Day 11 – Using NVDA with eyes shut 

Wow, that was a real challenge!

I thought I know how to get around using NVDA but when I hid my laptop screen and tried using only the keyboard I found out interesting things.

Disorientation

One of the major challenges was to figure out where the focus was. Am I on the top banner? Did I accidentally jump to the footer links? Sometimes you hear the special “screen reader” links and get confused because you never saw them on screen, so how can you tell where they are?

Navigation is hard

Web sites like WhatsApp or Twitter don’t have the simple structure of a blog post. It’s not obvious what you’ll find when skipping between list items or headings. It takes a lot of trials to get to get information and perform actions.

Text editing isn’t trivial either

I really liked the little buzz that informs about spelling errors, and I edited my text well on WhatsApp and Twitter. However I did have some problems with Facebook as it wasn’t clear if the left arrow was moving my cursor back or just spelling the word backwards.

Panic when software get stuck

At some point I felt things are going well but then suddenly I didn’t hear anything. Tried switching tabs, switching windows. Nothing. I even tried closing NVDA in order to restart it. Did not work. I remembered how switch on Narrator (Windows key + U) and used it to find the NVDA, but I couldn’t restart NVDA and couldn’t get any feedback from my browser. At some point I opened the screen and saw that Firefox was “Not responding” and that NVDA was stuck as well. This was interesting because I don’t know how I could’ve get out of this situation without looking.

Conclusion

Even if you think you know how to use NVDA when the screen is ON, it’s a great exercise to try it with the screen OFF. It’s much harder than it seems, and you learn about the real challenges when not seeing the screen.