Have you ever used the text-to-speech function on your computer? For many people with visual impairments or poor eyesight, this function is helpful for web browsing because it reads the text on the screen aloud to them. 

By not having to squint to read tiny text or constantly enlarging the font on their screens, people with vision problems can interact with the digital world seamlessly using a text-to-speech reader.

However, for some people, using text-to-speech software is still very difficult. It can be confusing to get the hang of at first, and some people who could benefit from the technology don’t use it because of the initial learning curve. Here are some tips to help make sure your website works well for people who use screen readers to interact with the web.

Ways to Improve Text to Speech Online

1. Always Include Alt Text

What is alt text? You may have heard the term but have never had it explained. Alt text is short for “alternative text.” This describes the text-based description of an image on a website. 

When you have an image on a website, it might not be clearly visible to everyone, especially those using a device like a text-to-speech converter. Alt text allows you to provide a short alternative text description of the image that will be read aloud to a person using a TTS online converter. The alt text will also be displayed in place of an image if it fails to load on the webpage. 

Good alt text is generally short and to the point to ensure it doesn’t slow down the overall function of the website. Remember, the main function of alt text is to define images for your readers who use devices to read text out loud and should include the most relevant information for them. 

No matter what image you use, you should always include alt text to ensure the information isn’t missed and your site is accessible to everyone. 

If you want to learn more about the basics of alt text and access helpful examples, check out WebAIM’s guide to alternative text. It shows you how to determine the best way to describe your image and includes detailed explanations that will assist you the next time you create alt text for your site.

2. Always Use Punctuation

You may be surprised to learn how much punctuation changes how a screen reader vocalizes your text. For example, the phrase “Let’s eat,” can be interpreted very differently depending on your punctuation:

  • “Let’s eat!” shows excitement in the activity or enthusiasm about the food. 
  • “Let’s eat?” shows that the speaker is asking a question or offering a suggestion to another person. 
  • “Let’s eat.” is a statement or firm suggestion. 

Just like you read all of these statements differently in your mind based on the punctuation, a screen reader uses punctuation cues to give the sentence more meaning. The inflection and tone will vary depending on punctuation and impact how a text-to-speech reader speaks. Use the proper punctuation for the context for the best text-to-speech natural voice.   

Since realistic text-to-speech is done through a computer generation of a human voice to narrate the text, you don’t want your text to sound dull. If every bit of your text is flat and isn’t given proper punctuation, then a text-to-speech online screen reader won’t be able to give your content the depth it deserves. Don’t make your readers listen to a monotone recitation of your website, spice it up with the correct punctuation!

3. Include a ‘Listen’ Feature

Some people only use text-to-voice online programs occasionally, which means they need to turn it off and on whenever they need to have something read aloud to them. Giving your users the option to simply click a button to turn on the read-aloud function can eliminate this issue completely. 

An excellent example of a website that uses this practice is the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. This site uses UserWay’s AI-Powered Accessibility Widget on every page. Visitors to this site can customize their experience to suit their accessibility needs, including using text-to-speech AI so users don’t need to own a dedicated text-to-speech program to use their website.

Screen readers are an excellent way for people to access web content without needing to use their sense of sight. While the technology isn’t perfect, it is extremely helpful and always improving. Optimizing your visitor experience for those who use a text-to-speech reader will be a massive help to them and an excellent way for you to keep your visitors coming back.

Need a Text to Speech Reader? UserWay Can Help

Text-to-speech website overlays can be incredibly helpful for website owners. This allows them to provide an accessibility solution for visitors who need it and seamlessly comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.

Try out UserWay’s Accessibility Solution for yourself and see why it is trusted by leading brands on all site creation platforms.   

FAQ

How does text-to-speech improve accessibility?

Text-to-Speech functions allow people who are blind, have dyslexia or have cognitive difficulties reading, to access written content on websites. By properly coding your website with alt text (link to alt text blog here) for images, icons, and other non-text content, you allow this function to work properly on your site. Not only does it improve the user experience for people using text-to-speech software but it also allows web search engines to index your content better.  

How can I find out how accessible my website is? 

You can use UserWay’s accessibility scanner to discover how accessible your website currently is. 

Simply enter your URL into the search bar, and UserWay’s comprehensive scanner will do the rest! It will read through your website to find any accessibility non-compliance areas that need to be reviewed. 

How can I manually test how my content is read when put through a text-to-speech converter?

By using UserWay’s Widget, you can test out exactly how your content will sound to visitors directly from your website. Ensuring that the built-in functionality of the widget is accessible to everyone eliminates any differences or variances in output that could occur when people use different programs. 

What is the difference between a screen reader and text-to-speech?

A screen reader is a computer program that allows visually impaired users to read the text on a screen using a speech function or an accessibility device. For example, Job Access With Speech, or JAWS, is a popular screen reader that provides a Braille output for users. 

Apple and Android devices also have free screen reading software, like NVDA for Android and VoiceOver for Apple that can both provide feedback on Braille devices. 

Text-to-speech, however, uses a computer system to convert the text or image alt-text into human speech without providing alternatives like Braille.

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