Well we made it to Spring down here in the southern hemisphere! And welcome to Autumn, or Fall, you those of you up North of the equator. For those who start seasons at the equinox rather than the 1st of the month, you’ve still got until the 22nd.
The NVDACon committee are currently busy planning for NVDACon 2020. If you’re interested in presenting at NVDACon, it’s a great time to start thinking about what you might like to share. If you haven’t been to NVDACon before, find out all about it at The NVDACon site. On the site, you can also listen to previous conferences.
Speaking of previous years, here’s a way you can help NVDACon with no public speaking involved. One of the organisers, Derek, is uploading all the previous conferences to YouTube. To make them accessible to all, the plan is to use YouTube’s autocaptioning feature to get started. He is then looking for volunteers to go through and correct any errors in the autocaptioning. If you are interested in helping, please do Email the NVDACon organising committee.
We recently encountered a new accessible graphs project. The output includes audio cues as well as spoken information while navigating. The project is available to anyone to incorporate into their work.
The output while navigating includes audio cues, spoken information and a “tactile image” drawn on a braille display (though no knowledge of braille is needed).
Read more on the Accessible Graphs Project Homepage.
Try their Accessible Stocks and Currencies Demo.
You can also Incorporate Accessible Graphs Python Code directly into your own work.
Accessible Space Station RPG Zine
I like to browse the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and every now and then I come across one with an accessibility angle. This one is a role playing game (RPG), so rather than moving around a board or dealing cards, each player takes the role of a character (on a space station, in this case). Players then decide what actions they want to take, all of which helps affect the way the game progresses. This game also has a solo mode. Like many other RPGs, it comes as an electronic download. While there shouldn’t be any reason such files aren’t accessible, we all know that isn’t always the case. This particular author has put in effort to ensure that the files are screen reader accessible, and is also providing a version optimised for those with dyslexia or low vision. So I thought it was worth a shout out for that. The campaign is in its last 48 hours though so you’ll need to get in quick if you are interested.
Read more on the Orbital Kickstarter Campaign Page.
Making software accessible
I often get asked about making NVDA work with a piece of software. Sometimes there might be something we can do to improve things within NVDA itself. Most of the work of making software accessible is best done by the developer of the software itself. Almost everything involved is simply good software design. These improvements benefit all users of the software, not only screen reader users. It is less work to fix the original software than to have the screen reader try to work around problems. As well as that, improving the original software makes it accessible to all users, not only NVDA users.
There are two parts to making software accessible to screen reader users. One is being able to get around with the keyboard, and the other is having the right information reported.
For keyboard navigation, it is important to have controls in a logical order. At its simplest, this might be when a user moves around with TAB or the ARROWS. Where useful, controls should have keyboard shortcuts or accelerator keys. For instance, consider video call software. It is much more efficient having a shortcut key to answer a call than needing to tab 20 times to get to the answer button.
Most screen reader users don’t use the mouse. Anything which ONLY works with mouse is going to be problematic. A lot of standard controls already work fine with both keyboard and mouse. You can press TAB to move a standard button and press ENTER to activate it. If a shortcut key has been defined, you can press that to activate the button from anywhere on that screen. Many controls have a letter underlined to show that you can press alt and that letter. In a save dialog, for instance, the “Save” button has the “S” underlined. With such a dialog open, you can press alt+s to activate that save button.
With controls such as buttons and edit boxes, it is best to use an existing standard control than create a new one. Pre-defined controls have things like labels, tab control and screen reader accessibility built-in. If you make a new thing you want to act like a button, you can make it accessible, it just tends to be more work. The same is true for combo boxes, edit boxes, checkboxes and so on.
A control with an attached text label, such as a standard checkbox, tells a screen reader all about itself. When creating a custom check box, a lot of this information may need to be setup by hand. This includes what it is (a checkbox), what it is for (the text in the label) and its state (checked or unchecked). Most environments offer properties for controls, such as a “label”, “name” or “description”. Ensure this field is descriptive will make it usable for screen reader users.
NVDA is free for anyone to use. We are quite happy for developers to download it and test it with their programs. Try to navigate your app and use the features of it with the keyboard. NVDA should read enough to tell you where you are at any point. NVDA’s tools menu has a “Speech Viewer” which displays in text what NVDA reads aloud. This can be very useful for anyone unfamiliar with Text-To-Speech (TTS) voices.
That’s all for this week. Stay safe, and we’ll be back again soon!