Using Microsoft Teams With a Screen Reader
Last Revised April, 2020
This document is meant as an introduction and reference for using Microsoft Teams (Teams) with a screen reader. This document may more directly or frequently refer to JAWS but is not meant to exclude other screen readers
in its coverage.
For documentation and download of JAWS scripts for Teams, refer to
Using the JAWS Scripts For Microsoft Teams.
This document was last revised against Teams version 1.3.00.4461 as tested on April 2, 2020.
This Teams version is an Electron app.
The active interface code comes directly from a Microsoft server and may change without notice and without changing the Teams version number just mentioned.
As a result, user experience may vary.
Table of Contents
A Quick Simplification of Terminology
In this document:
- "virtual navigation" refers to navigation using JAWS' virtual PC cursor, NVDA's Browse mode, Narrator's scan mode, or any similar system that involves navigating a screen-reader-crafted view of the document that causes many
keystrokes to interact with the screen reader rather than with the application.
Teams is based on the division of conversations into teams of people, and within a team, channels and possibly subchannels for topics or focus areas. A channel may contain conversations, which can be "threaded" so that the first
message in each thread is immediately visible and replies may be accessed at the user's discretion.
The Teams screen can be opened via the Ctrl+3 shortcut.
Teams also supports
Finally, Teams includes a system for tracking your own activities or the activities of other users through "feeds." Ctrl+1 opens this screen.
- Chats (conversations among two or more people that are not in a channel) (Ctrl+2),
- Calls (voice and/or video connections among two or more people) (Ctrl+5),
- Meetings (communication among several people that may include text chats, voice, video, and screen sharing) (Ctrl+4), and
- Files shared among Teams users (Ctrl+6). Files are listed in the "Microsoft Teams" tab, and recent additions in the "Recents" tab. Your local downloads appear in the "Downloads" tab.
Note that the specific effects of the keystrokes just mentioned may vary slightly among Teams installations, based on corporate policies.
- Especially when navigating lists such as messages in a conversation, it is often useful to avoid virtual navigation. The JAWS Ins+Z command may be useful here, for example.
- Virtual navigation is likely to show more information in the Settings screens, accessed via Ctrl+,.
Quick Ways To Get Things Done
Review available Teams keystrokes by typing Ctrl+. and then using left and right arrows to read individual keystrokes and their descriptions. This list may contain some silent separators between sections.
Use Ctrl+, to open Settings.
To jump to a specific team, type Ctrl+G, type its name or type part of its name and select the full name via DownArrow, and press Enter.
To start a one-to-one chat, type Ctrl+N, type a partial name, use DownArrow to select a person, and press Enter.
In a chat screen, use c to jump to the message composition box. When sitting on a thread, use r to add a reply to it.
Use the command edit box to accomplish many tasks very quickly. Type Ctrl+/ before each of the actions below, and make sure virtual navigation is turned off. In JAWS, use Ins+Z to do this if necessary.
There are more commands available than are listed here.
For a better description of this feature and a list of the available commands provided by Microsoft, visit
the "Use commands in Teams" page.
- To scroll through available commands, arrow down through the list.
- To quickly change status, use the Available, Away, Busy, and DND commands.
- For an alternative way to open a one-to-one chat, backspace over the / that the Ctrl+/ command placed in the box, then type @ followed by a partial contact's name, select the full name
with DownArrow, and press Enter.
- Use the mentions, unread, and saved commands to review your mentions, unread activity, and saved chat messages, respectively.
- To see someone's activity or org chart, use the activity or org commands. Tab to the edit box for selecting a person, type a partial name and use DownArrow to select someone, and press
(The accessibility of org charts in Teams has not been fully tested at this writing.)
Available Microsoft Resources and Internal Application Help
Microsoft provides several useful resources for Teams users in general and screen reader users in particular:
- Basic tasks using a screen reader with Microsoft Teams
covers basic tasks in Teams using screen readers on various platforms, including Windows.
The Windows information includes information for JAWS and NVDA users.
This page includes instructions on how to download and install the Teams application.
- Use a screen reader to chat in Microsoft Teams
explains how to use Teams with a screen reader to chat. This page is written
primarily for JAWS users.
The "See also" section of this page includes links to further task-specific guidance pages for screen reader users than are listed here.
- Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Teams
lists Teams keyboard shortcuts available under Windows and MacOS.
- Typing Ctrl+. from within Teams brings up a list of keyboard shortcuts. When not using virtual navigation, the right and left arrows may reach more list elements than will the up and down arrows.
- Typing Ctrl+/ from within Teams moves focus to a command entry box and brings up a list of the available commands. Use up and down arrows, without enabling virtual navigation, to explore the command list. The
first command, Activities, may not speak on first being encountered.
- Typing F1 from within Teams opens a help screen where you can type a question to get an answer from a "bot," or automated chat responder.