Whenever I say that I make web & mobile Apps accessible for the disability groups, the first question some of the educated developers who understand accessibility ask me is, what browsers you test your APP’s on & which screen readers do you use? This is a very interesting question because, there are a wide variety of browsers & screen readers that are available in the market. Testing with every screen reader on every browser is not feasible if not impossible.
- Internet Explorer (Windows OS)
- Firefox (Windows OS and Android)
- Chrome (Windows OS and Android)
- Safari (OSx and IOS)
Popular Screen Readers
- JAWS (Job Access with Speech)
- NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)
- Voiceover (OSx and IOS)
- Talkback (Android)
According to Wikipedia, chrome holds the majority share for the browser market followed by Safari. These stats are true for both desktop & mobile. But according to WebAIM screen reader survey7 conducted in 2017, Firefox stands first followed by internet Explorer & in 3rd place is Chrome. Definitely assistive technology users prefer Firefox over Chrome for their day to day activities. When it comes to IOS & OSx Safari is the most popular browser & on Android Chrome & Firefox both hold a good position.
|Browser||# of Respondents||% of Respondents|
|Internet Explorer 11||408||23.3%|
|Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8||71||4.1%|
|Internet Explorer 9 or 10||70||4.0%|
According to WebAIM Screen reader survey we can clearly see from the below table that JAWS works great on Internet Explorer followed by NVDA with Firefox. I personally prefer JAWS with Internet Explorer & JAWS with Chrome as the new version of Firefox doesn’t work with JAWS yet. During my day to day accessibility testing I use NVDA with Firefox & sometimes I also use NVDA with Chrome to see if any ARIA or HTML5 attribute is not being supported by the browser or the screen reader.
|Screen Reader & Browser||# of Respondents||% of Respondents|
|JAWS with Internet Explorer||424||24.7%|
|NVDA with Firefox||405||23.6%|
|JAWS with Firefox||260||15.1%|
|VoiceOver with Safari||172||10.0%|
|JAWS with Chrome||112||6.5%|
|NVDA with Chrome||102||5.9%|
|NVDA with IE||40||2.3%|
|VoiceOver with Chrome||24||1.4%|
At my work place we follow testing on Firefox with NVDA screen reader & if we encounter any bugs related to either screen reader or the browser, we immediately raise the bugs with the vendor. Even according to NVAccess, creators of NVDA the best browser that NVDA supports is Firefox.
Besides, there are other factors too that attribute to the AT testing conundrum. Firstly, the support for HTML attributes and ARIA attributes by the browser vendors vary a lot. The same is true when we talk of the screen readers too. Not every attribute is supported by all the screen readers.
Secondly, testing with all browsers VS screen readers is a costly affair as it consumes a lot of resources, time and money too.
So let’s answer the question, which screen reader should I use for accessibility testing? In my opinion & my experience, this is the matrix that I have come up with and now for your view:
- Voiceover with Safari on IOS & OSx
- Talkback with Chrome on Android
- NVDA with Firefox on Windows
If you have written a clean code that is semantic & follows all W3C Standards then testing on these platforms will suffice. Most of the HTML5 & WAI-ARIA attributes are supported on all these platforms. If something doesn’t work, then cross testing on a different browser/platform can determine if it is a browser or screen reader bug.
Hope this is helpful! Any views & opinions can be shared in comments section.