Changeling’s Guide to Discord for Screen Reader Users: Servers and Channels

hangeling’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 may 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:

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. You can also use the add new server option within the server treeview at the bottom of the server list to search for servers.

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. Your screen reader will indicate that it is exiting virtual/browse mode, and you will be in a menu you can navigate with the arrows. When you hear the option you want, press Enter.

Server Boost

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.

Invite People

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.

Notification Settings

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.

Privacy Settings

You can choose whether or not you wish to allow server members to send you direct messages.

Change Nickname

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.

Leave Server

Use this to make a quick exit if you discover you’ve entered a server that’s not a good fit for you.


It is increasingly common for servers to only allow users access to channels after they have picked roles. There is usually a specific channel set aside for roles, and each role has an emoji you click to react to the message and choose a role. Since reading and reacting to messqages hasn’t been covered yet, use standard navigation to read and review the options that are available to you, and press the button that corresponds to the role you’d like to be assigned.

Moving Between Servers

Servers are presented in a treeview within the HTML environment. You can interact with the treeview and use the up and down arrows to select a server, and enter it by pressing enter. 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.

Arranging the Server list

There is now an accessible method for dragging and dropping servers in your preferred order using a screen reader. To change the order of your servers, do the following:

  1.  Navigate to the server treeview and press Enter to interact.
  2.  Arrow to the server you want to move and press Control+D. Your screen reader will announce that the server has been picked up.
  3.  Press the up or down arrow to move the server to your desired position in the list. (Note: If you are using JAWS, you may need to turn off the use of Quick Keys for this step to function properly.)
  4.  Press Escape to stop dragging.
  5.  Repeat the process for each server you wish to move.

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.

Changing Channels

The most direct way to change channels is to use your screen reader’s list jump command to navigate passed the list of your servers and the name of the current server, and then to the list of channels in the currently selected server. You will find categories and channels. The categories are buttons that can be collapsed or expanded, and the text channels within them show as links, while the voice channels appear as buttons. If your screen reader’s focus is on a category, you will hear the name of the category, the word “category”, whether or not the category is expanded or collapsed, and the word “button” (e.g., “text channels. Category. Expanded. Button.”). Activating a category button will expand or collapse it.

If your screen reader’s focus is on a channel, you will hear the name of the channel, whether or not it is a text or voice channel, and the word “Button,” or “link” (e.g., “General. Text channel. Button.”). Activating a channel button will take you to that channel, and your focus will be placed in the message box. If you’ve selected a voice channel, you’ll be automatically connected to voice chat.

You can also change channels by pressing Alt along with the up or down arrow key to move between channels. For the quickest movement, you can press control+K to open a search to find a channel by name.

When you use the search, you may belong to multiple servers that have a channel of the same name (e.g., most servers have a general text channel and voice channel). In this case, typing your search term and pressing Enter will take you to the first search result, not always the server and channel you want. If this happens, type your search term, then navigate away from the edit box, and use your arrow to find the results, spoken as {channel category server} (e.g., “general WELCOME BACK TO THE POD Sounds Fake But Okay”) When you hear the channel and server you want, press the spacebar.


You can also move between areas of the Discord screen by pressing F6 to move you between servers, channels, messages, etc. Using Shift+F6 will move you backward.


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”.

Additional notification Settings for Servers

Here are some other settings you can adjust for server notifications.

  • Mute: mutes all notifications for all channels in the server except for when you are mentioned.
  •  Server Notification Settings
    •  All messages.
    •  Only mentions.
    •  Nothing.
  •  Suppress @everyone and @here: Prevent you from being part of mass mentions like live streaming announcements.
  •  Suppress All Role Mentions: Server members can have roles, and these roles can be mentioned. Each member can opt out.
  •  Mobile push notifications: Choose if an individual server can send you push notifications.

Next Steps

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.

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  1. I have to say, this is pretty awesome. It is certainly helping me, for until decentralization becomes the norm, this is going to be a thing for the foreseeable future. I intend to use this series to hopefully assist my shifting attitudes towards the folks at Discord, and maybe, just maybe, they might consider allowing us to help with accessible development? Thoughts?

  2. Thank you for creating this guide–I’m finding it very helpful. I admit, Discord still seems pretty overwhelming at this point, but I’m beginning to find some order in the chaos.
    Also, I posted the link to this guide to my Dreamwidth journal so it can help other visually impaired people during the pandemic.