For all of the website designers out there, whether personal or commercial, here is a short guide on making your website accessible to people who use screen readers such as JAWS, or Job Access With Speech, and Window Eyes, as well as several other screen reading programs. Most of these users are totally blind or have very little usable vision, so a few modifications are necessary to make your site accessible, but nothing that should hinder the content.
First, always remember to label your graphics. This is easily done with the HTML alt tag by putting alt, equals sign, and a description of the graphic in quotes. The World Wide Web Consortium recommends this procedure as well, to compensate for users who may still be using a>web browser that does not support images.
Also if using images which contain text inside them, if the text is short enough, you may want to include it in the alt tag. If not, it may be beneficial to link to a text version of the contents in the image so that your blind visitors can read that, especially if it is an important part of your site.
Standard forms are useful as well, as there are certain kinds of forms which many screen readers do not read, though this is being resolved as well. Make sure to always properly label your forms in the code for each form field. This will ensure that the screen reader tells the user what is supposed to be entered in the form.
Also, if you are using any form of captcha validation, ensure that it is the kind with letters and numbers, rather than the click on the picture type or an image map. Since blind users cannot see these types of captcha, they will make a site inaccessible very quickly. After ensuring that you are using alpha numeric captcha validation, be sure to place an audio captcha link on your page so that users who cannot see the image can listen to the audio and transcribe what they hear.
If your site utilizes Java, you will want to acquire the Java Access Bridge, which will help make those aspects of your site accessible. You can learn more about using the Java Access Bridge by visiting the website or searching for it on Google. There is plenty of documentation floating around.
If you have flash content, try to make any dialogues as verbose as possible so that blind users can have an equal opportunity to grasp what is taking place. Of course this is at your discretion, but a silent video is useless to a blind person. Please make sure to label the buttons in your flash content, such as Play, Pause, Stop, Next, etc. Far too many websites fail to label their flash content, causing screen readers to just say numbers on the buttons, which tells blind users nothing.
These are only a few ways you can make your website accessible to screen readers, but hopefully they will be beneficial in improving your site and making it accessible to all.