Using a computer when you’re visually impaired isn’t particularly easy. This is because the primary method of receiving information from your computer is visually through the screen. There are a few common tools and tricks that aim to help users with visual impairments.
A “High Contrast” mode is a colour scheme variation designed for users that struggle to discern the differences between colours. It’s designed to feature more distinct edges to make it easier to be able to reliably discern a user interface on the screen. It often ends up being black and white for the maximum contrast, but this isn’t strictly necessary. Another tool is called “scaling” this is essentially a way to increase the zoom level. Scaling increases the size of the user interface as well as the size of contents of the application, making it easier to see, read, and click on everything. A screen reader is a tool that automatically reads out the text on the screen using a text-to-speech program.
Zoom doesn’t have built-in support for a high contrast mode, or for scaling, although it will be affected by operating-system-wide settings that enable these accessibility features. Zoom again doesn’t have a screen reader built-in, but it does include functionality called “Screen Reader Alerts” that is designed to integrate with screen readers to provide notifications that will be read out. For example, the “IM Chat Received” screen reader alert will read out the word “Alert” then read the notification stating the sender’s name, and the number of unread messages from them.
The screen reader alert functionality is intended to provide a more functional and useful audible notification system for those users whose visual impairments make it difficult to read the notification popups.
How to configure screen reader alerts
If you want to configure which screen reader alerts are enabled, you can do so in Zoom’s settings. To access the settings, click on your user icon in the top-right corner, then click on “Settings”.
Once in the settings, switch to the “Accessibility” tab. At the bottom of the page, you can find the “Screen Reader Alerts” box. Each entry describes the scenario in which the alert will be activated and provides a checkbox to toggle the alert on or off. By default, all screen reader alerts are enabled, if you’re finding that you’re getting too many notifications of one type and it’s getting annoying, untick the relevant checkbox to disable the notification.
Tip: If your screen reader isn’t correctly reading out the alerts, restart Zoom, and ensure that your screen reader is running before Zoom launches.
I hope this guide has helped you learn how to configure screen reader alerts in Zoom. Feel free to leave a comment.