Quick tip: Add someone to circles on Google Plus using a screen reader

In my “WAI-ARIA for screen reader users” post in early May, I was asked by Donna to talk a bit about Google Plus. Especially, she asked how to add someone to circles. Google Plus has learned a thing or two about screen reader accessibility recently, but the fact that there is no official documentation on the Google Accessibility entry page yet suggests that people inside Google are not satisfied with the quality of Google Plus accessibility yet, or not placing a high enough priority on it. That quality, however, has improved, so adding someone to one or more circles using a screen reader is not that difficult any more.

Note that I tested the below steps with Firefox 31 Beta (out July 22) and NVDA 2014.2. Other screen reader/browser combos may vary in the way they output stuff or switch between their virtual cursor and focus/forms modes.

Here are the steps:

  1. Log into Google Plus. If you already have a profile, just go ahead and find someone. If not, create a profile and add people.
  2. The easiest way to find people is to go to the People tab. Note that these currently have no “selected” state yet, but they do have the word “active” as part of the link text.
  3. Once you found someone in the list of suggestions, find the “Add to circles” menu button, and press the Space Bar. Note that it is very important that you press Space here, not Enter!
  4. NVDA now automatically switches to focus mode. What happened is that a popup menu opened that has a list of current circles, and an item at the bottom that allows you to create a new circle on the fly. The circles themselves are checkable menu items. Use the up and down arrows to select a circle, for example Friends or Acquaintances, and press the Space Bar to add the person. The number of people in that circle will dynamically increase by one, and the state will be changing to “checked”. Likewise, if you want to remove a person from a particular circle, press Space Bar just the same. These all act like regular check boxes, and the menu stays active so you can shuffle that person around your circles as you please.
  5. At the bottom, there is a non-checkable menu item called “Add new circle”. Here, you have to press Enter. If you do this, a panel opens inside the menu, and focus lands on a text field where you can enter the name of a new circle, for example Web Developers. Press Tab to reach the Create Circle button and press Space Bar. The new circle will be added, the person you’re adding to circles will automatically be added to that circle, and you’re back in the menu of circle checkboxes.
  6. Once you’re done, press Escape twice. The first will end NVDA’s focus mode, the second will close the Add to Circles menu. Focus will land back on the button for that person, but the label will change to the name of a single circle, if you added the person to only one circle, or the label “x Circles”, where x is the number of circles you just put that person into.

The above steps also work on the menu button that you find if you opened the profile page of an individual person, not just in the list of suggested people, or any other list of people. The interaction is exactly the same.

Hope this helps you get around in Google Plus a bit more efficiently!

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