Welcome to Gnome discourse screen reader users


Gnome project is moving away from using mailman for community discussions and orca-list is going to be configured to be read only at the end of october. There is a discourse forum at https://discourse.gnome.org. Its primary interface is the screen reader accessible website but it can also be used by email.
Today an Accessibility category has been created for us so we can now both consume posts and submit new post via email as well as on the web.

I have came up with an exclusive post taylored for needs of this community in order to help transitioning from email list to discourse as fluently as possible. Of course everyone is free to do what is best for them. I just like the platform so I have tried to let you know what I have gathered so far and what I can recommend.
The following text is about discourse and you can also find it on the Accessibility category of Gnome’s discourse.

Initial steps - Signing up

  • First you have to be registered on the discourse instance. Gnome login is also supported for those who are logging in with single credentials to various gnome services.
  • In order to register visit discourse.gnome.org, use tab to navigate, find and activate the Sign up button.
  • A dialog box titled Welcome should appear. Explore this dialog by pressing tab and shift+tab keyboard shortcuts. Except of filling the registration data, you can login through other supported services including Gnome LDAP, Github or Google. If you don’t want to use or don’t have one of these accounts you can register a new account tyed to your email.
  • Fill in your account details. It’s brief similar to mailing list setup.
  • Once the registration dialog has been filled and submitted by pressing the Create your account button, you will receive email with a link you have to visit in order to verify your email address and activate the new account.
  • When you have just created your account at discourse or you are visiting the site again, you have to fill the login form. It’s very brief, you just have to fill in your username and password and press Login button.

On login

After logging in home page is shown. It has two landmarks, navigation at the top and then main content.

Navigation has links to Search, Menu, Profile and Settings and Notifications. It’s easy to navigate using tab or shift+tab in this section. Each of these links are collapsed initially and can be expanded by pressing the enter key. After expanding such a link many more links will be revealed on the same page immediatelly after this set of links without causing it to fully reload. When a link is expanded you can continue navigating with tab or shift+tab keyboard shortcut. When focus is on an expanded link, it is possible to collapse it by pressing the enter key on it and corresponding navigation content will be removed from the view. Also it is possible to dismiss expanded views by pressing the esc when focused inside them.
When navigating within such a content that has been revealed after expanding a link you can use common navigation shortcuts and screen reader features. For example when the search is expanded you will get an edit field and other links you can use to finetune the search. When profile is expanded there is a list of tabs you can navigate with left and right arrow keys and activate the chosen tab by pressing the spacebar. Also there are more links such as links to concrete posts, topics and private message within notifications and similar.

Main content is started with dismissable information message, followed by the filters applicable with the active category, New topic button and contextual notification control. Filters are comboboxes which display search field and menu with radio menu items once expanded. Use tab or shift+tab, arrow keys and enter key to navigate. Such comboboxes are used at other parts of the forum so it’s good idea to familiarize with these.

Homepage features a table with all the discussion categories followed by the Top discussions. Both categories and popular topics are started with headings at level 2. You can take advantage of this for easier navigation if you prefer.


When viewing a category there is a list with subcategories in place of categories as compared to the homepage and list of topics below the subcategories.
Categories might include discussions or nested sub categories. For example if you wish to navigate to recently created Accessibility category, you first have to open Community category and then you will find Accessibility category above the topics table.
Subcategories are headings at level 3 and section headings or topic titles are headings at level 2 if you prefer screen reader features to navigate.
Table listing the topics has sorting buttons within the header and infinite scrolling applied. When navigating with tab key or when using screen reader features to navigate by heading or table row new content is loaded before you scrol near enough the bottom edge as you scroll down slowly.


After finding a topic you wish to read in the list of topic of a category or from the search results you can open it with the enter key.
To read the individual messages you can use your screen reader in the browse mode.
For easier navigation you can either navigate by landmarks, navigate by headings or you can switch to focus mode and use discourse specific keyboard shortcuts pressing letters j or k. Landmarks are labelled so you can easily understand which posts you are navigating through.
Topic view also has infinite scrolling. Discourse remembers your reading position within a topic. For example when you have read some 10 posts and close your browser window you can continue reading where you have left off after visiting that topic again.
If you wish to jump straight to any message, you can switch your screen reader into focus mode and then press the # (pound) key. Dialogbox where you can type in number of the target post or the date will appear.
Other controls such as sharing a post, replying to it can be reached with the tab or shift+tab key.

Private messages

Except public discussions discourse also has a private messaging built-in. Once you login for the first time you will receive a message from the discobot user. In order to discover other discourse features, experience writing messages, quoting, replying, attaching files I think you should exchange a few messages with this bot. You will also get recognized as a human being by the system and you are more likely to receive enough reputation so you will not have issues posting new topics via email if you wish.
Please note new discourse users may only post two links in a message, so pay attention to this when posting for the first time both through the web and email.

Writing content

When writing emails you can remember you have to pay extra attention to the posting style whether you are going to use top posting or bottom posting style or whether you are going to reply inline. In discourse this is all handled by reply quoting. When reading post content your screen reader is very likelly switched to browse mode. Therefore you can use shift+arrow keys to select part of a message you wish to reply to. When part of the text is selected, visually there is a quote button displayed above the selected content. If you were about to navigate to that button with a screen reader you will have to move the caret thus cancel the selection. I recommend selecting the content, switching the screen reader into focus mode and then using keyboard shortcut q as quote to quote the selected text and append it to the reply box.
To avoid posting multiple messages one after the other it’s nice to know you can repeat this multiple times with multiple quotes from the same or different messages.
Also when writing content discourse can handle markdown so you can write nicelly formatted and structured content if you wish.

Keyboard shortcuts

I have mentioned a few discourse exclusive keyboard shortcuts. There are many more of them and you can list them by switching your screen reader into focus mode and pressing the question mark keyboard shortcut.
Keyboard help will appear in the dialog. Navigate to the close button by pressing tab key, switch your screen reader to browse mode and continue reading from there. Or use your screen reader to navigate by heading.

Email setup

Discourse has ability to track or watch categories, tags and topics. And it also has so called mailing list mode. All these settings are configured per user thus you can configure it according to your preferences. When mailing list mode is enabled, watched categories, tags, topics and other notification and email preferences are not in effect. When mailing list mode is active, each message of a discourse forum is sent by email. If you wish to consume the whole discourse this is recommended setup.

When you like to choose what to send to you by email, you need to pay attention to your preferences: email, categories and tags.

Recommended setup for members transitioning from orca-list

  • Go to your profile or switch your screen reader into focus mode and press g then p.
  • Use tab key to navigate and find Preferences link, activate it, then continue with tab key, find and activate emails.
  • Use tab to navigate. If you land on Filter by list, switch your screen reader into browse mode and read the line above the focused list by pressing up arrow key. If you wish to change, expand the list by pressing alt+down arrow key, choose the option with up and down arrow keys and confirm the selection with the enter key.
  • Then configure like this:
    • Email me when I am sent a personal message - no change leave it at Always
    • Email me when I am quoted, replied to, my @username is mentioned, or when there is new activity in my watched categories, tags or topics - change the setting from Only when away to Always
    • Include previous replies at the bottom of emails - Adjust according to your preference. I like to configure it to Never
    • When I don’t visit here, send me an email summary of popular topics and replies - I recommend unchecking it as you will configure content you wish to receive later
    • Enable mailing list mode - No change - keep it unchecked
  • Finish configuring this part by pressing Save button.
  • Then navigate to Categories. You can configure it in a way so you will receive all the messages from the accessibility category like this:
    • Watched - Expand the list, search for Accessibility, find radio item accessibility and confirm with the enter key
  • Save the settings in this part by pressing the Save button.
  • Then navigate to Tags. You can configure it in a way so you will receive all the messages tagged with Orca no matter which category and topic they are posted to and you will receive only first post of topics tagged with Accessibility and announcement no matter which category these are posted in like this:
    • Watched - Expand the list, search for Orca, find radio item Orca and confirm with the enter key
    • Watching First Post - Expand the list, search for Accessibility, find radio item Accessibility and confirm with the enter key, then repeat the same thing for Announcement or other tags you might be interested to get a first post of a topic.
  • Save the settings in this part by pressing the Save button.
  • Except the categories and tags you have just configured you will also receive messages sent directly to you, messages where someone quotes your content or mentions your username prepended with @ sign.
  • When reading a topic you can add individual topics to the watched list so you will selectively get those posts delivered through email.
  • When these features are coupled with powerfull and working search within categories and topics I think you can really tune what you will get into your inbox.




There doesn’t seam to be an “accessibility” category found by the search function. To find it, you have to use the search link at the top of the page.

Also, block quotes in email replies seam to be ignored by Discourse.


Both appear to work for me. If you did not manage to find the Accessibility category when configuring categories in the settings expand the combobox with the down arrow, type part of the term e.g. acc and press down arrow key to move to the search results. If there is single resurt returned only, using up and down arrow keys won’t cause screen reader to speak if you already focused on this single search result. You can verify by pressing tab and then shift+tab.
If this is still not working for you, you can find the accessibility category the way you’re used to. When it’s showing there is a focusable list labelled Change notification level for this category above a table with sub categories. Expand this list with alt+down arrow key, choose watching with up and down arrow keys and confirm with the enter key.

I’ve seen people posting quoted text by using email. Perhaps it was difficult to quote parts of the formatted message. It’s good to know you can use markdown to write your text email, thus quoting with greater than sign should work hopefully.

This is a quoted reply from email.

I had a couple of issues in the past:


so, if replying via email does not work, it could just be an
infrastructure problem.



since then we switched to a different setup when it comes to accept Discourse emails, I don’t expect any major issue with it by now, please let us know if something doesn’t look ok though :slight_smile:

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This Works.

Thanks a lot.

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