What is This?

This is the fourth in a series that explains how to use Mastodon if you are a screen reader user. It is an alternative form of documentation to the existing Mastodon documentation. It is not intended to replace the documentation for Mastodon or your screen reader. The content in this chapter is fairly advanced, so you should go back and read the first three chapters before reading this one.

The Road so Far…

  • Chapter one gave an introduction to the series and explained the structure of the series.
  • Chapter Two explained what Mastodon was, what an instance was, and how to join an instance.
  • Chapter Three guided you through the process of creating your profile, and concluded with your first post, “Hello world.”

What is Covered in This chapter?

This chapter gives details about working with all of the elements in the post box. Each element will have an explanation of what it does, as well as steps for using it with your screen reader.

Terms in This Chapter (in order of discussion)

  • Toot
  • Emoji.
  • Media.
  • Alt text.
  • Pole.
  • Status privacy.
  • Content warning.
  • Follow.
  • Remote follow.

More on Posts

The last chapter concluded with your first post, “hello World.” At the time, I listed for you the elements in the compose box, but wanted you to ignore them, the ultimate goal being to do a basic toot. It’s now time to take a look at all the things you can do with toots. If you haven’t already done so, log into your instance, and navigate to the compose box with your screen readers jump command for edit boxes, or with the shortcut key Alt+N. Make sure you tell your screen reader to ignore jump commands for the next few sections. Move to each element with the Tab and Shift+Tab commands.


Many operating systems give users access to emoji by default. If you can’t find the emoji you want, you can insert one through Mastodon by doing the following.

  1. Tab until you hear “Insert emoji”.
  2. Press enter to expand the dropdown. Your focus will be moved to the searchbox.
  3. If you’re looking for something specific, type it into the searchbox. Use your up and down arrows to navigate results, and press enter on the one you want. You may need to let your screen reader know to go beyond the searchbox.
  4. If you want to just browse, skip the searchbox and use your arrows to browse. Press Enter when you find something you like.
  5. Once you choose an emoji, you should return to compose box. If not, navigate there. Turn off jump commands.


You can add several types of media to your toot. This includes audio, video and pictures. You can upload one video or four pictures. To insert media:

  1. Tab until you hear, “Insert media,” followed by a list of filetypes Mastodon accepts.
  2. Press Enter. You will be taken to a browse dialog to select files for upload.
  3. Select your file, and press enter to insert it.
  4. If you uploaded a picture or pictures:
    1. You have the ability to add alt text, a description of the photo for screen reader users.
    2. Tab until you get to the edit box labeled “Alt Text”.
    3. Type your description into the field, then navigate back to the main compose box.


You can add a pole to toots, meaning you can ask users a question, and have them vote. To add a pole:

  1. From the compose box, type your question. For example, Do you think dragons exist?
  2. Tab until you hear “Add a pole”, and press Enter.
  3. Your focus will land on “Remove Pole”. You get two choices that appear as edit boxes by default. Shift+Tab twice to get to the first choice.
  4. Add your choices. For example, yes, no, maybe. If you need more than two choices, use the “Add Choice” button.
  5. Tab to the duration dropdown for the pole. The default is one day. Activate the dropdown to change this.

Status Privacy

You can adjust the status privacy of your toots. There are four options. To adjust privacy:

  1. From the compose box, Tab until you hear “Adjust Status Privacy”, and press Enter.
  2. Use your up and down arrows to move through options:
    1. Public: Posts to public timelines. More on timelines in Chapter Five.
    2. Unlisted: Does not post to public timelines, just the home timeline for your instance.
    3. Followers Only: Only your followers will see your toot.
    4. Direct: Only lets mentioned users see your toot. More on mentioning users in Chapter Five.
  3. Press enter to make your choice.

Content Warnings

Content warnings are one of the most popular features of Mastodon. How you use them will depend on what your instance’s code of conduct says needs a CW, what you personally feel needs a CW, and how you understand the concept of its function. A content warning is text that goes over the content of your toot, and hides it from people who may not wish to see this type of content.

It was intended to give users the choice of whether or not they wish to see content others may find offensive. You can also use it like a subject line in an email, an appropriate comparison, since Mastodon usernames look like email addresses. Here are some popular content warnings:

  • Sexual content, nudity, etc.
  • Mental health.
  • Food.
  • Gross.
  • Body image, body harm, body horror, etc.
  • Gender, gender dysphoria, gender identity, etc.
  • Mentions self-harm, thoughts of self-harm, etc.

To insert a content warning:

  1. From the compose box, Tab until you hear, “Text is not hidden”, and press Enter.
  2. Your focus will land on the edit box where you can type your warning.
  3. Type your warning, then tab to the main compose box.

Once You’ve Tricked Out Your Toot

Once your toot has all the features it needs added on, press CTRL+Enter to send. Alternatively, Tab until you hear “Toot”, and press Enter.

Following other Users

Now that you understand how to get your content out to the Fedeverse, it’s time to find other people to follow. This means that their content displays in your timeline, and you can interact with it. We’ll be talking about timelines and interacting in Chapter Five, but here are the things you can do:

  • Reply to a toot.
  • Boost a toot.
  • Favorite a toot.
  • View a user’s profile.

There are things you can do to interact with users, too, but we’ll save that for the next chapter.


How to Follow

There are many ways to follow a user, but most of them rely on your ability to interact with timelines. Since we haven’t discussed how to do that just yet, we’ll be using the searchbox on the home page of your instance that appears after you log in. Once Chapter Five comes out, you should consider reading Chapters Three, Four, and Five together to get a better understanding of how all of these things work together.

Using the Searchbox

There are two ways to move focus to the searchbox. The first one is to use your screen reader’s jump command to get to the searchbox, and then turn off jump commands to let you type in it. The second is to turn jump commands off, then press S to bring focus to the searchbox. Once you’re there type in your terms, then Tab to “Search” and press Enter.

Search results

Results are grouped by people, toots, and hashtags, and each section is indicated  using a level five heading. Once you get to the desired section, use standard navigation to see what your search turned up.

Following SomeOne Using the Searchbox

Here are the steps for following people using the searchbox.

  1. Navigate to the searchbox.
  2. Type your search terms, and activate the search button.
  3. Navigate to the “People” section.
  4. Next to the person’s display name and username, find and click the “Follow” button.

Following Me Using the Searchbox

  1. Navigate to the searchbox.
  2. Type ChangelingRandy into the box, and activate the “search” button.
  3. Navigate to the “People” section.
  4. Click the “Follow” button next to my display name and username. The display name is Changeling Mx, and the full username is

Remote Following

Remote following is following Mastodon user that is not on your instance. The only thing that is different is the following process. Otherwise, your interactions are exactly the same. The exception is if your instance’s admin decides to block that person’s instance, or vice versa.

Remote following works like this. I live in one house, my Mastodon instance. Ashley lives in another house, her Mastodon instance. We aren’t part of the same house, but we are part of the same community. We can interact with each other from our own houses. The exception to this is if one of the landlords decides that people from the other house aren’t their kind of people and banishes them.

How to Remote Follow

Let’s assume you’ve done the search and found someone on another instance. Now:

  1. Click the “Follow” button. Depending on the version of Mastodon your instance runs, you may need to do nothing else.
  2. If this is not the case, you will be taken to another page where you can remote follow.
  3. On that page find the edit box that asks your username and instance that you want to follow from. Write it like
  4. Tab to and activate the “Follow” button.

Coming Up

In Chapter five, we’ll be talking about how to use timelines and interact with posts. In the meantime, go follow some people so your timelines have content.

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