Accessible Web Development: Opportunities to Improve the Education and Practice of web Development with a Screen Reader

Claire Kearney-Volpe, Amy Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are a growing number of jobs related to web development, yet there is little formal literature about the accessibility of web development with a screen reader. This article describes research to explore (1) web development accessibility issues and their impact on blind learners and programmers; (2) tools and strategies used to address issues; and (3) opportunities for creating inclusive web development curriculum and supportive tools. We conducted a Comprehensive Literature Review (CLR) to formulate accessibility issue categories, then interviewed 12 blind programmers to validate and expand on both issues in education and practice. The CLR yielded five issue categories: (1) visual information without an accessible equivalent, (2) orienting, (3) navigating, (4) lack of support, and (5) knowledge and use of supportive technologies. Our interview findings validated the use of CLR-derived categories and revealed nuances specific to learning and practicing web development. Blind web developers grapple with the inaccessibility of demonstrations and explanations of web design concepts, wireframing software, independent verification of computed Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and navigating browser-based developer tool interfaces. Tools and strategies include seeking out alternative education materials to learn independently, use of CSS frameworks, collaboration with sighted colleagues, and avoidance of design and front-end development. This work contributes to our understanding of accessibility issues specific to web development and the strategies that blind web developers employ in both educational and applied contexts. We identify areas in which greater awareness and application of accessibility best practices are required in Web education, a need to disseminate existing screen reader strategies and accessible tools, and to develop new tools that support Web design and validation of CSS. Finally, this research signals future directions for the development of accessible web curriculum and supportive tools, including solutions that leverage artificial intelligence, tactile graphics, and supportive-online communities of practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalACM Transactions on Accessible Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Accessibility
  • Accessible design tools
  • Accessible web design
  • Accessible web development
  • Human-centered computing
  • Screen reader
  • Visually impaired/blind programmers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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