Plasma accessibility updates

Marco Martin recently posted about some of the improvements in krunner, today I want to show some of the effort into navigating the Plasma panels.

This video shows a user navigating the plasma panel using voice and keyboard. A shortcut focusses the panel, and then one can use tab and cursor keys as normal. In future we will improve our key-focus visual indicators, and allow for richer interaction.

What makes Plasma different to existing apps

Plasma in general has been a sore point with regards to accessibility as it doesn’t follow some of the exact same concepts as a traditional toolkit. Some of these convention breakages are by design, in krunner you wouldn’t want to have to tab to a list of results in order to navigate results with the cursor keys. Unfortunately these changes, if done non-optimally, really conflict with core concepts of focus and screen reader parsing. On top of that, we have the issues of an emerging toolkit, which needs that extra push to get right.

Why is this work useful?

Blind people aside, the work here has multiple other advantages.

We need better keyboard navigation, regardless. You often hear people say they prefer console apps; it’s not because they’re inherently better, but because being “handicapped” forces them to have good keyboard handling. We should be matching or beating that.

Also, approaching a large code base from a completely different angle has helped to tidy up some complex code that has built up over the years. Kickoff key handling is now not only better but the code is 2/3 the size.