My Initial Impressions of Using Outlook.com with a Screen Reader

A while ago, I saw some discussion on the blind Trainers list regarding the accessibility of the Outlook.com Web site with screen readers. I decided to do some experimenting with the site and I am happy to report that, at least for me, the site was extremely usable.
First, the screen reader that I used to test the Outlook.com Web site was NVDA, along with the Firefox browser. All of the links seem to be clearly labeled, including navigating through the list of messages. The web site didn’t seem to use any Aria controls or tables and placing the message list in a table would have made navigation a bit more convenient. However, since each message has a checkbox associated with it, screen reader users can press the letter x to navigate from one message to the next. This is also true for window-eyes and for JAWS.
what really impressed me about Outlook.com is the fact that you can set it up to receive email from other accounts. This is quite nice. Since Verizon is my home Internet provider, I used to be able to go onto the verizon.net Web site to access Web mail from other computers. A while ago, this interface became totally inaccessible and I haven’t had a chance to contact Verizon about this to report the issue. However, with Outlook.com, I was able to go through the settings to add my Verizon.net email address as an Outlook.com account, allowing me to access my account via a Webmail interface. Truth be told, this isn’t really crucial for me as I use portable email clients off of a thumb drive when I’m on a computer that may not be set up with full accessibility. When I’m not at home, I can use my thumb drive to run a portable copy of NVDA, along with Seamonkey, which is currently the portable email client I’m using. However, if you’re a person or are working with a student for whom this is not an ideal solution, helping them set up their email account on Outlook.com may be a reasonable solution.

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