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.