Discord for the Blind: Installation and Setup

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Discord is a popular cross-platform voice and text communication program created for gamers, but actively used by other communities as well. In this article, we will look at how to install and configure Discord for visually impaired Windows users.

Installing Discord

The installation process for Discord is fairly simple and only takes a few minutes. On Windows, there are two main methods:

  1. Via the installation file, downloaded from the official Discord website (https://discord.com/);
  2. Or via Microsoft Store.

The choice between these two methods depends on your preferences and has no major differences from installing other applications, so we will not provide step-by-step instructions. Choose the method that is more convenient for you.

If you do not have the ability or desire to install a separate application, you can use Discord directly from your web browser. You will have access to most of Discord’s features and the user experience will be virtually the same.

Customizing Discord for the blind and visually impaired

Discord has no small amount of customization options, including those that cater to the needs of visually impaired users.

To open the account and application settings menu, use the “B” key. Find the “User Settings” button and activate it by pressing “Enter.” It is located in the lower left corner, next to your username, and looks like a gear.

All settings are divided into four sections:

  • User Settings;
  • Billing Settings;
  • Application Settings;
  • Activity Settings.

Sections in turn are divided into tabs, where parameters are grouped by categories. Sections can also be navigated by pressing the “B” key, while tabs are navigated by using the up and down arrows. Alternatively, you can use the arrow keys all the time. When using the JAWS screen reader, tabs can be navigated by pressing the ” ’ ” (apostrophe) key. To select the Tab you want, press “Spacebar.”

I will not review all the tabs and parameters, but only the main ones that are relevant to the blind and visually impaired. These are mostly found in the “Application Settings” section.

The “Appearance” tab allows you to customize visual design elements, such as:

  • Theme;
  • Color;
  • Message display;
  • Text scaling in chat;
  • Spacing between messages;
  • Zoom.

The settings under this tab are more important for the visually impaired and not so important for the blind. Personally, I have left them unchanged.

The “Special Features” tab contains a set of specialized parameters for visually impaired users, including:

  • Saturation;
  • Contrast;
  • Reduced Motion (reduces the amount and intensity of animations, hover effects, and other motion effects used in Discord);
  • Stickers (turns sticker animation on and off);
  • Message Entry;
  • Show the send message button (Enabled);
  • Use old message input (Disabled);
  • Text-to-speech (turns text-to-speech on and off);
  • Text-to-speech Rate.

This tab is also more relevant for visually impaired users, but the settings under the “Message Entry” subcategory can improve your screen reader experience with Discord. I have the send button display turned on, and the old input turned off. As for the text-to-speech options, I am not quite sure in what kind of situation it could come in handy, but you can turn it on just in case, and then use it by typing /tts and a “Space” before your message.

The “Voice and Video” tab allows you to select input and output devices, as well as control the parameters related to audio and video processing.

Here I selected my microphone, webcam, and output device manually, then checked the volume sliders. I also picked the “Walkie-talkie” input mode and assigned a convenient hotkey combination. The rest of the settings can be useful if you have problems with audio or video signal.

The “Text and Images” tab includes settings related to displaying media content, emoji, and stickers. I recommend paying attention to the following settings:

  • Display pictures, videos, and cuddly kitties;
  • When sharing a link in chat (Disabled);
  • When uploading via Discord (Disabled);
  • Enable image descriptions (Enabled);
  • Attachments and link previews;
  • Show attachments and preview web links from chat messages (Disabled);
  • Emoji;
  • Show emoji reactions under messages (Disabled);
  • Stickers;
  • Suggest stickers (Disabled);
  • Autocomplete stickers (Disabled);
  • Text box;
  • Display emoji, mentions, and text markup while you type (Enabled).

In this tab, I turned off the photo and video content preview for myself, but turned on image descriptions. I disabled the attachment and web link previews, reactions under posts, and stickers to reduce the clutter of unnecessary information that will go into the screen reader, but left emoji and mentions while typing enabled.

“The Notifications” tab lets you control how you get notified about events, messages, and other Discord activity.

  • Text-to-speech notifications (turn this option on if you want a high-tech robot to voice notifications for you);
  • Sounds (enables notifications for messages in the same channel (Enabled));
  • Email notifications;
  • Informational emails (Disabled);
  • Social emails (Disabled);
  • Emails with announcements and update descriptions (Disabled);
  • Tip emails (Disabled);
  • Recommendation emails (Disabled).

Here, turning on TTS notifications makes sense for the visually impaired, as the voice notifications will be duplicated when using a screen reader. I have these settings turned off, as well as almost all email notifications. It is, however, important and useful to enable the notification option in the same channel.

The “Hotkeys” tab provides an opportunity to customize key combinations for the app’s various actions and functions. Here you can set up quick access to the functions you need and delegate convenient hotkeys for them. This tab is actually only indirectly related to accessibility, making your interaction with Discord more convenient, but you may choose not to customize it at all.

There are other settings in the tabs I mentioned, but you can leave them unchanged — I have only mentioned the ones I adjusted myself. Discord has a lot of different options and parameters, many of which come with descriptions, so, if you want to familiarize yourself with them, do not be worried that you might not understand what they do.

For quick navigation, you can switch between subcategories of settings within tabs by pressing “H,” check and uncheck boxes with “X,” and activate buttons by pressing the “Space” key.

After any making changes to the settings, be sure to save them if required by the particular tab you have altered.

In this article, we have covered the installation and customization of Discord on the Windows platform. You have learned how to customize the application for maximum convenience.

Do not forget that Discord is not just a communication tool, but also an opportunity to meet new people, make friends, exchange ideas and even create your own server, which may become the center of your community. Stay open to new opportunities!

Are you ready to join the Discord community today?