In screen reader testing, why aren’t my tags for emphasized text being announced?


I coded my bold and italicized text with the proper <strong> and <em> tags, but it doesn't sound any different in screen reader testing. What should I do?


When semantic elements are used to markup the structure of a document, correctly using the <strong> and <em> tags to convey emphasized text is a sufficient technique under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (related to Success Criterion 1.3.1: Info and Relationships). WCAG conformance is a solid foundation for accessibility, but conforming content can still have gaps and inconsistencies in real user experiences.

Currently, many screen readers and other assistive technologies do not clearly indicate the presence of <strong> or <em> tags by default. Some technologies include the option to enable this information, but not all users are aware of these settings or choose to use them.

Additionally, users who can perceive the emphasized text formatting may not understand its meaning.

For broader accessibility, it’s valuable to go beyond WCAG requirements.

Depending on your goals and the context of the emphasized text, consider using additional techniques:

  • Include text that conveys importance, such as “Warning” or “Remember.”
  • Include a graphic that grabs attention, such as an exclamation point or stop sign. Ensure the graphic has a text alternative that communicates its meaning and importance, such as “Alert” or “Stop.”
  • Include wording that clarifies or supports how emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence. For example:
    • “In a survey of 1 million websites, a shocking 96.8% of homepages had accessibility errors.” The number “96.8%” is italicized for emphasis, and the word “shocking” helps convey that the number is noteworthy.
    • “`That movie is so good,` he said sarcastically.” The word “so” is italicized for emphasis, and the word “sarcastically” clarifies how the emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence.

Other strategies may also work well to convey your message. One of the best ways to evaluate how well your content communicates is to test it with real users, including users with disabilities. Learn more about accessibility testing at Accessible Web.

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