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How Screen Magnification Software Makes Web Accessibility Possible

Aug 21, 2018

When it comes to screen magnification software and WCAG 2.1 compliance developers should:

  • Eliminate content that is accessible via hovering over an element. Instead make the element clickable. The content should disappear with a second click.
  • Be sure error messages are displayed close to the action that has triggered them.

When developing websites for people with visual disabilities, it's important to remember that visual disabilities lie on a spectrum: In total, about 7.3 million people in the United States have some form of low vision or blindness.

For users with visual disabilities who can still read text in large print, screen magnification software is a vitally important assistive technology. If organizations want their websites to be truly accessible, sites must be compatible with that software.

What Is Screen Magnification Software?

Screen magnifiers are software applications that increase the size of the text and graphics displayed on the screen of a computer or mobile device. They act as virtual magnifying glasses, enlarging the area of the screen that the user chooses to focus on.

Typical screen magnification software can enlarge text and images to 20 times their original size or even greater. By way of the cursor, users can control the magnification themselves. They can also have the magnification proceed automatically across the screen as they read the text.

Computers using the Windows and Mac operating systems have built-in screen magnifiers, as do iPhones and Android devices. However, some people with visual disabilities opt for third-party screen magnification software with special features that help them be more productive.

Screen Magnification Software and the WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a highly popular set of recommendations for making your website accessible to people with disabilities. Countless businesses, organizations, and government agencies have used the WCAG to make their websites and mobile apps more accessible.

As an important piece of the assistive technology puzzle, screen magnification software is relevant to one of the WCAG recommendations:

  • 1.4.4: Users should be able to resize the text of a web page up to double its original size without using assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers. Resizing the text should not cause the user to lose content or functionality. For example, large text should still be able to fit inside the region containing it, and not overlap with other content.

What Web Developers Should Know About Screen Magnification Software

Website content that is accessible via hovering over an element sometimes poses a challenge for screen magnifiers. First, the content may not be completely visible on the magnified screen. Second, when the user tries to move the cursor to view the full content, the element that the user was hovering over loses focus, so the content disappears.

To resolve this, make the element clickable, so that the content can be accessed either by hovering or by clicking. A second click on the element should dismiss the content.

In addition, error messages should be displayed close to the action that has triggered them. For example, a user might fill out a form using a screen magnifier and then click the “Submit” button at the bottom. However, the user may not be aware that an error has occurred if the error message is displayed only at the top of the form.

Final Thoughts

As a large portion of the U.S. population ages, more and more people are expected to use screen magnifiers and other assistive technologies to help navigate the internet. Accommodating screen magnification software on your website is therefore a major part of improving accessibility.

To learn more about concrete steps you can take in terms of web accessibility, follow the Bureau of Internet Accessibility blog for the latest accessibility news and updates. Our team of experts is always available for a free consultation if you need advice on implementing web accessibility within your organization.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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