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How to interact with websites using a desktop screen reader

Modern websites offer a lot of interactivity - long gone are the times of static pages. Complex interactions can become quite a challenge using a screen reader, but if done properly, there are no limits.

Beneath simple reading of information, most modern websites offer a lot of interactivity.

Important: For this article you need to know how to read websites using a desktop screen reader. If you haven't done so yet, go back and read How to read websites using a desktop screen reader thoroughly before you continue here.

Activating links

Press Enter to activate links.

Interacting with forms

Press Enter to interact with editable form elements, or to submit a form. Use Space to expand/collapse comboboxes or to toggle checkboxes. Use Left/Right/Up/Down keys to toggle values. Press Enter to activate buttons.

Use cases:

  • When reaching a textarea in browse mode, to enter text into it, press Enter to activate focus mode, then enter text.
    • To jump to the next input (or any other focusable element), press Tab.
    • To look around for non-focusable content instead, leave focus mode by pressing Esc, then browse around with the arrow keys.
  • When reaching a text input in focus mode, you can immediately enter text.
  • To toggle through the values of a combobox, make sure you are in focus mode, then use Up or Down.
  • To toggle the value of a checkbox, simply hit Space (regardless of whether you're in browse or focus mode).

If you are really curious and want to learn more about this, skip ahead and read How to handle forms.

Interacting with widgets

Interacting with widgets can be tricky, especially when ARIA roles are used (if you haven't done this yet, go back and read ARIA - when HTML simply is not enough).

In general, widgets should be controllable similarly to other interactive elements.