The SimulAT Tab

The SimulAT feature of FireEyes provides a text-based simulation of how a screen reader would read a webpage. In fact, the title "SimulAT" is a play on words, combining the word "Simulate" with the acronym "AT," which stands for Assistive Technology. Screen readers are a type of assistive technology for people with disabilities. Rather than read the page aloud as a real screen reader would, SimulAT creates a text transcript of what a screen reader would say. Note that this is an approximation based primarily on the behavior of the JAWS screen reader by Freedom Scientific. There are subtle differences between brands of screen readers such as JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, and WindowEyes. SimulAT does not represent all of the subtle differences between brands, but it does give a general idea of the kinds of things screen readers convey to users.

Note: A complete accessibility evaluation requires testing with real screen readers, especially in the case of dynamic content, ARIA, and JavaScript.

SimulAT allows you to analyze the entire webpage (web document) or select part of the page content or page structure (such as headings, tables, frames, links, etc.) to analyze. Running a SimulAT analysis does not add issues to the issues list, but it serves as a tool to help you inspect the webpage and uncover issues. If you determine that an error exists in a page, you can add the issue manually to the issue list.

The first option under the SimluAT tab is Display. This includes a drop-down menu to select portions or elements of the page to analyze. Choices include:

  • The Entire document
  • All Page structure elements
  • Specific types of page structure elements such as Headings, Tables, or Frames and iframes
  • All Page content elements
  • Specific page content elements such as Links, Images, or Area tags

SimulAT page element options

Entire Document

The Entire Document option displays a transcript for the entire page, which is an approximation of what the screen reader would say if you let it read everything completely uninterrupted. This is a useful way to get an overall big picture of what a screen reader reads. Most screen reader users will not listen to the entire page though, just as most sighted users will not read an entire web page visually. Screen reader users are likely to use various keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the page, such as the tab key to go from link to link, or they will use keyboard shortcuts to navigate from heading to heading, or to go directly to tables, or to images, or to form elements, or to other features of the page. To simulate this kind of interaction, choose from among the options in the drop-down list.

To reinterpret the whole page as a screen reader would read it, select the Entire Document option and the Run button.

Run SimulAT on the entire page


Screen readers users can get a sense of the structure of a web page by reviewing a list of headings on the page. To access the headings list for a page, screen reader users can use the H key in JAWS or NVDA, or they can access the heading list from the rotor in VoiceOver (Control + Option + U to activate the rotor, then left or right arrows to get to the heading list, and up or down arrows to select from among those headings).

To review a list of headings and their heading levels to check for good heading structure, select Headings from the Display drop down menu and select the Run button. Click on the words "Heading level X" or the heading text to highlight the heading in the webpage view.

Run SimulAT on headings


Tables are widely used in webpages to present data, and screen reader users can use the T key to navigate from table to table in JAWS or NVDA. If tables are not marked up properly in the code, they can be a real challenge to people who cannot perceive visually the relationships between the cells and their contents. To verify that a table has been properly marked up with appropriate caption, summary and header cell information, select Tables from the Display drop down menu and select the Run button. Click on the text of an individual cell to highlight the cell in the webpage view and inspect its markup. If the header + id method of associating header cells and data cells is used, those associations will also be highlighted in the webpage view.

Run SimulAT on tables and inspect table structure


To quickly locate a link on a page, screen reader users can call up a list of all links on the page and sort by order or alphabetically, or they can tab from link to link. Therefore, it is important that link text be descriptive - not just "click here" or "learn more". A SimulAT analysis of the links on a page provides a quick way to view link text.

To view link text, select Links from the Display drop down menu and select the Run button. Click on the word "Link" or its link text to highlight the link in the webpage view.

Run SimulAT on links


An automated FireEyes analysis can easily identify images that do not have alt text associated with them. An automated FireEyes analysis cannot, however, judge whether alt text is, indeed, appropriate for the image (such as two buttons that say 'yes' and 'no' but the alt text for both says 'yes').

Keeping in mind that screen readers will generally announce an image's file name if the alt text is missing altogether, SimulAT will display a list of images and their alt text (or file name if the alt text is missing) so you can quickly identify inappropriate and missing alt text.

Screen reader users can use the G key to navigate from image to image in JAWS or NVDA. To view a list of images and the alt text that a screen reader would announce, select Images from the Display drop down menu and select the Run button. Click on the word "Graphic" or its alt text to highlight the image in the webpage view.

Run SimulAT images

Working with the Results

After SimulAT generates a report for the selected tag type, you are able to click on a specific element and:

  • View the individual element. Click on an element to highlight it in the webpage view.
  • Inspect the individual element. Click on an element and select the Inspect button to view the element's code in the Firebug HTML tab.
  • Add Issues manually related to that element. Click on an element and select the Add Issue button to manually add issues related to that element. The manual issue form will be prepopulated with information about the element selected in the SimulAT tab.

Working with SimulT results