SF State - Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI)

Image: Photos of the SF State campus and students using a headset, a braille keyboard and a blind cane

Assistive Technology

JAWS (Job Access With Speech)

JAWS is a popular screenreading software program. Most of SF State’s students with visual impairments prefer this screen reader to others. A screen reader reads out loud the text of websites and documents. However, a screen reader can only read text of websites or documents if they are really text and not simply images of text. For example many PDFs are just scanned images and therefore not readable by JAWS.

The most common problem areas on websites for a JAWS user are:

  1. Images without alternate text or alt text.
  2. Reading order of data tables and relationships between data.
  3. Unlabeled form elements.
  4. PDF documents scanned as images.
  5. Links without descriptive and unique text. For example, click here.
  6. Missing structural elements such as headings.
  7. Conveyed information through color. For example, press the red button.


  1. Provide descriptive alt text for images.
  2. Make sure that the table reading order is logical and goes from left to right and row by row.
  3. Label all form elements.
  4. Do not scan PDF documents as images. More rules apply to make a PDF fully accessible.
    More information on PDFs and Accessibility
  5. Assign links a descriptive and unique text.
  6. Use structural elements such as headings and list elements.
  7. Convey information not solely through color. For example, if you want to draw attention to a note, you can put the note in red, but you need also to write before the note - Important note.

You can download a free demo version of JAWS which runs for 30 minutes on your computer. After that time expires, you will need to restart your computer to use JAWS again for another 30 minutes.
Product page for Jaws


Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a popular voice recognition software program. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is helpful for a variety of people with disabilities who have difficulties operating a mouse or keyboard. For instance, this program could be effective for people who have carpal tunnel syndrome or multiple sclerosis.

Problem areas:

  1. Non-text links. For example, images as links.
  2. Image buttons.
  3. Links without unique text.
  4. Text used in a link is not pronounceable, for example some acronyms.
  5. Spaces between letters for emphasis, for example: C L I C K  H E R E .
  6. Content that can be seen only when the mouse is placed over a specific region.
  7. Embedded applets or ActiveX controls.


  1. For non-text links, provide alt text. The user can then activate the element by saying the text. Ensure that the user knows what to say to activate the link element.
  2. If you use image buttons with text, use an alt text or title and use the same text in the alt text as you have on the button, so that the user knows what text to say to activate the button.
  3. Assign links a unique text. Be careful if you use links on your page which have the same text as some browser elements. For example, if you have an extra print link on your page, named print Dragon NaturallySpeaking will more likely activate the print link in your browser. Give your print link a unique text such as, Print your personal information.
  4. Use pronounceable text in a link and avoid abbreviations and acronyms.
  5. Avoid spaces between letters for emphasis.
  6. Use input device independent controls for functionality essential to navigation and information.
  7. Active content can be explicitly speech-enabled by its author through the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software development kit.
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