Can you believe it’s the end of November already? The year is flying by!
NVDA 2019.3 – Python 3
First of all, the question everyone is wondering, where is the next version of NVDA? We’ve always said, we’d rather wait and release something stable, than aim to meet an arbitrary deadline. Since 2019.2.1 we have made some major “under the hood” changes which we didn’t want to rush through. We have updated the code base from Python 2.x to Python 3.x. Python 2.x is about to reach end of life. Python 3 has many new features, and anyone who has learnt Python in recent years will have learnt Python 3. Upgrading ensures the security and stability of the code moving forward. It also opens development up to a new generation, as all Python 3 courses now teach Python 3. This has necessitated updates to many popular add-ons. NV Access has been working with the add-on community to help them with this transition. This includes favourites like NVDA Remote, and synthesizers like Eloquence, Vocalizer and Acapela. Note that not all of these have released their Python 3 compatible update yet. Some are waiting until there is at least a Beta of NVDA 2019.3 before releasing, as the updated add-on will not be backward compatible.
Joseph Lee has created a helpful list of where add-ons are with Python 3 compatibility. If you aren’t sure of the status of your favourite add-on, your best bet is to email the add-on creator. Otherwise, you can ask on the NVDA email list. If you are an add-on developer and your add-on isn’t listed on Joseph’s list (or if you’ve now updated it), please let Joseph know on the NVDA Add-ons group
NVDA 2019.3 new features
So, with that all happening “behind the scenes”, what goodness have we got coming that end-users will notice in 2019.3? Actually, quite a lot!
- Support for new braille displays
- Reporting of hidden text in Word
- Ability to jump back to the review cursor start marker with NVDA+shift+f9
- Screen curtain, which makes the screen black for privacy when enabled (previously available as an add-on)
- Screen highlight which draws a border around the current focus, navigator and browse mode position (again, previously available as an add-on)
- The Java Access Bridge is now included with NVDA to enable access to Java applications, including for 64 bit Java VMs
- … and much more!
Those are just some of the first things that jump out at me from the What’ s new. If you’d like to know everything, download the latest Alpha snapshot and read it’s what’s new from the Help menu.
NVDACon 2019 was a great success. From the NVDACon Website: “With a peak of 68 users despite the rescheduling to november 2019, NVDACon 2019 was the most visited conference so far! The sixth NVDACon had so many unique moments, such as live translated presentations, well known speakers from Google, Mozilla and NV Access, professional speakers showing how to learn foreign languages with NVDA or how to work in MS excel with hierarchies in an efficient way and a lot of interesting addons from Tony! And much more! The best about it, these moments will be accessible for everyone!” The recordings will be available from the NVDACon Past Conferences page soon. Thank you to all those who made the event a fantastic experience for all involved.
One of the highlights for me was the translation of the keynote into Spanish. Following the broadcast of the keynote there was a Q&A session with live translation. Aside from a couple of minor technical hitches, it went really well. It was great to be able to share information with people in their native language.
The #NoMouse challenge
A University of Washington initiative we came across recently is the #NoMouse challenge. From nomouse.org:
“The #NoMouse Challenge is a global effort to raise awareness about accessible web design. Just follow these three simple steps:
Step 1. Use the Web without a mouse Step 2. Learn more about accessible web design. Step 3. Spread the Word!
You can also follow or post to the #NoMouse hashtag on social media to help spread awareness.
Advocating for accessibility
Speaking of making things accessible, it is often end-users who uncover accessibility issues. If the user doesn’t alert the developer, they may never know there is a problem. For a non-technical end-user, this can be challenging and upsetting, but how can you go about it?
Well, the first suggestion, is to write to the developer of the site or program. Try to be friendly, and explain what you are trying to do, what you have done, and how you believe it should work. If you can say “Press TAB, then SPACEBAR, then ENTER” for instance, the developer can try it themselves. If you say “NVDA won’t work with your program”, and they don’t know what a screen reader is, they won’t know what needs fixing. Sometimes you might not be sure if an issue is with the website or program or a feature you aren’t sure how to use. In that case, feel free to ask the NVDA User email list. Include as much information as possible, so other users will be able to help investigate.
Someone asked recently, what I would suggest to a developer wanting to make their offerings accessible. Like the #NoMouse challenge, being able to get around with the keyboard is one of the main points I would make. Someone used to grabbing the mouse and clicking on a button may never have tried with the keyboard. As such, they may not realise that you either can’t get to something with the keyboard, or that you can’t activate it. For some things, simply being able to TAB or ARROW to them is fine. For important functions and features which need to be accessed quickly or frequently, a keystroke is useful. For instance, when editing a document, you can press CONTROL+S from anywhere in a document to save it.
Next, being sure a screen reader can identify elements is important. For controls like text boxes, ensure the label has appropriate text and is joined to the control. How to do this varies between programming languages and development environments. The goal is, when a user navigates to the control, they don’t just hear that it is an edit box without knowing what to type. Hearing that a field is the email address edit field makes it obvious what information the field needs.
Third, where possible, use existing features. Instead of designing a new type of edit control, try to use existing edit controls. In many environments, these often already work well with screen readers. They provide information about where in the control the caret is, what is selected, and so on. When making a control from scratch, it is easy to overlook adding this functionality. I used edit controls as an example there, but the same applies to buttons, menus, or anything else.
Developers are also more than welcome to Download NVDA and test their program or website with it. If they’ve followed those three points, chances are they will be well on the right track!
NV Access can provide Windows Software Accessibility Consulting to developers. This is primarily aimed at large projects wanting to make their software accessible. We don’t tend to do individual web site testing or web accessibility consulting. Although we make NVDA work to web standards, there are so many nuances and ways of setting up web pages and sites. We tend to leave web advice to companies who specialise in web accessibility. We recently featured Intopia, and we do recommend them. Depending on your geographical location, there are many other companies as well.
That’s all for this week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it, and we’ll be back again soon!