A simple HTML webpage

How do screenreaders work?

Screenreader applications describe the content, name and state of elements on a web page, allowing someone to use the page without seeing it.

People navigate what they hear with the keyboard or by swiping on a touch device.

There are 3 common ways screenreaders interact with the page.

Browse mode

Screenreaders can simply read the entire page item by item by:

  • Pressing the arrow keys
  • Letting the screen reader itself read all content

Keyboard shortcuts

Screenreaders can use keyboard shortcuts to perform tasks like:

  • Skip from heading to heading.
  • Locate forms
  • Navigate tables

List views

Screenreaders can gather some types of content into a single menu to quickly locate:

  • Headings
  • Landmarks (like header, navigation, main content, form and footer)

Interactive content

Properly formed features are fully accessible and describe their current state. In this case, expanded or collapsed.

More info This semantic element covers all success criteria with no additional scripting.


Forms consist of interactive controls and inputs that express their name, role and state.

Different components use specific keyboard interactions to change state.

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Example: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie