Discord for the Blind: User Experience

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Discord has become an integral part of social communities, attracting audiences with its robust features. In the previous article, “Discord for the Blind: Installation and Setup,” we looked at how to set the application up on the Windows operating system for visually impaired users. Now it is time to dive into the practical experience of using Discord.

Discord Workspace

It is worth emphasizing the following: the Discord workspace is designed in such a way that the navigation is performed via quick navigation keys in the same way one would navigate a regular web page.

The Discord workspace consists of two main areas: “Friends” and “Servers.” There are not many differences between them, but they do exist and consist in controls layout and certain functionalities that favor the more extensive capabilities of the “Servers” field. Switching between the two has almost no effect on the settings.

Among the common elements between the areas are the three buttons: “Close,” “Expand,” and “Collapse,” which are located at the very top of the workspace, just behind the header of the currently active area.

Right besides them is an element that remains a mystery to me… The thing is, due to my total blindness, I do not know what it looks like, and it is dubbed “Tree View Element,” making me think of it as a sort of list. The element is mysterious for two reasons:

  1. First, the screen reader just voices it as “Tree,” with no indication that it is an interactive element;
  2. Second, whenever activated, the list is not voiced until you use the “Tab” key and then go back using the “Shift + Tab” key combination.

I have a blank list moment present with all screen readers and can only access listed items using this method. The list contains “Private Messages,” a list of servers that you have joined, the “Add Server” button that allows you to create your own server, as well as “Explore Available Servers,” which searches for publicly available servers.

For example, by activating “Explore Available Servers,” you can find our Discord server: Simply fill in “Server Name” and click “Join.”

To exit this list, use the “Esc” key.

Visually, at the bottom of the window, there is a panel with general controls, but this is not the end of the Discord workspace as far as screen readers are concerned. The panel contains:

  • The “Set Status” button;
  • The “Mute” switch that disables your microphone;
  • The “Deafen” switch that disables incoming audio;
  • The “User Settings” button.

The buttons are navigated by pressing the “B” key, and the switches are navigated by pressing the “X” key. Elements are activated by pressing the “Space” key.

“Friends” Workspace Area

Immediately upon launching Discord, the active area will be set to “Friends,” which is a set of components that allow you to manage your contacts list and communicate with them. Here, pressing the “H” key, allows us to access several segments:

The “Private Messages” segment contains the “Create PM” button to start a new dialog with a user from your friends list, as well as to access any previously opened conversations. You can quickly navigate through open dialogs by pressing the “U” key, as they are presented in the form of links.

The “Friends” segment of the same name contains tabs that group contacts via the following filters:

  • Online;
  • All;
  • Waiting;
  • Blocked;
  • Add as a Friend.

Here you will also find the “New Group Chat,” “Mail,” and “Help” buttons, as well as the search field to quickly look through your contacts.

Then there is content that corresponds to the selected tab. For example, if the “Online” tab is currently active, it will display a list of your friends who happen to be online at the moment.

The friends list is represented by their avatar, username, alias, current activity status, and control elements.

Now let us discuss the active contact conversation segment. It replaces the “Friends” segment whenever there is an active chat. The “Active Chat” segment provides options to exchange messages and interact with the selected contact. Here are this segment’s main elements:

  1. Chat Summary: Displays the avatar, nickname, and status of the current contact;
  2. Chat Control Panel: Contains the “Chat Settings Menu” buttons (signed with the contact’s name), audio and video calls, and other controls;
  3. Message History: Displays messages in chronological order. You can view messages by pressing the “H” key, which will have you move from one timestamp to the next, or by pressing the “B” key, which will move by sender’s name;
  4. Message Entry Field: A place to write and send your text messages. Here you can also use various text formatting tools and insert multimedia files.

I did not describe all the elements because Discord has a lot of them, but almost all of them are signed and quite intuitive to use. I would like to mention one more thing: do not be afraid to call the context menu on the various elements using the key of the same name on your keyboard. For most items, it will bring up a menu with settings and other actions. When working with Discord, this menu will be located at the very bottom of the workspace. It is important to realize that it is not visually located at the bottom, but is “hidden” within the sequential output of elements by the screen reader.

This also applies to the items in the “Servers” area of the workspace.

“Servers” Workspace Area

This area contains controls and information regarding the server you are currently connected to. Here are the main items that are usually found in this area:

  1. Server Name and Server Actions: A button with a drop-down menu that contains quick settings for notifications, server profile, and server actions;
  2. List of Sections and Channels: Each server contains sections with text and voice channels. Sections can be navigated with the “H” key, while channels are navigated with the “U” key;
  3. Controls Panel: Performs the same functions as the similar panel in the private messaging segment, but focuses on the current server channel instead;
  4. Message History and Message Entry Field: Work the same way as with private messages, so I will not describe them again;
  5. The last important element is the Participants List: Displays all participants in the current channel, separating them by role.

Once again, I did not specify absolutely every element, but only described the most important and useful ones from my point of view. The principles of interacting with various elements are the same for both areas, and so are their corresponding shortcut keys.

In the end, I would like to convey this thought: Discord, in its essence, is not very complicated, and, once you understand it, is even convenient, but it consists of numerous control elements that have additional functions. Even while writing this piece, I discovered a few new features.

Explore and experiment without fear, join our community, ask questions, and we will be happy to hear from you and to answer your questions!

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