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Screen Readers and Capital Letter Abbreviations

One type of abbreviation that screenreaders struggle with is initialisms such as USA or CEO. My work requires that all websites be accessible to people who speak one of ten languages common in my city and to people with disabilities who use screenreaders and other assistive technology devices. One difficulty that can occur is how to handle abbreviations. It is often inconvenient to write out everything, but web developers do not want people to hear USA as the word “usa.” This would cause the reader to have to momentarily stop and think about the words (or even to adjust the screen reader’s settings) instead of focusing solely on the content or message of the passage. Using dots or spaces may help … sometimes, but that can interfere with other assistive technologies. I have neither read of nor heard about a perfect solution; I just wanted to point out one issue that has been discussed recently in the assistive technology and website design fields.

By Jeanne Stork

I am a special education teacher who supervised a technology lab for twenty five years. The lab had specialized software, adapted mice, additional adapted hardware, and picture symbol communication aids for students whose significant disabilities made it difficult for them to use the general computer lab. I taught students who could not climb the stairs to my lab in their classrooms. I also assisted teachers and other personnel in my school with their technology needs as time permitted. Before moving to the technology lab, I was a classroom teacher with a classroom computer that students and staff could use. Now, I am a semi-retired substitute teacher.

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