[Accessibility] Screen readers and WCAG - current state of art

Alexey Khoroshilov khoroshilov at ispras.ru
Thu Sep 3 13:59:57 PDT 2009

Hi James,

Thank you very much for the response.

Eugene, who is a webmaster of the site mentioned, have not got access to 
the accessibility list yet. So he ask me to forward his answer. Please 
find it below.

Dear Jamie,

Thank you for your attention for Alexey’s report and fist of all I would 
like to appreciate to the NVDA and its team.

As for the issue with our website, WCAG and screen readers. We have two 
‘tricks’ with CSS on our website to make it more friendly for the 
visually impaired visitors, e.g. hide some useless (decorative) elements 
and on the other hand provide some additional explanations and 
navigation elements.

For example, we has provide to this target group additional link ‘skip 
menu’ in the beginning of the page, etc. I guess that you would agree 
that this link is useless for the rest of the visitors and may alter the 
visible design of the site, so we has hide it from the visual user 
agents (UAs).

That was not the problem. The problem is that we couldn’t hide 
information which is useless for screen readers and other aural UAs from 

All of the following based on the same ‘environment’:
Base URL – http://www.ifap.ru/eng/index.htm
Host OS – Windows XP Professional (Eng/Russian MUI) Service Pack 3
Browser – IE 6.0.2900.5512.xpsp_sp3_gdr.090206-1234
Screen reader – NVDA 0.6p3.2

The first trick is special aural CSS provided for screen readers and 
other aural UAs as follows:

It seems that NVDA ignoring it at all and use instead ‘regular’ CSS for 
the visual UAs provided by

The second trick is to ‘hide’ decorative elements from aural UAs by 
adding ‘speak: none’ in the ‘regular’ CSS for visual UAs. It also 
doesn’t work. For example, let’s see the following code:

HTML (index.htm):
some graphic with hyperlink here

CSS for visual UAs (screen.css)
DIV#mainlogo {speak: none}

CSS for aural UAs (aural.css)
DIV#mainlogo {display: none; speak: none}

Ooops, NVDA still speaks the content of this DIV :(

We have slightly different behavior of the NVDA with another browsers, 
e.g. Opera 10, Firefox 3.5.2 and Safari 4.0.3, but in that environment 
NVDA still seems to ignore aural.css and speaks content of the mentioned 

But the HTML and CSS code has passed validation through W3C Validator 
and seems to be correct in relation to HTML 4.0/CSS 2.x/WCAG 1.0

That was the explanation of our issue and I hope you can deal with it in 
the future wersions of the NVDA or explain where I was wrong with the code.


Eugene Altovsky
Webmaster of IFAP.ru


James Teh wrote:
> Hi Alexey,
> I am one of NVDA's primar ydevelopers. It'd be great if you could 
> provide more specific information about exactly what code on the web 
> sites was not supported by the screen readers. Based on the information 
> in the post you referenced, it would seem that the big complaint is that 
> text that should not have been read was read and that text specifically 
> designed for the blind was not read.
> To be honest, I'm not very familiar with WCAG 2.0. (I know of it, of 
> course, but have never read it in detail.) However, I am a big believer 
> that text designed specifically for the blind is generally a bad idea. 
> There are of course exceptions - alt text for images, for example. 
> However, in my opinion, the interface should be designed so as to not 
> require a virtually "separate" interface. If the site needs to hide so 
> much text from screen readers, this would seem to indicate a core flaw 
> in the site's design.
> In any case, I'd love to hear more specific information about the 
> problems encountered.
> Btw, for those that are interested, here is a link to the post using 
> Google translate to translate it into English:
> http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&js=y&u=http%3A%2F%2Fcommunity.livejournal.com%2Fifap_ru%2F13520.html&sl=ru&tl=en&history_state0=
> Jamie
> On 3/09/2009 12:04 AM, Alexey Khoroshilov wrote:
>> Hello everyone,
>> My friends from "ICO Information for All" [1] have spent significant
>> efforts to make their web-sites friendly to people with disabilities
>> according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 [2]. But as they
>> report in [3], the efforts almost had no sense, since the leading screen
>> readers NVDA and Jaws does not support standard instructions especially
>> introduced for such kind of software.
>> Is it a correct understanding of the current state of art?
>> [1] http://www.ifap.ru/eng/index.htm
>> [2] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
>> [3] http://community.livejournal.com/ifap_ru/13520.html (in Russian)
>> --
>> Alexey
>> _______________________________________________
>> Accessibility mailing list
>> Accessibility at lists.linux-foundation.org
>> https://lists.linux-foundation.org/mailman/listinfo/accessibility

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