By Mike Jones Screen Reader Analyst (DAC)
Anyone who uses Non Visual Desktop Access (otherwise known as the NVDA screen reader) for windows, will be aware of some recent problems when using the software. What follows is an overview of the latest improvements and fixes to NVDA if you update to the current version, and some improvements to how NVDA works with Mozilla Firefox.
The elements list
The elements list ‘insert+f7’, now includes menus for form fields and buttons. This is an addition to the previous menus available which were links, headings and landmarks, and will make identifying edit fields and buttons much more efficient and less problematic. Fieldset and legend has now been provided with more support.
The previous situation was that NVDA would not announce the fieldset, even where the developer had provided this information. After significant investigation, I have found that the form field menu found within the elements list still does not support this area. However when the user navigates using the ‘f’ key which navigates to the next form field, the ‘r’ key to move to the next radio button, or the tab key to move to the next element some support is given. I found that when using these keys the fieldset and legend announces for the first radio button on the page, however this does not extend to other radio buttons within that group. I also found that once I had navigated past the radio button, and used shift+f to move to the previous form field, the fieldset and legend announced for the last radio button in the group. Where multiple questions appear on a page, the fieldset and legend will announce for each first option of the group, meaning it is now far easier to distinguish between questions when using one of these key strokes.
This affects us when testing with NVDA, as it now means that to some extent we can now test for fieldset and legend wen using radio buttons, and so can directly compare with JAWS. However I would caution against relying on this 100%, because although this area has improved significantly for the last update, it is still not reading for all radio buttons within a group. As such I would now recommend the following methods of testing (when not browsing using the cursor keys)
Testing with NVDA and looking for headings
To test for the levels of heading, use the ‘H’ key, as at present the heading levels are still not supported using the elements list ‘insert+f7.’
Form element labels
The user can now test for form element labels by using the ‘f’ key for all form elements, the ‘e’ key for edit fields, the ‘b’ key for buttons and can now locate these items using the elements list.
Radio buttons/fieldset and legend
The User should test using either the tab key, the ‘r’ key or the ‘f’ key,’ remembering that only the first option of a group will announce when cycling forward, and the last option when cycling backwards. The fieldset and legend is still not supported within the elements list, so this should be avoided for testing purposes.
A note on NVDA and Firefox
NVDA 2017.4 appears to have partially fixed the issue announced in November relating to Firefox, and NVDA appears to work in some instances. We would advise keeping in touch with the latest developments from NV Access on this, and other developments relating to NVDA by visiting their blog at: NVDA’s In Process Blog (external link.)