Voiceover HTML navigation updates

Voiceover logo (DaVinci man done as blue and white isotope man).There were quite a few updates to the VoiceOver screen reader on OSX Leopard, not least of which was the new, very smooth voice “Alex”. What will be of interest to developers is the new commands to help people navigate HTML.

These weren’t under the Safari bit of the VoiceOver manual, but are in the command list at the bottom. After lots of text-things that probably aren’t very useful (e.g. find the next italic text), you get:

Find the next item of the same type or the same text style
VO-Command-S
Find the next control
VO-Command-J
Find the next element that is different
VO-Command-N
Find the next table
VO-Command-T
Find the next heading of the same level
VO-Command-M
Find the next heading
VO-Command-H
Find the next blockquote
VO-Command-Q
Find the next visited link
VO-Command-V

For finding the previous instance instead of the next, just add shift to the combination, and there is still the type-ahead-find style link chooser.

I’ll have a more thorough play later, but interestingly there are two modes of navigation, the DOM mode:

You can move the VoiceOver cursor in a linear way, progressing across or down the website by moving from item to item on the page. This method provides excellent control but may slow you down if the page contains many items. This method uses the Document Object Model (DOM), which is the order specified by the developer of the website. Depending on the website, it can seem random.

And the ‘grouped’ mode:

You can navigate by grouped items. The VoiceOver cursor moves from one group of information to the next, and you interact with the group if you want to read its contents. This method speeds up navigation and allows you to quickly survey the contents of a page.

VoiceOver used to primarily use the second mode in version 1, and you used to get some strange odering based on the visual layout. The DOM mode (linear) should be much closer to Windows screen readers, and should work better for accessible sites.

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2 Contributions to “Voiceover HTML navigation updates”

  1. Access Curmudgeon wrote:

    Is it true that VoiceOver in Leopard still cannot jump to intra-document anchors? How about data table navigation?

  2. AlastairC wrote:

    I’m writing up some more on this, I should be able to finish it this weekend.

    Short answer: No, within page anchors don’t (in my testing) affect the VoiceOver cursor.

    There is a workaround using the mouse cursor commands, but I wouldn’t expect regular users to know this.

    Data tables are still just treated as text, which is such a shame, because the same functionality elsewhere in the system (e.g. iTunes) works really well.

    That may be updated with an incremental update, I hope.