Progress on the screen reader accesibility issues for regular users on forums?

I have been following the debate on the state of accessibility on Discourse or rather the promised enhancements for screen reader users. However as a regular user on 2 different forums I do not see the enhancements that are being talked about in the different threads here.
It would be nice with a thread with updates being rolled out to discourse users, and not debates about how enhancemtns are being tried out on a beta forum run by yourself.
The problems are known, but I do not see the solutions I read about on the various threads here.
Something should have been done about the navigation in long threads, this is both as I understand it a mechanism to move in bigger increments in long threads, however I do not seee this at all in my main forum that has very long threads that are appended over months sometimes years.
Moving to the first unread message also does not seem possible. If I am lucky I can move to the dropdown that sets notifications for new replies on or off, but at other times the terrrible unusable automated scrolling problems prevent me from seeing new threads in the long threads I follow.
In this beta forum replies have at least in the last week been marked with headings, making it possible to jump among replies in a consistant way, however this has not yet shown up on any of the forums I use regularly, so nice feature but when is it rolled out in the real world?
Finally one issue that anoys me from time to time. Polls are totally unusable with a keyboard. You can use the fallback mechanisms in the screen readers but you have no way of knowing if the vote is reported as you thingk you cast it.

Welcome, @thoeg!

Some of these changes have been made and are available here. Does this forum behave as you expect? If this forum is different from the others you’re using then you might need to ask the forum admin to upgrade discourse. Not all forums are hosted by the developers, so they don’t have control over those forums.

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Yes, apologies for the issues – you’ll need to ask the site owners to upgrade to the latest version of Discourse to see the latest changes, as those changes were all made fairly recently.

The forum that was setup about 2 weeks ago does not have the headings as on this one.
According to the source html they are using:

On this forum I can most likely get them to update to the latest version, but oon the other forum I would like to be sure that I do not ask them to update before most sollutions is implemented, since they do not seem to update the software regularly.

But again do I need to follow the w what’s new notes or how do I as a regular user know what is released to forum admin setup people?


I didn’t check the dates in that other topic, but if your forum is different from this one, you want to upgrade. You can run an upgrade on your forum, either from the web interface or from the command line. Any changes you see here are publicly available in the tests-passed (default) branch.

If the other forum doesn’t want to upgrade for whatever reason then there isn’t much your can do. If they are on the stable branch, you’ll need to wait some months before these changes hit there. Your can check the version by looking at the source of the page, it’s near the top.

Claus, we have some more critical fixes in the pipeline, I would recommend waiting one or two more weeks until nagging.

Specifically we are working on implementing support for our various “pickers” so you can choose categories and tags on screen readers.

We post regularly when we make updates in the #feature:announcements category, recommend you watch it if you are interested in our releases. Though very sadly and ironically if you are on a screen reader now watching this category is going to be a major challenge.


One more thing I hope is known and can be fixed. If a topic is locked or pinned at the top of a list, when you navigate to the topic you actually land on the lock/pin link if it is a pin link you will unpin the topic instead of opening it. However at least on Windows with jaws you will hear the topic name making you believe that pressing enter will open the topic. The introdcuction of headings for topics have not solved the issue, since the pin/lock state link is focussed. not the topic link.

Hey Claus,

Yes I noticed the trouble with having the heading role on the entire row.

I started exploring solutions on this topic: Discourse with a screen reader - #62 by sam

Perhaps we should discuss there so Nolan etc can also provide feedback.

Unfortunately JAWS are unable to provide us with a testing license, but I think NVDA also exhibits this quirk.

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Anything that works in nvda should work as well in jaws, so no problem there, it is just that jaws is my main screen reader.


I just made this change (live on meta in 20 or so minutes)

Can you let me know how it works out for you @thoeg ?


HI Sam,

The change works as expected, however it may be good to understand the extra natvigation featrues that is built into the screen readers when navigating html pages.

When you open a browser in both jaws and nvda the screen reader takes over the keyboard, so you can navigate to different html elements, like buttons, headings, tables form fields aria regions to list the most usedd elements.

So instead of just reading the page out FROM THE TOP DOWN, you can ask the screen reader to go to the next heading or table or another element, features. This is the reason why it IS important to add headings to each new post in a topic vview.

So if you are at a page with a topic list you can skip everything else on that page and move to the first table by pressing t this works both in nvda and jaws.

You could also move to the first heading, but since h headings are used for the page structure it is very likely you will end at a wrong place on the page and this is also what happens if you press h when the main page is loaded:

you land on:

“Discourse is growing! :tada:” an H3 heading not part of the forum topic list you actually want to read.

When you kno

that the topic list is a table you can press t that will move the focus to the next table on the page.

jaws will say:

table with 5 columns and 31 rows

Column 1, Row 1


now If I use h to jump to the heading I will get the correct reading as you expect. if I however use the table navigation keys used in nvda and jaws I will get into problems.

you move left and right in a row by pressing alt+ctrl+leftArrow or right arrow. Moving up or down in a colum is done by alt+ctrl and up or down arrow.

So if you press alt+ctrl+downArrow you land in the problematic cell with the status links for the topic pinned or locked if used on the topic.

In this table in the list of topics it seems that everything in the other cells can get keyboard focus in the browser so using the tab key will give you the same results, but you may have situations where not everything shown in a table can get keyboard focus but you would want to read it using the table navigation functionality in the screen reader.


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Is this purely an ordering thing, semantically we want the “lock” and “pin” and so on to be to the right of the topic title? For the topic title to be the first thing in the cell?

Hi Sam,

I agree when I move into the cell I want the focus to be on the topic link not on the lock or pin state links/buttons.

This works fine as long as a topic is not pinned and is not locked. But when pinned or locked focus seems to land in the wrong place also when using tab to move into the cell.


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