What is it like to use a screen reader on an inaccessible website?

You enter the front-door of a building. Somewhere inside is some information you need, but you’ve no idea where it is.

It’s dark. Pitch black, in-fact. You cannot see your hand in front of your face.

The only way you can navigate this building is to use technology. You have a torch (or flashlight). The beam of light is narrow, about 1 metre in diameter.

You scan the room, inch by inch. You begin to build up a mental image of where stuff is, to try and orientate yourself in the room.

It looks like a lobby. There’s a large banner hanging from the ceiling that reads: ‘welcome’. There’s some folders on the floor to your left. 3 of the 4 walls are lined with doors and each one has a plaque on it, but you can’t make out what they say from here.

You decide to take a look at the folders on the floor, as they’re closest to you. It looks like somewhere the information you need might be.

You begin scanning them one by one with your torch. But it takes ages in the dark. There’s pages and pages of information, but they’re not in any kind of order. Sometimes there are folders inside of folders. It’s time consuming and frustrating.

You skim read through lots of content, but there’s nothing here. It’s all egotistical nonsense about the company and it’s employees. They describe themselves as ‘rock stars’. They have a pool table, free beers and beanbags. It seems like a hip place to work, but none of this is the information you needed.

You also find a list of ‘frequently asked questions’. But none of the questions are anything you need to know. It just seems like more spiel about the company.

Some folders contain polaroid photographs. You find around 15 to 20 in total. But somebody has cut the actual photos out leaving just the white paper. Some have writing on them, and some don’t. The writing doesn’t describe anything in the photos. It seems weird and abstract. For example, one reads ‘photo-1.jpg’ and another ‘photo-1-copy.jpg’.

With no idea where to go, you approach the doors. Maybe those plaques can tell you where they point to so you can find the information you need.

The first plaque reads ‘push here’, but nothing else. The second one is the same. And the third. Great. You count 10 doors in total, and they all just read ‘push here’.

With no idea where any of the doors lead, you take a gamble and push one. You walk through into another room.

Again, darkness. You scan the room with the small beam of light. There is a window, and below it, a single table with a phone. You can’t see anything else.

You focus on the table. Theres a notepad. The top of the page says ‘contact us’, followed by a phone number that reads ‘Lorem Ipsum’.

You pick up the phone. Perhaps somebody can help you and tell you the information you need. You type in the number from the notepad and hit the green button. Silence. You try the number again but still nothing happens.

Confused, you begin to scan the notepad again looking for clues. This time you notice it a line of text that reads ‘enter a valid phone number.’ Was that there before? Maybe you just missed it? Again you enter the number off the notepad. But still nothing.

There isn’t anything in the room to suggest what a valid phone number is, so you decide to give up and go back the way you came.

You head back to the door, but there appears to be no way to go back. The door has no handle and you can’t open it. Again you scan the room looking for a way out.

After several minutes, you decide the window is the only way out. It’s a bit drastic, but you know you can always escape from a building this way.

You climb through it and find yourself back outside the front door of the building.

Here, outside, you can see again. The street signs are well lit and you can navigate the paths with ease.

You could go back in the front door and start again. But, you decide that is too much of a chore and you leave to find the information you need elsewhere.

The end.