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long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

OK . I've seen several toots on for users, however, I've not seen one from a screenreader user (as far as I know). I've used ZoomText, Outspoken, JAWS (AKA JFW), Supernova, NVDA (Windows), and VoiceOver (both on Macs and iPhone). I don't have experience with Windows Narrator or TalkBack. I would like to rectify and clarify a few small things.
First off, any awareness of accessibility issues, and endeavours to make things more accessible is great. Keep going!
But…
Blind/low-vision people have been using the internet as long as everyone else. We had to become used to the way people share things, and find workarounds or tell developers what we needed; this latter one has been the main drive to get us here and now. Over the past decade, screen readers have improved dramatically, including more tools, languages, and customisability. However, the basics were already firmly in place around 2000. Sadly, screen readers cost a lot of money at that time. Now, many are free; truly the biggest triumph for accessibility IMHO.
So, what you can do to help screen readers help their users is three simple things.
1. Write well: use punctuation, and avoid things like random capitalisation or * halfway through words.
2. Image description: screen readers with image recognition built-in will only provide a very short description, like: a plant, a painting, a person wearing a hat, etc. It can also deal with text included in the image, as long as the text isn't too creatively presented. So, by all means, go absolutely nuts with detail.
3. Hashtags: this is the most commonly boosted topic I've seen here, so . The capitalisation ensures it's read correctly, and for some long hashtags without caps, I've known screen readers to give up and just start spelling the whole damn thing out, which is slow and painful.
That's really all. Thanks for reading! 😘

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

Holy crap, Mastodon! Thanks all for the continuous favourites and boosts on this. 💚
You're all awesome!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Friend I am currently illustrating every line of Frankenstein here as a daily meditation and must say the most enjoyable part has been trying to describe the illustration deliciously for someone who can't see it otherwise. So glad to know you are in fact out there! 🤩 Would you mind telling me if it is useful to name the colors in the picture too? 🫣

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@april Greetings! Colour is a difficult subject. To some people who are born blind "green", and "purple", or related descriptors like "light", "transparent," and "shiny" are words they can't conceptualise. For others (like me), who lost their sight later, those words have meaning and including these in a description will help create a fully fleshed-out mental image. So, I'm going to stick with my advice in the main post: go nuts with detail. The more you include the wider a net you're casting. And even those who can't really understand colour concepts, will still be able to join in the ; and that's is the really important bit.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Ok! 😍 Thank you for your input! 🌟

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana @april - I've been skimping on my image descriptions, because I didn't want the screen reader to get bogged down detailing my image incorrectly or with meaningless words, as you've described. With regards to color, would temperature gradients be better, or more confusing? Something maybe like using cool for blue, and hot for red? Or might other descriptors be better?
Thank you for this thread.

re: long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana @april My approach is to start with the shortest, broadest description and then add more detail afterwards, just like you'd do in a well written news article or work email. (I believe this is called "inverted pyramid style".) I figure that once someone gets the detail they want they can skip the rest of the description.

I also *really* appreciate image descriptions even as a sighted person. They often help explain cultural references I wouldn't normally catch; just by having the name of a celebrity or meme or whatever, I am enabled to do a web search to find out more.

I do often include colors because people will frequently refer to things by color (or shape, or texture...) in the following conversation. This goes beyond the basic rule of "the alt text provides equivalent content" so it's probably in the optional-but-useful category.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@april @Cassana I am iffily sighted and autistic and I use descriptions both to give an idea of the art for low- or no-vision folks but also for people who might find it confusing. I describe colors when I think they might be useful reference ("the left hand, red one") but also I try to include more emotional content ("is smiling fondly") for people who struggle to "read" art. I also give names where I remember.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@kalany @Cassana Got it!! Thank you!!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana except that for anyone using a screen reader, especially voiceover, if I click on someone's post in my feed, I can't actually read the text. I can read part of it in the feed itself if there is no content warning, but if I want to go in to the post, I can no longer get voiceover to read the text. Wasn't a problem when I first signed up.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Scarygodslove That's more an app-specific issue. I had that in the iOS mastodon app, but it's not a problem in more user friendly apps like Metatext (iOS) or Pinafore (desktop).

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana what is metatext? I have never heard of that. I have no accessibility issues using Mastodon on iOS, except for this one thing.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Scarygodslove it's another Mastodon app that I discovered recently through a boosted toot. The layout and functionality is much better IMHO, e.g., clicking on the post showing the content warning will reveal the post's text. Also, it lets you use the action menu to more easily reply, boost, favourite etc.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thanks for this! Is using paired slashes or asterisks for emphasis as a replacement for italics particularly annoying or disruptive? I really like italicizing things, but since most social media doesn't support markdown or HTML formatting, this has been my approach, but I'd like to be #accesibility minded and minimally frustrating for #ScreenReader users.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@sylvia_killy I love using MarkDown myself, but more for editing purposes as it makes it easy to see what bit of the text does what. So, I personally have no problems with **using asterisks for emphasis**. Depending on screen reader verbosity settings, slashes may not be read out, asterisks usually are.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Great post. As someone who sometimes posts art, how detailed do you think is detailed enough? What are the most important things you would like to have described? And are there words that should be avoided? Or do you have any pointers or recources I could check out to improve the experience for people?

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@LeaLeaLea @Cassana my main thought on detail is to begin with broad information that tells a person whether it’s a picture of interest to them. Once they know if they want more information, go nuts. For example, “my dog in a funny pose. Her legs are crossed and she’s sitting upright and she’s a cattle dog”

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@LeaLeaLea @Cassana The first sentence tells someone waiting for the words to be read out, whether they want to skip to the next toot.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@LeaLeaLea Generally, I'd say broad strokes first, just to make it clear what the image is of. Then go into detail. Of course, Taylor it to thee audience, so if you know there's someone who relies on descriptions to join in the conversation, then you're good. If you aren't sure people are using the description, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with just doing the broad outline, then stating your willing to describe it in more depth; leaving the choice to them to ask.
As for words, use whatever.

@Cassana
Thanks for teaching us.
Sorry for every asterix I have used for my swearing.
As a plants nerd, I usually give the plant name in the post.
Should I also give a description on foliage, flower size and so on, or will it be kinda rude to assume people do not know the type?

@AnitaH2 LOL! If you've got a content warning warning about swearing, then there's no need to go "sh*t f*ck" really, right?
As I've mentioned in an earlier reply. There's nothing wrong with going, this is a "whatever type of plant" and then do a broad strokes description; flower colour, relative size, whatever is important to the toot, then invite people to ask for more description if they want it.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana thank you!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana I was so happy to see a post from a screen reader user. It's invaluable to get that first hand feedback

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@RomanticSkeptic also adding in @arose62 Hashtags in text in a web browser are separate linked element; so the toot won't read as a full paragraph. But this is common across the web, look at Wikipedia, and in most mobile apps I've seen, the grouping is different but absolutely fine. So it's all good. Place them wherever.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@RomanticSkeptic @arose62 @Cassana thank you for clarifying this. I’ve also been told the “put all the hashtags at the end” advise.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana

Is it better to include hashtags in the flow of text, or collect them at the end of a post?

I've seen a few accessibility-related discussions suggesting that the first approach plays havoc with screen readers, so I was interested to note that the start of your post has tags included in the text.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thank you so much for this. Is it irritating when there are lots of exclamation points?

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana @Kayray some screen readers, like VoiceOver, will just say 3 exclamation points, while others like NVDA will pretend there is only one, but generally, yes, that can get annoying for some

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@blindscribe @Kayray It depends on verbosity settings really. Generally screen readers have three levels of that for punctuation: reading all/high, some/medium, or none/low. If set to all, some will read out ?? as 2 question mark, or just group it and mention it once without the number. Older version of screen readers did read all of them. It saying "dot dot dot" for menu items was something I definitely had to become used to ignoring. At medium verbosity, it won't read out very common ones, but it of course still uses them for how something should be read out. I'd say, generally assume that a user has the verbosity set in such a way that works for them, including minimising any annoyances.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Hi - @heafnerj was just asking about best practices for posting math on mastodon so it's accessible. Any suggestions you could offer? Sorry, I'm new to mastodon, so I don't know if giving his username is the best way to direct you to a thread that he started and that's been active recently. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide! -Ben

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@ben_crowell_fullerton @Cassana Thank you very much.

re: long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana As the writer of a screenreadish-thing I can confirm the last one is absolutely true. Although it depends more on the backend synth in my experince

Don't have any experience with 1 or 2 as my userbase me and five others as far as i know. And those features have never been requested. But I'll consider doing both in the rewrite :)

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thank you for sharing and educating us. I had no idea about hashtags.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@carlysagan @Cassana Her instance is running a custom "fork" of Mastodon called Hometown with a higher character count limit and a few other changes. But everything still works on your instance and mine despite this!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thank you for these tips, it's incredibly helpful! I have one follow-up question about random capitalization: do you mean to avoid randomly capitalizing letters within words, or randomly capitalizing the beginnings of words in the middle of sentences? I sometimes do the latter for emphasis (as sort of a substitute for bold or italics) but I've actually been avoiding it on Mastodon because I wasn't sure whether it's a problem for screen readers.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@folderol Capitalising words in the standard way is always fine; because it also applies to names, or in some languages it is very common to do so, e.g., German nouns. What I meant to avoid are things like cApiTiliSatIon, which breaks up the word in a way that makes the screen reader think they're mashed-together words that don't make any sense. In the worst case, a screen reader user has to go back and spell out the word. Often when I've encountered that sort of random capitalisation, I've just gone: "probably not important, move along."

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana This definitely makes sense! Thank you so much for clarifying.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana in #programming they call that #CamelCase (or #PascalCase for the #Pedants) to describe using the first letter of each crushed-together word as an indicator that there's a word border.

They have totally different motivations to do so, but you can communicate the whole idea with like two words. :)

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@alexhammy209 I know, but not everyone knows those terms, so it's often better to just show it.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana hi there I'm a twitter emigre still trying to learn my manners thanks for being patient

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@alexhammy209 @Cassana We are all pedants in programming. Kinda comes with the territory. 😆

Also see #snake_case and #kebab-case

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thanks for taking the time to share this!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Thank you for sharing! Admittedly I tend to forget or avoid alt text for images. Words are hard for me, not sure if it's due to being a visual thinker, or if it's a developmental issue. Either way I probably should do my best, even if I can only write out something robotic.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@DanitheCarutor Anything helps. It doesn't have to be perfect prose. Trust me, we can cope with funky descriptions. And if we want to know more, we can always ask. So all good.

Reply: long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@DanitheCarutor @Cassana If you want an automated reminder when you forget to put a description, you can follow @PleaseCaption and it will reply to any media without a description

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@DanitheCarutor @Cassana I saw a bot account on here, which if you follow it posts you a reply saying "you forgot your alt text on this, you should delete and redraft.
Now, if you give me a moment, I shall go and check who I am following and come back to you 😊

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@DanitheCarutor @Cassana
The bot is https://botsin.space/@PleaseCaption (I'm not sure how to get their tag to add in to the conversation because I am a noob!)

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana First of all, I want to thank you so much for sharing your advice and experience with us! I appreciate it so much!

I have a question about emoji use, especially custom emojis that are added to various mastodon instances. How are they interpreted by screen readers? Does it matter what the short code is for custom emojis to make them more accessible?

(Thank you again, and feel free to ignore if you're overwhelmed!)

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Rheall @Cassana unfortunately there is no alt text for custom emoji but there is a github issue to propose this get added but my suspicion is that Hometown or Glitch social or Go To social before it gets added to Mastodon

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Can you weigh in on the best way to post Wordle results? See my question here:

https://sfba.social/@townsend/109338718715297464

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana Just wondering, but how did you make your post longer than 500 characters?

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Howard @Cassana It's an instance/server setting. Some permit more characters: one I had to block - full of 'free speech' merchants - had a limit of over 50,000 characters per post! No thank you. I don't need that drivel in fewer than 500 characters. Definitely not in over 50,000.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@JonnyT @Cassana Oh my... 50,000 characters?! What are they writing? Full blown essays?!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Howard @Cassana All the things that they're 'no longer allowed to say' apart from all the times they are repeatedly saying them. But in great detail.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@JonnyT @Cassana I might change my server settings to give me a bit more than 500... but not 50k LOL. Thanks for the tip!

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Howard @JonnyT Yeah, it's running Hometown with the character max set to 2k. I like the extra space, though it's also not going to be clogging up everything. Plus, to help prevent that further, the instance automatically creates a CW when any post goes above 1k.

long post on accessibility advice from a blind screen reader user 

@Cassana @JonnyT That's really helpful. Do you know how it is set? I've been trying to search for this but there's nothing official as such on this.

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