Basic Fixes for Screen Readers & Accessibility (e.g. JAWS)

For inclusive design to be inclusive, we must be able to include all participants in collaborative work. Testing the screen reader JAWS with FigJam and Figma reveals a lack of regions, headers, and alt text to do basic screen reader navigation with the tool UI in the browser. Before we can fix the hard stuff, let’s fix the basic stuff!

e.g. When using a screen reader to navigate to the top of the page, a nonsensical phase is repeated over and over: “Read Only Edit Edit Read Only…” It is common for screen reader users to navigate to the top of the page to get oriented, and this non-helpful text keeps getting read when the focus is at the top of the page.

If there is someone at Figma who wants to work on this, I can share clips from a video session as well so you can hear this in context.

Examples of other accessibility issues noticed:

  • Lack of context on the zoom % (reading out “58%” alone doesn’t give any context)
  • Even when using keyboard commands, a mouse click is still expected sometimes. e.g. when clicking “s” to make a new sticky, it appears that you still must click with the mouse to place the sticky. No feedback is given to a screen reader user that clicking “s” did anything meaningful in the interface. It would be more accessible to be able to interact 100% with just the keyboard. Even being able to write your own stickies and then having someone else move them around is better than not having a sticky pad to write on at all!
  • Not being able to search the text within the FigJam whiteboard using the JAWS text search interface (note: searching the Figma interface does find text in the layers panel, but there’s still a lack of context when navigating around the layer panel). (Also it would be great for anyone to be able to search the text).

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Accessible prototypes in Figma are currently in open beta: