As I related in a previous article, we have been working on making MuseScore accessible. It is a large project as MuseScore was never designed with accessibility in mind, and the Qt framework used by MuseScore has a number of issues that make it difficult to produce fully accessible applications of any complexity. Plus of course, simply deciding how to present standard music notation in an accessible way is a difficult problem in itself.
However, as of yesterday, the MuseScore 2.0 Beta 1 release is available, and the first round of accessibility support is in! It has been tested with NVDA on Windows and works well with that. There are mixed reports using Jaws, VoiceOver (Mac), and Orca (Linux). We have Andrei Tuicu – a Romanian student working through the Google Summer of Code – to thank for the new accessibility features. I (Marc Sabatella) served as his mentor for the project.
So far, all that is fully accessible is score reading functionality – the ability to load a score and navigate through it while hearing the contents of the score read aloud. The basic menu commands should be self-explanatory, although there are still some glitches with how the menus read due to what appear to be Qt issues. It seems no worse than many other programs, though. You can also use the File / Export menu to convert to other formats, hit Space to listen to play back, or hit Tab to access the program toolbar.
With a score loaded, the right and left cursor keys move forward and backwards through the score a note at a time, and the screenreader should read the notes aloud (pitch, duration, etc). In addition, when using the cursor keys with Ctrl+Alt+Shift, it will move not just note by note, but will also include the clefs, key signatures, time signatures, and barlines. Information about articulations, dynamic markings, lyrics, and so forth are read along with the notes they are attached to.
The MuseScore team welcomes feedback on the new accessibility of MuseScore 2.0 Beta 1. The best way to do that is to post a thread to their Technology Preview forum.
We all realize, of course, the score reading is only part of the battle. Next up will be to make score creation and editing accessible. Actually, it is partially accessible already, but many important markings – key signatures – will be difficult or impossible to create. Still, when MuseScore first starts up, there is a blank 32-bar score already loaded (key of C, 4/4) and you should be able to start typing in notes at least. Press “N” to enter note input mode, then select a duration using the number keys on your keyboard (3-7 are sixteenth note through whole note), then type a letter name for pitch. There is of course a lot more to note entry than this, and again, only some of it will work without use of the mouse, but that should get you started and give you an idea of the potential.