Simplifying Browser Use

Simplifying Browser Use

In my classes, we use three major browsers on PC (Windows): Internet Explorer( IE), Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome and of course, Safari on Macs. In all of my classes, I have endeavored to find the most useful and expansive techniques and keyboard shortcuts for students as I believe simplicity in using technology is key to its most effective use. Witness the IPhone, Steve Jobs transformed a concept of mobile phones that previously had arcane usage rules into a much simpler and, therefore, hugely popular concept. I firmly believe that students should concentrate their technology study and use into facilitating their academic studies rather than struggling to remember vast collections of shortcuts (JAWS, although it is the standard in screenreaders, can still present a formidable obstacle in this regard).  For use with JAWS (NVDA works very similarly), I have found that Internet Explorer can be the most effective browser, followed by Firefox as a close second. Google Chrome has some deficiencies when using screenreaders that make it less desirable as a browser of choice, however, some may prefer it, although Vox is still not quite as useful, it needs some improvement.

For surfing and reading webpages, the following short list of techniques/ shortcuts will enable accessible and simple web navigation with Internet Explorer and Mozilla . 

Since images and HTML styling represent more of a distraction than usefulness for BVI persons using a Web browser, the style on Web pages can be removed by IE: ALT key V for View Menu- Y for Style- N for no Style.

Alt-D goes directly to the address bar for entering a URL. With JAWS on, Insert-F5 displays a list of elements (Search boxes, etc.), Insert F-6 displays headings, and Insert F7 display all links. The up and down arrow keys are used to read individual items in a list and if the first letter of an item is known, pressing the letter inside the list will display all items beginning with that letter.  Of course, pressing the ALT key brings one to the menu bar and items inside major menu headings (File, Edit, etc.) can be traversed with the arrow keys and items accessible with keyboard shortcuts will have the shortcut listed next to the list item.

Chrome does not include the above keyboard shortcuts and an extension must be installed to enable similar shortcuts, thereby relegating it to the third choice in our classes using screenreaders.

 In short, to browse the Web with a Windows PC using IE and/or Firefox with a screenreader (NVDA works similarly to JAWS) :

1. Press ALT-D to focus on the address bar and enter a Website address;

2. Press Insert-F5 to access a list of elements on the page, Insert-F6 to access a list of headings for quick navigation, and Insert-F7 to access a list of links.

3. All other shortcuts can be accessed by pressing the ALT key, placing focus on the menu bar and using up/down arrow keys to navigate through list items and right/left arrows to navigate major menu headings.

4. HTML and CSS styling can be removed to remove elements that are unnecessary in a screenreader environment (colors, large titles, etc.) by using ALT-View-Style-No Style, to display the simple text webpage.

These shortcuts are by no means the limit of shortcut capabilities; they will serve to allow a novice screenreader user to quickly and easily access the web.

Apple Safari uses voiceover most effectively, a subject for another post.