Sam Graves

Do I Need to Make My Website Material Available in Braille?

Individuals who are unable to see or have difficulty with their vision often use braille (a system of raised dots that represent words) to access printed material. Though braille is essential for print accessibility, it is not required for website content. 

Instead, individuals who are blind or visually impaired rely on screen readers and magnifiers to navigate the internet.

Make sure your website is coded correctly

Websites and mobile apps must be coded correctly to ensure equitable digital experiences. Screen reading technology cannot interpret incorrect code, making it difficult or even impossible for blind or visually impaired users to navigate online successfully. 

For example, use semantic HTML whenever possible. Semantic HTML includes using <p> tags at the start and end of each paragraph and <img> tags (with alt text if appropriate) to denote images. ARIA can also be used with non-semantic HTML to improve accessibility.

Our expert digital accessibility auditing team can help ensure your website complies with industry standards.

Refreshable braille displays

Some screen reader users also use refreshable braille displays (RBDs). RBDs are used with screen readers in these situations. RBDs convert the text being read by screen readers into braille. 

Even though these users use braille to interact with digital content, the material still does not need to be made available in braille since the written text is read by a screen reader before being translated into braille. As with just screen readers, websites only need to be coded correctly for RBD/screen reader users.

Since people who are deafblind generally cannot hear screen readers, they often rely on RBDs to interact with digital content.

Refreshable braille displays vs screen readers

RBDs have several advantages over screen readers. It is particularly helpful for blind and visually impaired users to understand visual content on websites. It is also useful when users are unsure what their screen readers are announcing. 

For instance, RBDs are more effective than screen readers when dealing with technical math and science equations. Screen readers often do not read correctly the symbols used in such equations, and they are generally easier to understand through braille, as individuals can feel the symbols, etc.

RBDs may also be preferred by blind customer service representatives who do not want to be distracted by listening to a customer and screen reader.

Braille keyboards

RBDs will often come with integrated braille keyboards. Braille keyboards and typewriters allow braille users to type braille, just as sighted people and other non-braille users type regular text.

Braille keyboards and typewriters include the Perkins Brailler, SMART Brailler, Orbit Writer, and Hable One. 

These help create equitable experiences by enabling braille users to read and write documents they understand, just as other people understand documents written in regular text.

Screen reader testing

Of course, the best way to ensure your website or mobile app is accessible to all is to have users with disabilities, including screen reader users (who ideally are also braille users), test them (live-user testing). No one is better at identifying potential accessibility barriers than users with lived experience with accessibility issues.

Allyant has several native screen reader users (and other web accessibility experts) on staff who are great resources for building your website or mobile app. Some of our team members are also fluent in braille.

It is important to ensure that digital content is coded correctly to provide equal opportunities for visually impaired and blind users. This ensures that braille users can utilize devices like RBDs to convert on-screen text into braille.