond to an object designed for displaying text content on screen in courseware.  Otherwise, a developer cannot be sure what a screen reader will read in the courseware when it encounters text content.  It's much more straightforward when programming non-text content like an image because we know a screen reader cannot read an image, so it's certain that it will announce the name of the image in the Timeline then read whatever text is in the "Alternative text" field.

David Ward

Is there any way for me to direct my post dated June 06, 2014 at 10:28 AM in the thread above to an Articulate technician for a response? I posted it in the forum a couple of months ago but it still has not received a response. I need to develop Section 508-compliant courseware but it will be challenging without knowing how Storyline is programmed to publish the courseware in this scenario.

Nancy Woinoski

Hi David, I think you have to go to the Articulate contact page if you want to submit a support ticket.

i have not done any 508 compliance courses in a while but here are some issues I encountered when testing with Jaws.

the reader announces the word "graphic" before reading the text in the text box. If your text box contains a number Jaws will not read the number unless you spell it out in the alt text field so 123 would have to be one two three in the alt text field.

sorry I can't remember what happens if you add alt text for text boxes that contain text. I never did this except for the numbers as mentioned above.

Ashley Terwilliger

Hi Claudia, 

The JAWS screen reader adds graphic or button to object descriptions when it's narrating a published course. This is how JAWS is designed to operate for accessibility support.

For example, JAWS adds graphic to descriptions of pictures, screenshots, and characters, since these elements are graphics. Similarly, JAWS adds button to descriptions of buttons and objects with click triggers.

See also WebAIM's article on Designing for Screen Reader Compatibility.

JAWS also adds graphic to text box narration, which can be confusing for learners, so we provided a programmatic workaround in Update 5 for Articulate Storyline to suppress this functionality in JAWS.

Amy Pearson

David, I know this was posted a long time ago but I just wondered whether you ever got an answer? You have no doubt figured it out for yourself in the last two years. Your description of the various things a screen reader might read out is exactly what I am struggling to work out so any advice you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks

Vincent Scoma

Hey Sally,

This discussion is a bit older, so I want to make sure you get the most up-to-date guidance. First, I'm not sure if David is still subscribed here but you could always use the Contact Me button on an ELH users' profile to reach out to them directly!

And of course, we're here to help, too! If you'd like to privately send your project file to our Support team to test, you can do that right here. We'll let you know our findings and will delete it after having a closer look!