Open Bug 411198 Opened 12 years ago Updated 4 years ago

Message navigation keys conflict with screen reader "quick navigation" keys


(Thunderbird :: Mail Window Front End, defect)

Not set


(Not tracked)


(Reporter: vtsaran, Unassigned)


(Depends on 1 open bug, Blocks 2 open bugs)


(Keywords: access)

User-Agent:       Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30)
Build Identifier: 3.0 nightly

In brief, screen readers employ a virtual buffer technique for reformatting HTML content on web pages, E-mail messages and elsewhere. In order to make it easier for the end-user to find different HTML elements, like headings, tables, lists etc, a technique known as "quick navigation" keys is used. This technique employs single-letter keystrokes, for example, H will jump to the next heading, T to the table, F to the next form field etc.
Thunderbird employs single-letter keystrokes to allow users to navigate between messages while in the "message view" screen, for example, F will move to the next message, B to hte previous one etc.
This naturally presents a conflict between screen reader and Thunderbird keystrokes.
One of the solutions is to perhaps implement a feature called keyboard scheme where the user could define their own keystrokes or choose from one of the predefined keystroke templtes/schemes.

Reproducible: Always

Steps to Reproduce:
1. Launch one of the popular screen readers (JAWS, Window-eyes, NVDA, Hal etc).
2. Open Thunderbird, pick one of the messages from the list and open it.
3. Try to use Thunderbird's built-in keystrokes, such as F or B, to navigate to the next and previous messages respectively.
Actual Results:  
The keystrokes won't work and instead screen readers' keystrokes will be executed
Adding a comment to force bug resubmission.
Keywords: access
Version: unspecified → Trunk
Making sure this gets onto the Thunderbird 3 plate for consideration/discussion.
Blocks: tbird3access
Ever confirmed: true
Whatever happens to the way Thunderbird handles messages and folders, this should definitely be considered. It goes beyond the keys interfering within the reading pane. I get a lot of requests from users who want to navigate the folder tree by first letter navigation, and those are also intercepted by TB, even though they don't really perform their functions like "go to next unread message" there.
Flags: blocking-thunderbird3?
Just to expand on the previous post about the mailbox tree, single or multiple key navigation of the mailbox tree is crucial to users who perform navigation through the keyboard. Otherwise, keyboard navigation is only available through the arrow keys, which is incredibly cumbersome with dozens of email boxes. It would be really useful to make the use of single-character hot keys context dependent. I would like to suggest that whenever focus is in the mailbox tree, single or multiple key navigation should be enabled.
OS: Windows XP → All
Hardware: PC → All
I'd be really interested to explore ways that we can use what the accessibility folks have learned to improve keyboard navigation for all readers, sighted or not.  I'm wondering if Aza has any thoughts he'd like to bring in, given the Humanized experience.

Wouldn't block for this.

Frankly, I'd consider it bad practice of the screen readers to use one-key navigation for things like that (and afaik not at all of them do). And if they do, shouldn't they be able to get the key before thunderbird, and do what they want with it?
Flags: blocking-thunderbird3? → blocking-thunderbird3-
No longer blocks: tbird3access
(In reply to Magnus Melin from comment #6)
> Frankly, I'd consider it bad practice of the screen readers to use one-key
> navigation for things like that
Traditionally, browsers don't have single letter commands while browsing a document and navigating with modifiers in this case is incredibly inefficient. You can argue it's bad practice for screen readers, but I'd argue that what Thunderbird does is non-standard as far as documents are concerned. Either way, arguing about that is fairly pointless.

> (and afaik not at all of them do).
I know of at least five that do.

> they do, shouldn't they be able to get the key before thunderbird, and do
> what they want with it?
As outlined in step 3 and the actual results in comment 0, they do. However, that means they can't easily access the associated Thunderbird binding.

It's worth noting that screen readers generally have a command which allows the user to pass these keys through on request. While this is a little annoying, I'm tempted to say users should just deal with it. That said, the concern raised in comment 3 and comment 4 about the inability to navigate the folder tree with single letter navigation makes navigation incredibly inefficient for keyboard users. At the very least, these single letter commands should not take effect there and single letter navigation in the folder tree should be possible.
Whew, that's a hard one with no immediate solutions which spring to mind.
With focus on folder list, I'd happily agree to have single letter keys navigate the folder list.

Otherwise, this looks like a another case for bug 57805.
Depends on: 57805
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