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Use a screen reader to explore and navigate Skype (version 8)

Read out loud symbol with the label Screen reader content. This topic is about using a screen reader with Office

This article is for people with visual impairments who use a screen reader program with the Office products and is part of the Office Accessibility content set. For more general help, see Office Support home.

Use Skype with your keyboard and a screen reader such as Narrator, the built-in Windows screen reader, or NVDA to explore and navigate the app main views and elements, and move between views and functions.


In this topic

Get to know the Skype layout

The Skype UI is divided into a list pane and a main content pane. The elements included in the list pane change based on the view you select.

List pane

The list pane is on the left of the main content pane. If you’re a person with low vision or visual disabilities, or if you have limited mobility, build a mental model of the Skype list pane. The areas and specific elements of the list pane are described in the table below.


Elements you'll find in this area

First row: Information about you and options button

  • Display name

  • Skype credit balance

  • Mood message. Shows your mood message, if you have set one.

  • More Options button. Enables you to access settings and help for the app, and sign out of the app.

Second row: Search bar and dialpad access

  • People, groups & messages text box. Allows you to search for contacts and chats.

  • Use dialpad button. Shows the dialpad, which enables you to enter a phone number and make a phone call.

Third row: A tab group that changes the information shown in the list pane

  • Chats tab. Shows information about chats you have participated in.

  • Calls tab. Shows information about your recent calls.

  • Contacts tab. Shows information about your contacts.

  • Notifications tab. Shows information such as whether you have been mentioned in a chat, and Skype usage tips.

Variable number of rows: Information that corresponds to the tab you selected

If you select the Chats tab, the following information is shown:

  • Sort menu. Allows you to sort the chats list by most recent message, or unread status.

  • New chat menu. Allows you to create a new group chat, chat, or private conversation.

  • Each of your chats and conversations.

If you select the Calls tab, the following information is shown:

  • View menu. Allows you to filter the calls list, to show all calls, Skype calls, or phone calls.

  • New call menu. Allows you to search for people or enter a phone number to dial.

  • Each of your recent calls.

  • Contacts you can call.

If you select the Contacts tab, the following information is shown:

  • View menu. Allows you to filter the contacts list, to show all contacts, Skype contacts, or contacts who are active now.

  • Add new contact menu. Allows you to search for people to add to your contacts.

  • Invite People to Skype button. Allows you to send a link to your Skype profile to others.

  • Suggested contacts.

  • Each of your contacts.

If you select the Notifications tab, the following information is shown:

  • View menu. Allows you to filter the notifications list by notification type, mark all notifications as read, or change notification settings.

  • Each of your notifications.

Content pane

The content pane is on the right side of the Skype screen. When you select a contact or chat in the list pane, the chat history is shown in the content pane.

The content pane contains a row at the top that allows you to share media and links, search within the conversation, start a call with chat participants, or add people to the chat.

Below the chat history is a text entry field, which allows you to type and send messages.

Navigate using the keyboard

You can use Skype with keyboard shortcuts. To learn more, go to What are hotkeys and how do I use them in Skype?. The following are some frequently used keyboard shortcuts for Skype:

  • To move forward through the elements of the Skype UI, press the Tab key, or to move back, press Shift+Tab key.

  • To move between tabs in the list pane, press the Right or Left arrow keys.

  • To move between the list items in a list pane, press the Up or Down arrow keys.

  • To select an item, press Enter. To close a dialog or move focus back, press Esc.

  • To open each tab in the main window:

    • Press Alt+1 to open the Chats tab.

    • Press Alt+2 to open the Contacts tab.

    • Press Ctrl+I to open the Notifications tab.

  • To launch the main dialpad, press Ctrl+D.

  • To start a new chat, press Ctrl+N.

Special considerations for Skype

Change the text size

If you want to change the size of text displayed in the Skype UI:

  • To increase the text display size, press Ctrl+Shift+equals sign (=).

  • To decrease the text display size, press Ctrl+minus sign (-).

  • To reset the text display size, press Ctrl+0.

Note: This changes the text size on your screen but not the size of the text in the messages that you send.

Adjust screen reader volume when you initiate or receive a call

If you have Dolby audio controls on your computer, you may notice that the volume of the audible feedback from your screen reader decreases when you initiate or receive a call with Skype. This is a known issue and is being addressed in Windows 10 for all audio-device manufacturers. However, until the fix is implemented for all devices, you can eliminate this volume decrease by using either of the following two methods:

  • Attach external USB speakers. Non-USB speakers use your device’s built-in audio with the Dolby driver. Attach external USB speakers to your device, instead of using your device’s built-in speakers or speakers plugged into the headphone jack.

  • Disable the Dolby feature of the audio driver. To access the Dolby feature, perform the following steps:

    1. In Windows 10, press the Windows logo key+I to open Settings, and type sound. Press the Down arrow key until you hear "Sound," and press Enter.

    2. In the Sound settings dialog box, press the Down arrow key until you hear your current audio device, and then press Alt+P to open the Properties.

    3. To open the Dolby tab, press the Tab key until you hear "Dolby," and then press the Right arrow key until you hear: "Selected, Dolby tab."

Operate Skype with speech recognition

Speech recognition tools are helpful for people who have limited mobility and who need to use voice commands (rather than the keyboard or mouse) to operate Microsoft products, including Skype.

You can use third-party speech recognition tools or the functionality called Speech Recognition, which is included with the Windows operating system. To enable Speech Recognition on your computer, refer to Use speech recognition.

See also

What are hotkeys and how do I use them in Skype?

Set up your device to work with accessibility in Office 365

Basic tasks using a screen reader with Skype (version 8)

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

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