People who are blind or visually impaired rely on screen readers to tell them what is on the screen. This works well for regular text, but how they render other types of content is sometimes harder to predict. This is why Deque did research on how screen readers pronounce special characters, abbreviations, dates, and telephone numbers: Why Don’t Screen Readers Always Read What’s on the Screen? Part 1: Punctuation and Typographic Symbols.
Since the initial publication in 2014, there have been numerous updates to operating systems, browsers, and screen readers. To provide up-to-date information, it was time to rerun the test using the latest versions of screen readers, and the 3 most used screen readers and browsers combinations according to the last Webaim Survey on screen reader usage.
The goal was to determine which characters are safe or unsafe to use in 2023, and if any regression has occurred in how screen readers pronounce special characters since 2014.
The post describes the results of testing the way that screen readers read typographical symbols, comparing NVDA, JAWS, and VoiceOver and includes lists of the following:
- JAWS bugs
- safe characters that all screen readers read aloud
- safe, but sometimes unspoken characters, which are often accompanied by a pause or voice inflection
- unread characters, meaning that at least one screen reader will not read the character out loud
Also included is a table comparing the treatment of these symbols by three different screen readers.