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Consumer Usage of Current Devices and Software

2014 April 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Bryan Gould

DIAGRAM Center partner The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM) has been keeping tabs on research into what types of technology people with print disabilities use to read digital text.

WebAIM surveyIn January 2014, WebAIM conducted a survey of preferences of 1,465 screen reader users. This was a follow-up of similar WebAIM surveys conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2012. The survey points to several intriguing trends.

While JAWS remains the “primary” screen reader for desktops and laptops, many respondents report using multiple screen readers including NVDA, VoiceOver, Window-Eyes and System Access or System Access to Go (from Serotek.) It will be interesting to see how Window-Eyes usage changes now that it is available for free for Microsoft Office users.

The increase in mobile screen reader usage over the past few years has been significant: 82% in 2014, up from 12% in 2009, with Voice Over being the most used mobile screen reader by far. And while 56% use desktop/laptop screen readers more than mobile screen readers, 44% use mobile screen readers more than or about as much as desktop/laptop screen readers.

If these trends continue, Voice Over may draw closer to JAWS and NVDA for the most used screen reader overall (mobile and desktop/laptop combined.)

Dr. Kim T. Zebehazy (University of British Columbia) – Dr. Zebehazy is working on a variety of studies and surveys focused on graphics use in instruction and in assessments for students with visual impairments. The results are expected to be published in a series of articles in the Journal of Visual Impairments. The first article has been published and a portion of the abstract is provided below.

Zebehazy, K. T., & Wilton, A. P. (2014). Quality, Importance, and Instruction: The Perspectives of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments on Graphics Use by Students. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 108(1), 5-16.


In general, teachers valued the use of graphics (both tactile and print) and the need to provide instruction. Fewer than 50% of the respondents felt that graphics were appropriately adapted on large-scale assessments, that there was sufficient instruction in the use of graphics in mainstream classrooms, or that there was an adequate amount of instructional time to teach the use of graphics.

Implications for practitioners: Advocacy for sufficient instruction time for graphics and continued monitoring of the quality and effectiveness of graphics in educational materials are important. Providing feedback to material producers can help to support quality. Increasing student independence and exposure to graphics could support the effective use of graphics on assessments.

Future articles:

Zebehazy, K.T., & Wilton, A.P. (submitted). Straight from the source: Students with visual impairments’ perceptions about graphic use. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Zebehazy, K.T., & Wilton, A.P. (in press). Charting success: The experience of teachers of students with visual impairments in promoting graphic use by students. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

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