Screen Reader and Browser Combination for Accessibility

Screen reader testing is a common action item while testing for accessibility. Since the web content is rendered on browsers, it is very important to know the best screen reader and browser combination for accessibility testing. Currently for both desktop and mobile devices many browsers are available in the market so as the screen readers. Testing with all screen reader and browser combinations is practically impossible. Making web content accessible for all screen reader and browser combinations is next to impossible.

In general Chrome takes highest market share in browser usage, statistics from Wikipedia article.External Website This does not hold good when someone want to take a base for accessibility testing. The Web AIM screen reader user surveyExternal Website yields different results. Chrome is placed at third position after Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows operating system. Undoubtedly Safari holds top position for both OSx and IOS. For  Android Mozilla have tried making great support with Talkback and Chrome is also significantly good while using with talkback. Further in the survey it is evident that JAWS with Internet Explorer, NVDA with Firefox and Safari with OSx are the highly used screen reader and browser combinations by the end users on desktop operating systems. For the accessibility testing is this screen reader and browser combination perfect pair? Let us see.

Listing down the highly used Screen Readers

  • JAWS (Job Access With Speech)
  • NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)
  • VoiceOver (OSx and IOS)
  • Talkback (Android)

Listing down popular browsers

  • Internet Explorer (Windows OS)
  • Firefox (Windows OS and Android)
  • Chrome (Windows OS and Android)
  • Safari (OSx and IOS)

Screen reader and Browser combination

Let us first find the easy pairing screen reader and browser combinations.

VoiceOver and Safari

VoiceOver is the inbuilt screen reader both on OSx and IOS. Safari is the primary browser on these two Apple operating systems. Apple has put its best efforts in making the best screen reader VoiceOver and packaging it with its hardware devices and the operating systems. Being the operating  system and inbuilt screen reader tightly coupled together undoubtedly VoiceOver with Safari on both OSx and IOS is the best screen reader and browser combination. Both in terms of usage statistics’ and accessibility implementation this pairing is best on said operating systems.

NVDA with Firefox

Users can access the content on all three major Windows operating system supported browsers i.e Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome using NVDA. However NVDA recommends FirefoxExternal Website for best experience. For accessibility testing, NVDA with Firefox is a best screen reader and browser combination.

JAWS with Internet Explorer

JAWS For Windows (JFW) is the popular screen reader first released in 1995 few years after Windows Operating system was released into the market by MicroSoft. Internet Explorer is one browser which is in the market since then. Narrator the inbuilt screen reader for Microsoft does not have enough support on browser, and Internet Explorer  is the major browser, the web support of JAWS is highly dependent on Internet explorer. I have not found any other solid evidence than this to support of JAWS with Internet Explorer. So, the recommended screen reader and browser combination is Jaws with internet explorer.

Talkback with Firefox or Chrome

Talkback is the screen reader for Android operating System. Chrome being the native browser on Android, Talkback have increased a lot of support mechanism on the mobile Chrome. Before the talkback support on Chrome, Firefox have done a lot of work to make Firefox a preferred browser on Android to use with talkback. Read Marco Zehe series External Website of articles on the topic. So, primarily Talk with Firefox on Android is a best screen reader and browser combination. Chrome with talkback is also a recommendation.

These are based on my experience and knowledge. Any thoughts, opinion’s or views are welcome.

8 Comments to "Screen Reader and Browser Combination for Accessibility"

  1. Rajesh's Gravatar Rajesh
    March 1, 2017 - 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Hii..this is Rajesh.I have a query..for custom dropdowns(not made with select element) i am not able to navigate through arrow keys..but i am able to navigate through tab and Shift+TAB keys.So is it acceptable as per accessibility guidelines?Or arrow keys must work on the dropdown to navigate through options?
    waiting for your reply..Thank you..

  2. Rajesh's Gravatar Rajesh
    March 2, 2017 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for the clarification Rakesh…By the way i am a former cognizant employee..i know you 🙂

  3. Rajesh's Gravatar Rajesh
    March 2, 2017 - 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I have 2 more questions.
    1.In my application some legend tags are not readable by chromevox screen reader.It is skipping the legend tag/element while reading.Do u have any idea how to fix it?
    2.In my application, from one particular element/tag it is not navigating/reading, it has stopped reading.Why it is not moving the focus to next elements?Any idea?
    Thanks in advance..

  4. Joseph's Gravatar Joseph
    March 2, 2017 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, Blackboard Learning Management System recommends “For the best experience with your screen reader, use Firefox® and Jaws on a Windows® system”
    https://en-us.help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/Hosting/Accessibility

  5. Taliesin Smith's Gravatar Taliesin Smith
    March 19, 2017 - 6:08 am | Permalink

    Here’s a related article that explains why these discrepancies, How Browsers Interact with Screen Readers and Where ARIA Fits in the Mix, http://www.ssbbartgroup.com/blog/how-browsers-interact-with-screen-readers-and-where-aria-fits-in-the-mix/ . It exist may be useful to readers.

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