Screen Reader and Magnification Accessibility Guide

Prepared by Erica Nerbonne, graduate writing consultant at the Howe Writing Center

This guide provides an overview of how to engage with our Live Online (hereafter abbreviated "LOL") platform using a screen reader. Experiences with the following screen readers are reflected: VoiceOver, WebAnywhere, and ChromeVis. Other screen readers may function differently within our LOL platform. Please email Dr. Lizzie Hutton (, director of the Howe Writing Center, to let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We want to do all we can to make this platform accessible for all.

Navigating the LOL Space:

The LOL space contains a chatbox, a “whiteboard” space where a writer can import/export text. There are also tools on the upper left and right-hand corners that allow writers and consultants to interact with the text and each other in various ways. Below is the order of the various tools, some of which the screen reader does not indicate.

Left-Hand Buttons

  1. Bold
  2. Italics
  3. Underline
  4. Strike Through
  5. Numbering
  6. Bullets
  7. Decrease Indent
  8. Increase Indent
  9. Undo
  10. Redo
  11. Clear Authorship Colors

Right-Hand Buttons

  1. Draw (not usable with a screen reader)
  2. Print
  3. Import/Export
  4. Time Slider (not indicated by a screen reader)
  5. Help
  6. Star (not indicated by a screen reader)

Functions of Various Tools

Left Button 11: Clear Authorship Colors allows you to get rid of the highlights of text. When one edits text in the whiteboard space, authorship of who made the edits is indicated by color. This means that the text a consultant inputs is highlighted in one color and the text input by a writer is highlighted in another color. This tool gets rid of those highlights. It is useful when a writer wants to copy text from the whiteboard but does not want the colors copied. It is also helpful when using a screen reader because the screen reader will detail the highlights, which distracts from the text.

Right Button 1: Draw allows for drawing/highlighting text in the whiteboard space. The screen reader indicates this button, but you cannot click on it.

Right Button 3: Import/Export allows the writer to import or export a document into the whiteboard space in a manner that keeps original formatting. This works well with a screen reader. It will read the document without extraneous detail regarding formatting.

Right Button 4: Time Slider allows users to return to a point in time and see the previous changes made in the text. Time Slider exits the synchronous whiteboard session; click the button to return to the synchronous session.

Right Button 6: Star allows points in time to be saved to the timeline so that they can be referred back to later using the Time Slider button.

Troubleshooting Tools

There are buttons in the LOL platform that do not work well with a screen reader. While a screen reader does not indicate the Time Slider and Star button, a successful session can occur without them.

The Draw button does not function with a screen reader—which means if a someone underlines or draws something using this button, you will not know it if you are using a screen reader. Instead, we recommend that users of screen readers utilize other rich-text markups, such as bold or italics, to draw attention to specific aspects of the text.

If someone highlights text by dragging their cursor across the text, screen readers will not indicate this highlighting. Again, we recommend instead using rich-text markups such as bold or italics.

Interacting with LOL using a screen reader

The screen reader works well with both the chat and whiteboard spaces. Many screen readers will read the chat first. Since screen readers prioritize reading text in the chat and the chat does not add any additional formatting to the text itself (such as the highlights added in the whiteboard space), it can be easier to make recommendations or comments in the chat.

Screen readers will also read the text on the whiteboard but will not read the line numbers (which appear to the left-hand side of the text, for reference). Typically, screen readers will work best if text is imported into the whiteboard rather than copied/pasted, because in a copied document the screen reader may read any graphics and formatting in a distracting amount of detail.

Importing a file: To get rid of the highlight, import the text using the import/export feature (third button on the top right). Importing text helps a screen reader read the text more uniformly.

Exporting a file: At the end of a session, this button can be used to export the file, eliminating any additional highlighting. If text is copied from the whiteboard, instead of exported, the highlight added by WCOnline will remain for Mac users but not for PC users. Use alternate paste commands to eliminate any unwanted highlighting or formatting from the whiteboard:

  • Mac Command for plaintext: Option+Shift+Command+V
  • PC Command for plaintext: Control+Shift+V

Moreover, when text is copied and pasted, the whole text is highlighted. A screen reader will detail every line as highlighted, which is distracting. While highlighting can be cleared using the “Clear Authorship Colors,” it is challenging to navigate to this button with a screen reader because there are so many buttons before it. We recommend using the import/export button instead and not have to deal with extra highlighting. If a consultant types into the white board, however, this highlighting is only indicated by the screen reader when rereading the text, not while typing.

In sum, the LOL platform has various tools that can help a writer during a session. As we detail above, there are various tips that can make navigating the LOL with a screen reader easier. We hope you’ve found this guide helpful! Again, please contact Howe Writing Center director Dr. Lizzie Hutton ( with any questions or concerns. We look forward to working with you soon!