What information does a screen reader read out?

I have a question about text object content, name and alt text - I basically want to know what a screen reader will read out. I am going to paste in an old post from David Ward as he describes it perfectly.

"... 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."

Does anyone have an answer to this? 

3 Replies
Leslie McKerchie

Hi Amy!

Looks like Ashley reached out to you here.

Our documentation here states:

To add alternate text for screen readers, simply enter text in the Alternate Text column on the right side of the tab order window. (Another option is to use the Size and Position window. See this tutorial for details.)

If an object doesn’t have alternate text, screen readers will read the name of that object as it appears in the timeline.

David was able to identify a discrepancy that was filed with our QA Team to review.

Quote: "If an object doesn’t have alternate text, screen readers will read the name of that object as it appears in the timeline."

For text boxes, what is read it the content while for images is their file name as shown in the timeline

I do not have an update to provide at this time and I would recommend downloading a Free Trial of JAWS here.

Nadia Zaid

This was very helpful for confirmation/clarification. In the past, I have treated shapes containing text the same as text boxes in that I assumed the screen reader would read the text inside of the shape without having to specifically add alt text. Based on this info, it sounds like that is not the case. Am I understanding correctly that text inside of a shape will not be read and alt text should be added?