Visual impairment 101

While often discussed as a single group, there are many differences that exist for people with visual challenges. A users level of vision, as well as their personal preferences, will contribute to the type of assistive technology they use – a screen reader, screen magnification software, or both.

Illustration: Profile shot of user with headphones

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“It’s best to use the label for a person that they use for themselves. If you’re not sure, ask.”

Vision is a continuum

While there are many users who are completely blind, a large number of users do have some level of vision.  For this reason, many magnification programs contain some level of screen reading functionality (e.g. the ability to read long passages of text to prevent eye strain), and many screen readers contain some level of visual functionality (e.g. the ability to highlight the current word being read).  Depending on the task, the situation, and other factors, many users will use a combination of magnification and screen reading software, and switch between them frequently.  

Web accessibility considerations

Screen reader users

Screen magnification users

Focus management Focus management
Semantic layout Semantic layout
ARIA landmarks Colour contrast
Keyboard shortcuts Responsive layouts