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The State of Accessibility in PHP Tools

Usually when I tell people that I’m blind, many people ask me how I can use the computer. “Is someone reading you my messages?” I remember someone asking. Many people imagine that I have this super-nifty speech recognition software that I can just talk to, and it would do anything, even write code. Imagine dictating code to a speech recognition system!

I gave an answer on Quora, to someone who had asked How does a visually impaired computer programmer do programming? I recommend you go through that answer to have a better context on what I’ll be talking about in this post. As is my habit, though, I’ll still point out the important bits here, so if you don’t feel like clicking on that link, don’t worry!

Before I get to the comparison, allow me to give you a few facts so that we are all on the same page. Feel free to skip forward if you already know these points, but I’ve found that a lot of people don’t, and I’m going to start with those.

How do the blind use computers?

They use screen readers. As the name implies, these applications read the screen through synthesized speech, and they also have an optional Braille output through a Braille display. Both of these options (speech and Braille) have to go through the screen reader, though, so if the screen reader can’t see the content, it can’t display it through either of these outputs.

How do you type? How do you use the mouse?

The answer to both these questions is, “through the keyboard”. Our screen readers have very specialized keystrokes that allow us to move the mouse, click, hover on an item, and jump around in web documents (by links, h1-6 headings, lists and list items, form fields and many more).

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