Skype 3.2 is out of beta now and many of you will be chomping at the bit to download this shiny new version. If you are a screen reader user who is not comfortable using the mouse navigation features of your assistive technology, then I must advise you to wait just a few weeks longer due to a couple of keyboard navigation concerns.
There are currently two known keyboard accessibility issues with the Options dialogue box in Skype 3.2. First, though it is possible to up and down arrow through the categories of options upon initial entry into the Options dialogue, this list becomes unavailable after pressing tab or shift+tab. It is necessary to exit and re-enter the Options dialogue in order to regain access to the list of categories. Second, the Save and Cancel buttons are no longer reachable by pressing the tab and shift+tab keys. They also do not have equivalent hotkeys, so, for instance, pressing alt+s will not click the Save button as one would expect. These two issues may be reproduced by following these steps:
- Run Skype from the Desktop or Start Menu, or open it from the System Tray by right clicking its icon and choosing Show Friends.
- Press alt+t to open the Tools menu.
- Press p to open the Options dialogue box.
- Press the up and down arrow keys to move between the available categories of options you may adjust. Observe that your screen reader describes each category as it is selected.
- Press tab followed by shift+tab. The list of categories is no longer available. It is possible to tab around the entire dialogue box without locating this list.
- While navigating the dialogue box by pressing tab or shift+tab numerous times, observe that the Save and Cancel buttons are no longer available. It is necessary to find and left click them utilizing your screen reader’s mouse navigation functions. This is a dawnting task for many blind and visually impaired users relying on screen reading software.
- Press alt+f4 to exit the Options dialogue box without making any changes.
A reliable source reports that these issues will be resolved in a hot fix scheduled to be released in the next several weeks. This source also tells me that the Skype developers are interested in insuring the accessibility of not only the software but also the Skype web site. In order to insure these two accessibility issues and any others get resolved, it is best that we essentially vote for their prompt resolution by reporting them through Skype’s official channels. I would also like to hear about these issues directly. Please report all accessibility issues, with as much detail as possible, by submitting a support request directly to Skype and sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so I may track and potentially facilitate the prompt resolution of your concerns.