Blind Mailing – Some tips on Accessing windows Mail

When Windows 10 first appeared there were several parts of the OS which did not work well with Access technology. Even now many of the Windows Store Apps remain difficult for a Blind person to use. It is only now that core features like Edge are becoming serious options for a Blind Computer User.

One App that has definitely come a long way is Windows Mail. This App, virtually unusable, with the first version of Windows 10, is now increasingly supported by both the Jaws and NVDA Screen readers. There was a time when it was impossible to hear what you were typing in Windows Mail. No longer. It has become an important part of the Blind Accessibility Tool Kit.

Personally I am increasingly using Windows Mail for the quick perusal of emails. It is very snappy and I particularly like the automatic preview reading. This helps me easily get rid of the annoying short one liner chatty emails from email lists without having to open them.

It has effectively replaced Thunderbird for me as my second email client after Microsoft Outlook.

A Blind computer user’s enjoyment of Mail can be greatly increased by adopting just a few useful strategies. These tips may be obvious to some people, especially to those who have some sight, but the following realisations have helped me a lot.

1. Regaining focus.

Reading an email in mail it seemed initially a little weird.

After reading a message I press escape to close the email. However I am not then returned to the Message list as I would have expected but the navigation button. Originally this resulted in my tabbing around trying to find the message list. Eventually I realised that the Navigation Button was just one tab element to the right of the message list. This is obvious to someone who can see but not to a screen reader user. Now I routinely press shift tab after pressing escape and I am immediately and reliably returned to the message list again. This is part of my muscle memory now.

2. Loading Message.

From time to time Windows Mail will announce loading – which once more seemed to get me lost and inhibit the reading of emails.

However yet again simply press shift tab and you will be instantly

Returned to the message list.

3. Managing and deleting threads.

It took me a while to get to grips with managing threads. Windows Mail automatically opens threads as you focus on and move down the list of emails. As a consequence I Initially found it difficult to delete whole threads because of this behaviour. As soon as you focus on the thread it opens to individual emails. I like the ability to delete whole threads that I am not interested in. . The solution is easy. Focus anywhere in the message threads and press the left arrow repeatedly until you hear Jaws announce collapsed. As soon as you hear collapsed press the delete key and the whole thread will be deleted.

4. Use Outlook Shortcuts.

Finally I have discovered that actually many of the shortcut keystrokes that work in Microsoft Outlook also work in Windows Mail. For example use control Y to bring up the list of email folders, this is vastly easier than tabbing repeatedly to the function you want. Control plus enter will send an email just as it does in Outlook and control R for reply etc. Nearly all the shortcuts are here.

So Windows Mail is a little bit of a toy app but with these strategies it is very easy to use. It is a breeze to set up. It respect and reacts properly to security standards of all the major email providers like Google and Yahoo. I personally find it very quick and responsive and I am increasingly

Using it.

David Griffith

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