As I stated in my blog post on Resources For Getting Started With Facebook Using JAWS Screen Reader, Facebook acknowledges that the current implementation of its Chat application may cause problems for screen readers and they recommend that a desktop instant messaging client such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) be used instead. In this blog post, I explain how to use JAWS 11 to download and install the current version of AIM (7.4), login with your Facebook user name, and perform the basic tasks that will allow you to chat with your Facebook friends. But before I get started on that, I will summarize two podcasts that already exist about using JAWS with AIM.
AIM and JAWS Podcasts
During the last 28 mintues of the March 2010 FSCast, Jonathan Mosen interviewed AOL Accessibility Director Tom Wlodkowski about how well JAWS is working with the new social networking features, including Facebook Chat, in AIM 7.2. Tom said that the objective of AIM is to become a universal communications platform. Previously, it permitted text, video and voice communication only with other AIM users but starting with version 7.2, AIM is now integrated with Facebook Chat. AIM also includes a new component called Lifestream which Tom describes as a "social network aggregator." Lifestream allows you to review the feeds from all of the social networks you've set up. You can update your status within AIM and have it posted to these social networks. Tom demonstrated how to sign in to AIM using your Facebook user name, locate a Facebook friend in your Buddy List and start a chat session with them. He also demonstrated some of the keyboard commands that make reviewing messages in the Conversation window easier. These commands are courtesy of the AIM scripts which were written by Doug Lee of SSB BART Group and are now included in the JAWS installation as of version 11.
In April 2010, Darragh Ó Héiligh of DigitalDarragh published a podcast about Using facebook chat with AIM and Jaws 11. Darragh wasn't able to sign into AIM 7.2 with his Facebook user name so he tried to create an AIM user name within the AIM application. He didn't find the form accessible (the only part I had difficultly with in AIM 7.4 was the audio CAPTCHA -- nothing happened when I activated the "audio" link) so he went to the AIM web site to create an AIM user name. That process plus the difficulties he had completing the audio CAPTCHA means that the first 26 minutes of the 44 minute podcast covers only downloading, installation and AIM account creation.
The JAWS scripts for AIM make AIM more accessible to JAWS and are included in the JAWS installation after version 11.0.756 (see AIM 7.2 Integrates with Facebook Chat). Note that the AIM 7 and Accessibility option help page states that "For optimal performance, JAWS needs to run AIM-specific scripts when AIM is in use. Freedom Scientific includes these scripts in their standard JAWS installation but occasionally changes may be made to the AIM interface that require AOL to update the scripts. You can download and install AIM scripts at http://www.aolcdn.com/aolhelp/jaws_script.exe." I've compared the AIM scripts in the JAWS 11.0.1467 installation with those on the AOL web site and found that the scripts in the former are more up-to-date than those in the latter i.e. the AIM scripts installed with JAWS were last modified in February 2010 (and are located in C:\ProgramData\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\11.0\SETTINGS\enu) while the AOL version were last modified in August 2009 (are installed in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\11.0\Settings\enu).
The steps for downloading and installing AIM are:
- Go to aim.com
- Locate and activate the Download AIM link
- Activate the Run button in the File Download and Internet Explorer Security Warning dialog boxes
- In the Installation Options dialog box, tab to and possibly uncheck the additional options; then tab to and activate the Install button
- Activate the Chat now button to start AIM
- You have 3 login options: Get an AIM user name, sign in with AIM or sign in with Facebook. Tab to the Facebook button and activate it.
- A Facebook login window opens. Type your Facebook user name / email and password. Then tab to and activate the Login button. [Note: If JAWS has difficulty with this form, exit from AIM (Alt Shift F4), restart AIM and try signing in again.]
- When you first sign in with your Facebook account, a Request for Permission form appears that describes what data from Facebook AIM plans to use. Tab to the Allow button and activate it.
- The Facebook login window closes and you're back at the AIM Login screen. The "Remember me" and "Automatically sign me in" checkboxes are enabled. The focus is on the Sign In button. Activate it.
- The Buddy List Builder window opens. By default it is set to import friends from your Facebook "address book." Enter your Facebook user name / email and password. Then tab to and activate the Find button.
- Activate the Continue link. To add Facebook to your Lifestream tab, locate and activate the Set up Lifestream link.
- The AOL Lifestream web page opens. Close it.
- Close the Buddy List Builder window e.g. activate the Close link.
To display the Privacy Settings:
- Open the Menu (Alt M) and select Privacy (press P).
- Tab through the various controls to review and possibly modify the following:
- Who can IM me and see me online
- Who can see my Buddy list
- Allow others to see: there are 3 options here.
- Tab to and activate the Save button if you've made any changes to the settings.
To review all of your settings:
- Open the Menu (Alt M) and select Settings (press S).
- A dialog box is displayed with a list of the types of settings on the left, and the controls to modify those settings on the right.
- Tab through the various controls to review and possibly modify your settings.
- When the focus is on the last control for that setting type (usually the Cancel button), press Tab to move to the list of settings; press up or down arrow to change the setting type; the controls on the right-hand side automatically appear so press Tab to access them.
- Particular settings you might want to review:
- General IM: the JAWS Help recommends that you uncheck the "Flash the window when IM messages are received" check box
- Sign In / Sign Out
- When I sign in, display the following: select None radio button versus Welcome page by pressing down arrow
- Start AIM when Windows starts
- AIM Upgrades
- Tab to and activate the Save button if you've made any changes to the settings.
JAWS Verbosity Settings for AIM
When AIM has the focus, press Insert V to display the JAWS Verbosity settings dialog box. You'll find several AIM-related settings at the top. The default settings are probably okay.
Buddies, Lifestream and Me Tabs
When you login, you'll probably be positioned on the Buddies tab. The two other tabs you can access are Lifestream and Me. Press Control Tab to switch between these 3 tabs.
The Buddies tab is a tree view containing groups of people that you can communicate with. Use your up and down arrow keys to move up/down through the Buddies list. Press right arrow to open a group which displays a list of names beneath it. Press left arrow to close the group. If you have logged into AIM with your Facebook user name, you should now have a Facebook Friends group that lists all of your Facebook friends that are online. If your friend/buddy is not online, he/she will appear under the final group, called Offline. For quicker access, start typing a name to shorten the list to only those names containing the letters you typed. To display all of your buddies again, press Escape.
If you didn't sign in with your Facebook user name during the installation process, you can still do so from the Buddies tab. Tab to and activate the Facebook Connect link. A Facebook login window opens. Follow the instructions beginning with Step 7 in the Installing AIM section above.
The Lifestream tab brings together updates from social networking sites that you setup including AIM, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. From here you can Comment, Like and update your status. You can filter which updates appear via the Expand Filter Options link; press Enter on it to open/close the list. There is also a search edit box which opens a new web browser window to display the results in the online version at lifestream.aol.com. Next you'll find a Refresh button. Tab through these controls and then through the updates from the sites you've integrated into AIM. Each update is a list item so you can use the navigation quick key, I, to move to the next update.
As described above, if you choose to sign in with your Facebook user name during the installation process, you'll be asked if you want to add Facebook to your Lifestream tab. You can add other social networks to Lifestream from the Me tab. Activate the appropriate link e.g. "Add Twitter to your Lifestream." You'll be taken to the Lifestream web site. A pop up dialog will describe what you'll be able to do on Lifestream and include two buttons: Go to service and Cancel. Depending on the service, you may need to sign in and/or allow Lifestream to have access to your data.
The Me tab shows a summary of information related to your AIM account. It also displays Facebook notifications and your updates. Press Tab to move through the links and controls. Press H to move to the Notifications or My Updates tabs as they are coded as heading level 3.
Updating Your Status
The "Set your status message" edit box appears above these 3 tabs so use Shift Tab to access it if you're in the Buddies list, etc. Type your status update here. Beneath is the "Post: button menu" to select which social networking site to post the update to; press Spacebar to open and Escape to close. Then tab to the "Set your status or hit Escape to cancel" button and activate to submit your update.
Chatting with a Facebook Friend
To start a chat with a Facebook friend, locate them in your Buddies list. Press Enter on their name. You can also press the Application key to display a context menu of actions you can perform. AIM refers to Facebook chat as IM (for Instant Message) so select that menu item. You'll notice that its shortcut is Alt + I.
A new "Conversation" window opens with the title "IM - <name>" and the focus is in the message edit box. Type your message, tab to and activate the Send message button. If you are within AIM but not in the Conversation window, JAWS alerts you when your friend replies -- you'll hear a sound and their name. The easiest method for reading a new message is to use the "review conversation history" command provided by the AIM scripts for JAWS. For example, press Alt+1 to hear the last message, Alt+2 to hear the second last, up to Alt+0 which reads the tenth previous message. Otherwise, you could always navigate through the Conversation History list. Press Shift Tab to move from the message edit box to the Conversation History list. Use Alt left and right arrow to move up and down through the list; JAWS will read your messages and the replies.
JAWS commands (courtesy of the AIM scripts) that you might want to try include:
- Jump to the message edit box: CTRL+SHIFT+E
- Jump to the Conversation History list: CTRL+SHIFT+H
- Review Conversation History (Last 10 Messages): ALT+1, ALT+2, ALT+3, and so on through ALT+0, where ALT+1 is for the last message and ALT+0 is for the 10th previous message. Note that these commands leave the keyboard focus on the current control (most likely the message edit box!).
- Move to a Specific Message: Press ALT+1 through ALT+0 twice quickly to move focus to a message. [Note: I've been unable to get this command to work properly; all variations of it move me to the second last message.]
Learning More About AIM
The JAWS Help Topics contain information about AIM. You'll find it in the Popular Applications With JAWS section. The topic is entitled, AOL Instant Messenger. A quick way to display this is to press Insert F1 twice quickly when AIM has the focus.
To read the AIM Help, press F1. It displays in a new web browser window.
The AIM Help page about Chatting, Buddies & Away Messages contains a list of keyboard shortcuts. Many of these shortcuts appear in the Menu which you can open with Alt M.
If you use the standard Windows close command, Alt F4, to close AIM, this merely closes the AIM window; it is still running in the background. You can reopen it from the Notification Area by opening its context menu and selecting Show Buddy List.
To completely exist from AIM, open the Menu (Alt M) and select Exit AIM (press X) or use the shortcut key (Alt + Shift + F4).