Changeling’s Guide to Discord for Screen Reader Users: Chatting
What is This?
This is the fourth in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you are also a screen reader user. If you are unsure of what Discord is or whether or not you wish to use it, please see the dedicated page for this guide for more information.
What is covered in This Post?
This post details how to participate in both text and voice chat in Discord. We then have a final thoughts section, since this is where many of you will have the information you need to use Discord effectively.
Before We Begin: A Word About Keyboard shortcuts
Since Discord was originally intended to be the ultimate chatting app for gamers, it has in it a number of keyboard shortcuts, and this is also a win for screen reader usersusers. Since the needed detail of this guide makes for long posts, I’ve decided not to include a complete list of keyboard shortcuts, but rather to talk about them as they are needed for the guide. Here are the links to keyboard shortcuts for Windows, and for MacOS. At this time, there do not appear to be keyboard shortcuts for the mobile platforms. Finally, it is possible to create your own keyboard shortcuts (key bindings), which we will cover out of necessity when we discuss voice chatting.
Unlike platforms that came before it, Discord encourages text chatting, rather than just including the ability as an afterthought. Those of you who have been following along will know that the Discord interface presents like an HTML environment, so much of your ability to text chat will depend on how comfortable you are moving around web pages in general. On a different but related note, there will also be times when you will need to let your screen reader know to pass keys through directly to Discord, so you might want to consult your screen reader’s documentation on how to do that. You will also want to get comfortable with your screen reader’s ability to emulate the mouse pointer. With these things in mind, let’s talk about the chat window.
The chat Window
The first thing to do is to enter a server, and then pick a text channel within that server. If you’ve joined a public server, you will most likely start out in a welcome channel, and you will probably be able to find the server rules and guidelines for how to navigate and use the channels in the server. As a general rule, regular members do not have permission to actually send messages in these types of channels.
Regardless of whether or not you can send messages, you can read the messages of a channel if you have access. The first thing you’ll encounter is a button that has the name of the server, and it will be collapsed by default. Remember, this is what you would click to adjust server settings.
Following that are buttons for muting, deafening, and your user settings. The quick switcher comes next, which you can also access by pressing Control+K. After all of these things, you will encounter a notification of new unread messages if there are any. You can press Escape to mark a channel read, or Shift+Escape to mark all the messages in a server as read.
The next section has a list of channel categories and the channels within them. At the time of this writing, the screen readers cannot tell the difference between the categories and the channels, showing them all as buttons. If you see something like “Text channels”, or “Voice Channels,” those are definitely categories, but anything beyond that is guesswork. For this reason, I strongly recommend you become extremely comfortable with the quick switcher, or use Alt along with the up or down arrows to move between channels. If you want to see which channels have unread messages, you can move between them with Alt along with Shift and the up or down arrows.
A Word About NSFW Channels
If you navigate to a channel that is called NSFW, or it has a different name but the admin has designated NSFW, you will first be asked to confirm that you are of age and are willing to view NSFW content. The continue button is recognized as a button by screen readers, so find and activate that, and you’re ready to go.
For each message, the user is displayed as a level 2 heading and a button that has their nickname, as well as the time they sent the message. If you activate this button, you will be dropped into a box where you can send the user a private message, or navigate away from that and you can view a person’s roles in the server and view their profile. Press escape to return to the channel.
You can use heading jump commands to move through a conversation. Be aware, however, that if a person sends multiple messages before another message from a user comes in, these are not separated by headings, but rather each message is on its own line, so you might accidentally skip messages.
You can use emojis to add reactions to messages you read. To do this, you need to right click the message, then activate the button that says “add reaction”. You can’t press Shift and F10 like you might be used to. Instead, you will need to tell your screen reader to move the mouse pointer to where your review cursor is, then right click. The exception is if another user has already added a reaction, in which case the button can be found using standard navigation.
Once you activate the button, your focus will be placed in an autocomplete list of available emojis. Use your up and down arrows to review the options, and press Enter to add it as a reaction.
Revealing Hidden Content
To reveal hidden content, find the button that says, “spoiler”, and activate it. You can also make it so that no content is hidden in the “Text and Emojis” section of your user settings.
To access an uploaded file, click the button or link with the file name. You will either open or be prompted to save the file depending on the file type.
To get to the edit field where you can send a message, press the tab key, or use your screen reader’s jump command for edit fields. Next, type your message and press enter to send. If you wish to add a line break without sending a message, press Shift and the Enter key to insert it. Here are some other things you can do with messages:
- Press Control+E to open the emoji picker.
- Press Press Control+Shift+U to upload a file.
- Press slash followed by one of these:
- Spoiler to mark content as a spoiler and hide it.
- Tts to make your message be spoken by a robot.
- Press the up arrow in the edit box to erase and edit your last message. Press escape to cancel.
- Insert the at sign followed by a person’s name to mention that user.
While there are fewer steps to actually using voice chat, you should go into your audio video settings and adjust the following:
- Set your preferred audio input device.
- Adjust your input volume and output volume.
- Disable autogain control.
- Run a test of your audio.
- Enable Push to talk, and disable automatic voice activation.
Push to Talk and Key Bindings
When you enable push to talk for the first time, you’ll be prompted to set a key binding, or shortcut key that activates the feature. Find and activate the record button, then navigate to the edit box. Push your desired key combination, then tab to the stop recording button and activate it. Keep in mind that the key combination is global, so try to pick one that doesn’t conflict with any other programs. Once you’ve changed these settings, remember to click the save button at the bottom. Finally, you can add other key bindings in the “key bindings” section of your user settings.
Connecting to a Voice Channel
To connect to a voice channel, find and activate the button with the name of that channel. You should hear a tone indicating that you’ve connected. You’re now all set to chat using your voice. Remember to press and hold your key binding for push to talk while speaking.
To disconnect from a voice channel, find the disconnect button. You’ll want to do this, since you can only be connected to one voice channel at a time.
If you’ve made it this far, you now have the essential information to actively participate in Discord servers. The easiest way to master the service is to just use it. Once you get comfortable with the stable version, you can download Discord Canary to get the latest improvements on a faster timeline.
The logical next step is to try your hand at running your own Discord server. I have no immediate plans to cover this, but remain open to the possibility. In the meantime, the Internet has plenty of articles from the official Discord help and tech bloggers on the subject. Remember that Discord is made to bring all kinds of people with different skill sets together, so nobody is under any obligation to administer or moderate a server to be an effective Discord user. So long as you’re following server rules and not going out of your way to be less than a decent person, you’re Discording right.
Changeling’s Guide to Discord for Screen Reader Users: Servers and Channels
What is This?
This is the third in a series of posts that explains how to use the Discord service if you are also a screen reader user. If you are unsure of what Discord is, whether or not you wish to use the service, or both, please see the dedicated page for this guide for more information.
What is Covered in This Post?
This post explains servers and channels. We then take a look at how to join servers and adjust individual server settings, as well as move between multiple servers. Finally, we look at how to move between channels.
Not Covered in This Post
This post does not cover the administration of servers. While my experience with this process is that it is doable with a screen reader for the most part, the first few posts in this guide are designed to get new users able to participate as quickly as possible. Since administrating a server is a bit more advanced, I cover it at some point in a separate post. It really just depends on how many people I think will pay attention to such content.
What is a Server?
In the world of Discord, a server is an extremely customizable group chat (though separate from a private group chat). It can have a specific common interest, or it can just be for experimentation and research. Each server can host any number of different subtopics, and these are called channels, detailed later in this post.
How Do I Find a Server?
There are a couple of ways to do this. The most direct way is to use an invite link, which you can get from a friend or admin of a server, or from a website of someone or something that also has a Discord presence. For example, here is a link to my own server: https://discord.gg/sjGEja.
Once you click an invite link, you’ll be prompted to accept the invitation and join. Join presents as a button, so navigate to it and activate it. When you first join a server, it’s important to make sure you read the rules so you don’t upset anyone or get kicked out.
You can also join servers by searching for them on the Internet. There are a few websites dedicated to this, but the simplest way I’ve experienced is to just Google the topic that interests you and include “Discord” as apart of the search.
Customizing Server Settings
To customize server settings, from within a server you’ve joined, find and activate the button that has the server name and is collapsed by default. If you’re using NVDA, press NVDA+Control+Space to break away from the main dialog. You’ll then find buttons for each category of setting.
You can help promote a server you run or particularly enjoy. This is not a free service, and you will be asked for payment information if you choose to set it up.
If the admins allow it, you can invite people to join the server. You can invite people you’ve been in private conversations with, or copy a generated invite link and send it to a friend.
This is where you can adjust which notifications you receive. You’ll want to do this based on how active the server is. You can choose from nothing, mentions, or all. Later, we’ll talk about how to adjust notifications for specific channels.
You can choose whether or not you wish to allow server members to send you direct messages.
You can have a nickname specific to each server. I do this so that my name in certain servers matches my name on Steam and Patreon to make sure I’m added to the correct channels.
Hide Muted Channels
If you have muted a channel, you can take it out of the list for yourself. More on muting channels shortly.
Use this to make a quick exit if you discover you’ve entered a server that’s not a good fit for you.
Moving Between Servers
Each server is a link with a graphic that has the name of the server and the server icon. You can click these to enter a server. You can also press control along with 1-0 to move between the first ten servers in your list, or use Control and Alt along with the up and down arrows to move between servers. Finally, you can press Control+K to open a search and move to a server by typing its name.
Now that we have a server or two under our belt, let’s talk about channels.
What is a Channel?
A channel is a subcategory in a server. They can be used to distinguish between different topics of conversation, separate NSFW or adult content from the general chat, etc. Admins can allow access to channels to only certain server members, too. A channel can be a text chat, or voice chat.
There are a few ways to change channels. Since channels present as buttons, you can use your screen reader’s jump commands to move to and activate each button. You can also press Alt along with the up or down arrow key to move between channels. Finally, you can press control+K to open a search to find a channel by name.
Customizing Notifications for Channels
You can set it so that you get specific notifications for channels. I personally use this to mute channels that have primarily visual media, but you can also use it to keep a special eye on a topic of particular interest. To do this, open the server settings, then go to notification Settings, and navigate to the level 5 heading that reads “Channel overrides”. From here, you can search for a channel by name, or choose it from the dropdown, and choose from no notifications, mentions, or all.
If you’re using the dropdown, make sure you’ve turned off your screen readers browse or virtual cursor function before pressing the down arrow on the menu. When you’ve finished, click “Done”.
The next major step is to learn how to participate in chat. In preparation for this, you may wish to review the official list of Discord keyboard shortcuts. These will be discussed as they come up, but that link can serve as a quick reference. You may also want to review and adjust your audio and video settings.
Changeling’s Guide to Discord for Screen Readers: Navigating the User Interface and User Settings
What is This?
This is the second in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you also use a screen reader to access your computer and the Internet. If you’re unsure of what Discord is or if you want to use it, please go read the introduction post. You can also check out this dedicated guide page for a list of all posts in the series.
What is Covered in This Post?
This post describes the layout of the Discord user interface, and documents some common differences between screen readers. Finally, this post gives a walkthrough of the user settings, and makes suggestions of changes you can make to give yourself a smoother experience.
The Discord User Interface (UI)
The Discord UI presents like a webpage, or HTML environment. This appears to serve the purpose of making sure users have a consistent experience, whether they choose to use the Discord program or run Discord from a web browser. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with your screen reader’s commands for using web pages, particularly those commands for navigating and interacting with links, buttons, headings, edit fields, checkboxes, and dropdown menus. You will also need to be familiar with navigating in-page dialogs, especially if you are using the Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader.
When You First Launch
When you first launch Discord, you land in the “Activity” section. This section contains a list of servers to which you belong, as well as your direct message conversations–conversations between you and at least one other person, and it is not brodcast to a server. You’re friends list is also here, and you can filter it by who’s online, pending friend requests, etc.
A Difference Between JAWS and NVDA
If you’re using NVDA and launch Discord, pushing the down arrow results in, “Clickable, dialog, clickable, clickable, clickable, clickable, try setting a custom status.” To access the HTML environment, find the dialog, then press enter. If you’re using JAWS, you are taken directly into the HTML environment.
Servers and Direct Messages
Servers and direct messages are presented as links which also have graphics. These graphics are the person’s profile picture, or the server icon. To navigate this list, do one of the following:
- Use the up and down arrows.
- Use your screen reader’s specific command for jumping by link.
- If your screen reader supports it, call up the elements list, and make sure it is set to links.
Once you find the server you want, you can press Space or Enter.
Adding and Discovering Servers, Muting and Deafening, and User Settings
These present as buttons, so you can use the methods above you used to find links to find the buttons.
Activity and Quicklauncher
These present as level 3 headings. It’s the same deal as the previous to groups, except you’ll want to press the down arrow to read the content below. There’s probably not much going on there right now if you’ve just signed up for Discord.
To access user settings, navigate by button until you hear “user settings,” then press space or enter. You should be presented with these options, which present as buttons.
- My Account: Contains options to customize your profile, manage your contact info and password, and manage two-factor authentication.
- Privacy & Safety: Contains options for who can gind and contact you, data control, etc.
- Authorized Apps: Contains options for managing apps with access to your Discord account.
- Connections: Where you manage connections to your social media profiles.
- Billing: where you manage how to give a corporation money.
- Discord Nitro: Where you can manage your premium subscription.
- Server Boost: you can pay a fee to help your favorite servers get more notice.
- Hype Squad: Where you can sign up for the Discord newsletter.
- App settings: A magic button you can click all day with no result, since it’s meant to illustrate a new category and is misread by screen readers.
- Voice & Video: Set your input and putput preferences for chatting later.
- Overlay: Controls settings for the chat overlay while playing games.
- Notifications: Lets you customize what you’re notified about and how.
- Keybinds: Lets you configure shortcut keys.
- Game Activity: Lets you control options for displaying which game you’re currently playing.
- Activity Feed; Lets you customize your activity feed.
- Game library: Lets you import your game library from popular services like Steam.
- Text & Images: Settings for adjusting how text and images are handled, and this is where you can adjust spoiler display settings.
- Appearance: Change the visual look of the Discord UI.
- Streamer mode; Customize your streaming experience.
- Language: Set your language.
- Windows settings: Lets you control if Discord launces at startup, whether or not it runs from the system tray, etc.
- Change Log: View the list of recent changes.
- Logout: Signs you out.
Once you click a category, use heading navigation to find the beginning of that category’s options. Use standard navigation to explore the possible options.
Here are some suggestions of settings you can change to make your user experience better. The out-of-box experience is quite nice, though.
Under My Account
You may wish to consider setting a profile photo. While I recognize that having an avatar may not be a priority for most of my readers, the fact is having a unique avatar is how server admins who may be visually oriented to the world distinguish you from a spammer. To set your avatar:
- Once you’ve navigated to user settings, my account, and the level 2 heading where those options start, move by button until you hear “edit,” and activate it.
- Navigate away from the edit box where you can change your username, and then
- If you are using NVDA, push the up arrow until you hear “clickable” and press Space.
- If you are using JAWS, route your JAWS cursor to your PC cursor. Next, push up arrow until you hear “Avatar,” and press space.
- You will then be taken to a standard browse dialog where you can choose a photo.
- Once you’ve finished, find and click the “Save” button.
You can have it so that incoming messages are automatically spoken. At this time, it is not possible to adjust speech parameters, and announcements may interfere with other tasks you are performing. For this reason, I sugest you be picky about what you want announced. To set up text to speech announcements:
- Select the notifications category of options.
- Navigate by level 5 heading until you hear “Text to speech notifications”.
- Navigate by and check the checkbox for all channels, currently selected channel, or never.
- Click the unlabeled save button at the bottom of the screen.
While you’re in the notifications section, you may also wish to review and customize notification sounds. Each event is both a checkbox and button, so moving to one and pressing the spacebar will both play the sound and toggle the notification on or off. When you’ve finished, click the unlabeled save button.
Now that you have an understanding of the Discord UI and an idea of how navigation is going to work, you’re ready to join a server. Tge bext post will explain how to join servers, as well as customize your settings for a specific server. In the meantime, make sure you have discord set the way you think you’ll like it.
Changeling’s Guide to Discord for Screen Readers: Introduction
What is This?
This is the first in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you also use a screen reader to access your computer and the Internet. It is not intended to replace the documentation for either Discord or your screen reader, but rather to explain how you can use the two programs together to have an enjoyable user experience.
What is Covered in This Guide?
This guide will explain what Discord is, its main features, how to navigate servers and channels, how to participate in chat, and how to adjust settings. Depending on the reception while this guide is being written, as well as the number of requests for it, I may cover creating and managing a server.
What is the Intended Audience?
This guide is intended for people who want to use Discord and need a screen reader to effectively use their computer. Beyond that, it is intended for people who like user directions that contain more detail than just lists of shortcut keys. While this is a set of directions, it is styled to read like a conversation between you and me. When I published Changeling’s Guide to Mastodon for Screen Readers, the style of the guide seemed to be its best received feature.
What is Covered in the Rest of This Post?
The rest of this post answers the question of what Discord is, and ends with a walkthrough for creating an account. The final section will offer suggestions of things you can do to prepare for the next post in the series.
What is Discord
According to its website, Discord is a free, secure text and voice chat solution for gamers. While its design reflects its stated target market, the service has quickly become a way for groups of people to connect and chat with each other. These groups are joined in virtual areas called servers, and these servers can be host to different categories called channels to help organize the conversation. The advantage here is that unlike a Skype or WhatsApp group where every message in the vonversation gets sent to everyone in the group, a user can configure Discord so that they only receive notifications from certain channels, or on certain conversation topics, from a server. It is intended to keep people from feeling like they are in a sensory overload version of hell caused by too many notifications. Users can also live stream to servers, or voice chat in designated channels on servers. Like any service, the first step to using it is to create an account.
Creating an Account
Before You Begin
The first thing you’ll want to do is download the appropriate version of the Discord software for your operating system. This guide will focus primarily on the Windows version, but you can also download it for Mac, as well as iOS and Android. If you’re not using any of these, or if you want to test drive the service before installing software, you can use Discord from your preferred web browser.
To install Discord, go to discordapp.com on the device on which you will be using the service, and select the download link. The site will detect the appropriate version of your software based on your browser. Once you’ve done that perform the normal steps for installing software on your machine, and you’ll be ready to create an account.
If you want to run Discord from a browser, you’ll want to create an account first, and then select the “Open Discord in Your Browser” button.
To Create an Account
Go to discordapp.com/register, and provide your e-mail , your preferred user name, and a password then click continue. You’ll then be prompted to set up a server, but you can click “Skip” for now. The final step is verifying your email address, which involves clicking a link in an email sent by the Discord service.
A Quick Word About Usernames
When you sign up for a service, the process usually goes something like type your name into the box, see your name is being used by someone else, then choose a username that has your name with a long string of numbers after it. With Discord, each user is designed a tag, or the hashtag (#) followed by a four four digit code that accompanies your user name, so you can always have your desired username in chats. For example, my Discord info is Changeling#5469.
This post explained what Discord is and guided you through the registration process. If you haven’t yet done so, you’ll want to install the Discord program. You might also consider making a list of your interests to help you find appropriate servers for you to join. The next posts will discuss the layout of the program’s interface, how to adjust user settings, as well as finding and joining servers.