Accessibility: Obsidian with screen readers

Hi all. I’m a totally blind person that’s interested in using Obsidian in my job, and maybe personally as well. My boss told me about Obsidian–that’s what he uses–so I decided to try it out. I found that some of it was usable with a screen reader (I tried NVDA on Windows. I found that when I navigated text that I’d written, using the arrow keys, all I heard was “blank” signifying that the screen reader could not read the text.

Steps to reproduce

Assuming NVDA is installed(get from link above):

  • Start NVDA.
  • Start Obsidian.
    Close all open files, then create a new one. You can use arrow keys and Enter for this.
  • A file name box opens, and gains keyboard focus. The name of the field isn’t spoken with NVDA (much more minor bug). Enter any name, and press Enter.
  • Now, type some text. A heading, and then a paragraph, will do.
  • press the Up arrow a few times to get back to the heading.

Expected result

After pressing the arrow keys, NVDA should be speaking text behind the cursor, or the line that the cursor is on.

Actual result

NVDA speaks “blank” instead, meaning that NVDA sees no text at all. Interestingly, if I select all with Control + A, NVDA reads the text then. However, this is hardly a good editing experience.

Environment

  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • Obsidian version: v0.12.4

Additional information

Hey there thanks for posting this bug report. I am a Obsidian user. I was wondering how Obsidian is fairing on the accessibility side.
Thought I would also drop in my message.

I have issues regarding keyboard accessibility. I mean ‘mouse less usage’. Hope the team will address both issues. They are a great developers.

1 Like

I don’t have a good answer to this.
Other users have had better luck with other screen readers on mac.
One day we could try to do sprint and try several scrren readers.

Does windows built in screen reader work? I think it’s called Narrator.

1 Like

I just tried both Narrator on Windows and VoiceOver on the Mac. Narrator works even more poorly than NVDA, and while I can review the lines I’ve written with VoiceOver, I cannot hear what my cursor passes over. I’ll try JAWS next. I’m an accessibility tester as part of my job, so I have access to just about any screen reader you’d like me to test with.

Okay, tried with JAWS and Orca (for Linux). JAWS did the same thing as VoiceOver, allowing me to review the text outside of the edit field, but I still cannot move my cursor there. The program didn’t work at all with Orca.

Thank you very much for your testing. Your efforts prompted me to do some research. The issues you are highlighting are due to our editor library Codemirror 5.
Codemirror 5 doesn’t play well with screen reader due to some architectural decisions and technical limitations and it won’t get “fixed”.

Codemirror 6 is a complete rewrite of the editor and it does work with screenreaders. We already use Codemirror 6 in the mobile app and will eventually upgrade to Codemirror 6 in the desktop app as well.

3 Likes

This is great, I’m very much looking forward to the transition to CodeMirror 6 on desktop. Is there any rough timeline on when that transition might happen? I know of a few visually impaired users that are anxious to try out Obsidian (and I’ve told them all how great it is), so I’m excited about this update! :smiley:

1 Like

I’m interested too. I’d like to introduce it to my students who are visually impaired. It’s a great tool, but until accessiblity issues are addressed, it’s a no go.

2 Likes

I am on obsidian 0.12 as a blind user of the nvda screenreader.
I would love to get in to obsidian, but am still not able to read text back while editing. Will this be fixed? How can we adres such a thing on the roadmap I mean accessibility should be a priority hthese days of all kinds of organisations. HOw can we get this properly adresed on the backlog? And fixed within one of the upcoming sprints?

I am not 100% sure how things are now. 0.13 available to insiders now has the new editor. Let us know if it works better when you get chance.

Seems wto work better, thnx.
I enabled livepreview and now while my screenreader is in edit mode, I can read the text backwarts while editing in the same formfield.