Hearing Words Is Only One Part of Screen Readability According to Adam Spencer

Adam Spencer
4 min readMar 12, 2021


The internet is full of visually stimulating content. Everything ranging from photographs to color-complimented logos can subliminally attract or repel a user. While much of marketing focuses on the visual imagery shown throughout the web, Adam Spencer concentrates on inclusivity.

Visualizing the Internet

Adam Spencer is the Founder of AbleDocs, an international company that is dedicated to document accessibility so that individuals with print disabilities can read and interact with all content within a document independently and comprehensively.

What is considered readable now may be vastly different than five or ten years ago. On the web, readability is not necessarily about the written words themselves, but also includes the format and presentation. In the early 2000s, the visual presentation of a website was often rudimentary. Bright colors and bold fonts were one way to express personality.

Since various web platforms have emerged, so has web design. Simple, clean sites are often more likely to be considered professional. With the advent of online marketing, banner advertisements have slowly morphed into organic search results for influencer marketing.

An online presence can portray a business or individual in one click. Font, color, the type of photographs used all make an instant impression. The readability of a site is now more important than the outside of a brick-and-mortar store.

When deciding how to optimize an online presence, it should be accessible to anyone interested. This is why it is important to consider all users when creating an accessible site that individuals with print disabilities can read. Any documents within that domain must also be accessible.

What Is Screen Reader Accessibility?

Man using a screen reader.
Adam Spencer from Oakville, Ontario, Discusses Screen Reader Accessibility

According to the Government of Canada’s content style guide, certain rules can be used to improve web content’s accessibility. Based on writing techniques that create clear content, information can be organized to improve the readability for all consumers.

Screen readers are text-to-speech applications that convert digital text into audio. While web content can be accessible for individuals with low vision, for people with print disabilities, screen readers can help users who have partial or no sight read a website or document. This type of readability frequently refers to the audio or tactile consumption of words rather than the visualization of them.

By relying on audio, a webpage can be heard rather than visually reading it. This technology can create independence for many people with various visual or cognitive impairments. Any website can be made accessible which will allow all users to red and interact with organizations that can include government, financial institutions, retail businesses, health sites, blogs, and more.

Screen reading software reads the text on a screen so that people can interact with a regular keyboard rather than a mouse. There are different types of screen readers available, and some can also convert text into braille. This does require a refreshable braille display device but can be extremely useful for individuals who prefer to consume their content via tactile devices.

Adam Spencer has spent more than 10 years becoming fluent in how users with a variety of print disabilities can interact with digital content. A low screen readability score can cause an individual with a print disability to misunderstand directions or become unable to read their bank statement, a health result or email address.

How to Design For Screen Reader Accessibility

In addition to using professional services, there are a few ways to make an online document more readable.

Three important aspects to readability design include:

Site Structure

The structure of a document or website matters. Out of date website development practices and including things like links with vague names or hidden contact information can be problematic for individuals with print disabilities. Clean and clear structure, descriptive link names and clear headings dramatically improve the readability of a site. Following the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also works as a great roadmap towards website accessibility for all, and the ISO Standard for PDF accessibility, known as PDF/UA is the best way to ensure documents are accessible.

Imagery Text

When using images on a webpage or online document, use ALT-Text. ALT-Text will describe the image and give necessary context. Graphics that include text can be difficult to read for many people with low vision. Text-free images are preferred to aid in making a document accessible. Adding ALT-Text to charts and infographics is also beneficial. Breaking the graphic into several images can make for a more straightforward interpretation, especially if it looks cluttered.

A white, large, capital letter “A” next to a smaller, black, capital letter “A”.
Adam Spencer from Oakville, Ontario, Explains Text Size and Colour

Text Size

Text size is crucial for many people with low vision. By using relative and responsive font sizes, providing the option to make all text larger or change the color, and having contrast on a page can drastically reduce eye strain and headaches.

How Does Readability Look?

Readability typically looks easy to read. That can be different for everyone, but in general, readability is a clean and clear way to understand what’s being conveyed. Each webpage and document has a design, and the colors and fonts used are personal.

As for screen reader compatibility, by hearing what is written, the readability takes a different form. If the document can effectively communicate to all users, then it is an accessible document.



Adam Spencer

Adam Spencer from Oakville, Ontario, is the CEO and Founder of Able Docs. AbleDocs specializes in digital accessibility.