Accessibility Tools

Screen readers, browser plug-ins, color contrast analyzers, and other tools for the viewing or creation of websites and digital applications.

Screen Readers and Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) is the general term for tools that people with disabilities use to access the Web. Screen readers are the most common type of AT.

NVDA – best with Firefox. NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free, open source screen reader.

VoiceOver (iOS) and Talkback (Android) are built in to their respective operating systems.

  • VoiceOver can be used with the sound off and just the captions, which is helpful. (However, the captions do not always fully reflect what a word will sound like when spoken by the screen reader — for example, words in ALL CAPS or abbreviations.)
  • An article with helpful info on how to use VoiceOver.
  • A video covering the basics of using VoiceOver (YouTube).

JAWS for Windows Screen Reader desktop software – best with Internet Explorer.

  • You can download a trial version and use it for 40 minutes at a time. (The professional version costs $1,100 but despite its high cost, JAWS is still the #1 screen reader by market share.)
  • JAWS HTML Support is a chart that explains where JAWS fully, partially, or does not support the various HTML elements.
  • JAWS ARIA Role Support is a chart that explains where JAWS fully, partially, or does not support the various ARIA roles. Both of these charts are useful to check after JAWS refuses to read something the way you think it should. It may be that JAWS simply doesn’t support the HTML element or ARIA role you’re using. (These would be considered deficiencies in the JAWS software, and not WCAG failures.)

Deque Systems, an accessibility consulting firm, put together a presentation and support materials showing the use of screen readers.

Screen Magnification

Windows has a Magnifier built into it. From the Start button search, input ‘magnifier’. Or, you can find it in Control Panel, Ease of Access Center, Start Magnifier.

MAGic Screen Magnification desktop software. You can download a trial version and use it for 40 minutes at a time. Many users with visual impairments use a screen magnifier like this one.

ZoomText Magnifier is another screen magnification product.

Voice Recognition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional is a top-of-the-line speech recognition software package. You would need to invest significant time to learn this tool.

​Level Access created video demonstrations of Dragon in use and also a demonstration of Dragon being used to control Microsoft Word.

Most smartphones have built-in voice recognition.

Devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home increase the spread of voice recognition.


Use the browser’s accessibility functions (e.g. text size, zoom, no page style) to determine whether or not the site responds as expected to those functions.

Keyboard Testing

Simply trying to use your website with the keyboard (hide your mouse) can tell you a lot about the accessibility of the site.

Code Validators

These validators scan a webpage for proper code and markup, both of which make for better accessibility and better code quality in general.

Do not be surprised if these validators report hundreds of errors on a typical webpage.

Accessibility Checkers

Single page and sitewide evaluation tools.

API Viewers

For evaluating Flash, AJAX, and other rich Internet applications.

Add-ons and Toolbars

They extend the capability of the browsers to help you easily find accessibility issues.

Color Contrast Analyzers

Useful Accessibility Tools presentation by Graham Armfield (on Slideshare).

Other Examples of Assistive Technology (AT)


Screen Readers (Text-to-Speech)
Voice Recognition (Speech-to-Text)
Screen Magnifiers
Proofing tools, Note-taking & Literacy Aids
Ergonomic Aids ad RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
Mind Mapping & Organisation Aids
OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
Software for creating and reading sound files (e.g. Daisy files) such as Easy Producer and Easy Reader
Software for creating Braille such as Duxbury


Mice & Pointing Devices
Headsets, Microphones & Recording Devices including Dictaphones
Braille Devices e.g. Braille Displays, Pacmates, and Embossers
Telephony and equipment to support hearing impaired users (e.g. in face to face meetings)
Magnifiers including CCTV systems
Ergonomic Support Equipment
Large monitors and monitor arms
Personal printers e.g. for visually impaired users, or users with limited mobility
Hardware specifically to enable a user to work from home or while out of the office. For example, laptops for users who would ordinarily have a desktop, 3G and / or broadband at home.