How to Post to WordPress using Windows Live Writer and a Screen Reader

There’s been some discussion happening on Twitter about different ways to post to WordPress powered sites. one of the recommendations that came in was to use Windows Live Writer to do this. So I thought I’d post a tutorial on the basics of using Windows Live Writer with a screen reader in the hope that it will make writing and posting easier for those who are blind and who don’t necessarily want to use the standard WordPress add new post screen.


What’s wrong with the editor that comes with WordPress?


There’s nothing wrong with the standard editor, but sometimes it’s easier to write in a truly distraction-free space, which is something that can’t be offered by the WordPress content editor due to the fact that you have to enter forms/browse mode if you’re using a screen reader. This means that you’re stuck writing in what is normally viewed as an input field, which has the effect of limiting your writing, even if it is just psychological.


Having a distraction-free writing space means you can focus on your writing and not on the unintended distraction of an input field. So in this tutorial, I’m going to show you the basics of Windows Live Writer, and how to get around it with a screen reader. I’m using Jaws in this case, but it will work reasonably well with NVDA as well. I haven’t tested with Window Eyes or System Access. It also goes without saying that this is a Windows-specific application. For the Mack, there’s MarsEdit.


Getting Started with Windows Live Writer


The first thing you’ll need to do, if you haven’t done so already, is download Windows Live Writer and install it. Next, you’ll need to set up your blog. This screen is useable with Jaws, although if you want to read the whole dialog you’ll need to do some cursoring. You’ll enter in your blog/site’s address, without the we-admin, and then the username and password for the site.


Next, Windows Live Writer will ask you if you want to download your blog’s theme so that you can preview what your post is going to look like. You can try this, but I didn’t have any luck, and the preview doesn’t appear to be accessible at all.


Once you’ve gone through all the setup, you’re ready to start writing. There are a couple of things to note. First, the title and body fields aren’t labeled, but you’ll be able to arrow up and down to get in and out of them. Yeah, this is weird. At first I assumed I could tab between the two, and you actually can’t. So first, you’ll type your title, and if you want to change that at any point, you can arrow up from the body section and change that, which will then reflect in the title bar of the window. The next thing to note is that you have ribbons, just like you would in any other modern Microsoft application. These are completely navigable with the keyboard, and you can insert hyperlinks, images and everything else, as well as interact with everything else in the ribbons.


To deal with categories, tags, and scheduling, you’ll need to use your screen reader’s specific cursor to navigate above the title field, and find the “categories”, or “tags” or whichever field you want to modify and then left-click on it. Once you’re in the field, everything is tabbable and you can edit away.


After you’ve done all your writing/editing, you can either save as draft or publish from the ribbons. If you’re using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you’ll probably want to save as draft so you can go back and enter your keywords and further optimize the post. But for the writing aspect, Windows Live Writer does the trick, and it’s not as heavy as Microsoft Word when it comes to the system resources it consumes. I haven’t tested this on Windows 8 yet, but it works at least up to Windows 7.


So far, the only thing I don’t like is that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to see the word count of the post. But I suppose this isn’t a deal-breaker.


This tutorial should get you started on using something other than the standard WordPress post editor to write, and hopefully, it will encourage you to write more and write/post more often.


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