Accessibility in MuseScore 3

• Jul 19, 2019 - 21:48

We have long had the goal of making MuseScore as accessible for visually impaired users as we can. There are many aspects to what this means, and slowly but surely, we've been progressing toward that.

I would like to start a discussion here about our priorities and strategies. We will of course continue to use the issue tracker for specific bugs or individual feature requests, but let's talk here about the big picture.

For MuseScore 2, we made a big and fairly successful push to make MuseScore accessible as a score reader - to make sure all controls necessary to navigate a score and have a screenreader read the notes and markings aloud. In the process, it also became possible to do at least some rudimentary score editing, but many things still required a mouse, and visual examination and adjustment of the results was most often required if you want the score to actually be readable. We also implemented a number of options for producing "Modified Stave Notation" - basically, large print score that are tweaked for optimum readability.

For MuseScore 3, we made some significant strides forward. For one thing, the palettes - including the template and key signature selectors in the New Score Wizard can now be accessed by keyboard. The main palettes currently rely on use of the search facility to enable navigation so it is not an ideal solution, but it is a start, and work is continuing on palette accessibility. Also, automatic placement means scores have a good chance of being readable right out of the box, without the need for manual adjustment that requires a sighted user to perform. We also improved the score navigation commands to provide keyboard access (via Alt+Left/Right) to most symbols in the score.

There is also the matter of using MuseScore to prepare scores for eventual conversion to Braille music. For the most part, this means making our MusicXML export as good as we can and then assuming interested people can rely on third party tools to that work with that format. There were a number of issues identified with our MusicXML export that are gradually being addressed.

I have recently submitted fixes for a number of issues relating to the navigation commands, and we're about to go through and improve the tab order for dialog boxes, which had fallen into some disrepair. We are aware that the screenreader (NVDA is the only "supported" option right now) currently is not functioning properly; this seems to be primarily a Qt / NVDA issue that we have been working to resolve and we expect a coming update to restore this to proper functionality.

I have it as a personal goal to have code in place (contributed by me and by others) by this fall to begin using a development build of MuseScore with a blind student I expect to be working with.

I welcome feedback!


I'm going to demonstrate the accessibility features of MuseScore tomorrow (Wednesday, 12:30 EDT / 16:30 GMT) as part of my weekly "MuseScore Café" series:

I'll have the aforementioned student with me and we'll see how I do showing her the basics of reading and writing scores with MuseScore.

Very appreciated. Without using Windows (and thus NVDA), it isn't possible to check issues.
One thing I notice, the palette window (once it's opened), isn't available via tab (in contrast to the mixer, selection filter and so on).
But my main request (by being aware that NVDA should have the main priority at time), what is the difficulty to get Orca to work with MuseScore?

In reply to by kuwitt

Right now, we frankly don't know the status of Orca support. Once my changes get merged into the master build and the build is updated to use Qt 5.12.4, it will be possible for others to start assessing what works and what does not. Or some developer with access to a Linux / 5.12.4 build system could test my PR and let us know sooner.

Palette is indeed not directly accessible, but is (with my PR) via the palette search mechanism. That is, once you define a shortcut for the search palette command, then after hitting that shortcut and entering a search term, you can use Up/Down to navigate through the result and the screenreader tells you what is happening, then you can hit Enter to add the symbol. Without my PR. the navigation works but with no screenreader support, making it useless.

Note when the Google Summer of Code project to redesign the palettes is complete, the new palette implementation will be more accessible directly, without the new for the search workaround.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

My experiences with Orca (for some days): It works fine with GTK applications (like Firefox or Libre office) but not with MuseScore (didn't crossreference it with other QT apllications). Even if I'm using an unofficial build of @shoogle, it's using Qt 5.12.4 (, Orca doesn't seems to work with MuseScore at time (without implemented your PR's ;-).
Once this year GSOC is finished and it isn't clear what will be merged into the branch, I could imagine, to have at least unofficial builds, to get in touch with the developers of Orca resp. Qt.

In reply to by kuwitt

Yes, and we also want to figure out JAWS and VoiceOver. I wouldn't expect my PR to address any general "screenreader doesn't work at all" issues, so I'm disappointed to hear Qt 5.12.4 didn't help. But once all the pending work is completely, hopefully we can address these issues as well.

Hello Marc, I watched and listened with fascination to the entire video of you working with Elizabeth, the blind music student. I am very interested in learning more about how to implement the screenreader functionality to MuseScore. I downloaded and installed it on my Windows PC and looked for a way to do that, but I couldn't find anything. I am very new to the screenreader thing, so I would need very detailed information and installation instructions. I develop digital music curricula for K-12 and I am doing research on how to make the content WCAG 2.1 compliant.

In reply to by MHEMusic


So, the important first step is to get the right version of MuseScore. Only just two days did we release a beta version of MuseScore with these features working. So you need to do to the Download / Software page above, then click the link for MuseScore 3.3 Beta, and download a Windows build there.

Once you do that, then if you have NVDA installed, you should be set. If not, you need to do that - it is currently the only supported screenreader. We're working on that, but it may be a while. But NVDA, like MuseScore, is free & open source.

So, with NVDA and the MuseScore 3.3 Beta running, everything should just work - NVDA should provide spoken feedback about most things in MuseScore, without your needing to do anything else. Let me know how it goes!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc Hello!
I downloaded the Mac catalina subroutine and I don't feel barrier-free enough with voiceover. When creating the new sheet music, it is quite difficult to navigate the instrument list, and I don't feel the voiceover support is satisfactory at all.
I don't know what the plan is for this, but I don't play music under windows because it's much better for me under Mac. I am very confident that accessibility will also improve on the mac. I would like to know what the situation is with regard to future plans in this area.

In reply to by Viktor Erdődy

Unfortunately we have not had much success with VoiceOver yet. We have things working very well right now with NVDA and JAWS on Windows as well as Orca on Linux, but VoiceOver is more stubborn about what it will and won't read and doesn't seem to provide a scripting facility to allow us to override this like we are able to to with JAWS and Orca.

But that doesn't mean we have given up, we just don't have any great leads right now. The good news is we are making a whole bunch of changes to how certain things are implemented that should help once MuseScore 4 is released. Meanwhile, though, if you know of someone who is an expert in accessibility coding for macOS - specifically using the Qt libraries - we'd love to see if there is a way to get to working sooner!

Not sure what issue you are having with the instrument list, though. That much should be accessible. It might be a bit awkward, but as far as I know everything should work. I don't have a Mac to test that with, though. But even if you do get past that window, once the score is created, you will find VoiceOver won't read the notes or other symbols of your score.

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