Using Slack with Screen Reader and Keyboard

Slack is a collaboration-focused application available across many devices including Mac OS, Windows, iOS, and Android that can be used to communicate instantly with teams and individuals. For information on setting up a Slack account, see Getting Started with Slack at U-M.

Accessibility Summary

From an accessibility standpoint, Slack works fairly well compared to similar collaboration applications when using a screen reader on Windows and iOS; the Mac screen reader user experience is comparatively poor. We recommend that screen reader users access Slack via Windows or iOS for the best experience, and if accessing via Windows, to use the desktop application instead of the web application. In general, screen reader users may find that there is a learning curve to using the application; the most challenging aspect comes in perfecting a strategy for navigating between the various user interface components.

Note for Units

It is important to note that while Slack can be accessible, it should be used in a manner to facilitate accessibility. Units and departments deploying Slack should be cognizant of feedback from disabled users and recognize that while the tool can be accessible, it also may not be fully equitable. Units should consider best practices around content accessibility, including, for example, providing text in addition to images, or other similar concerns.

Document Contents

Note: this document provides shortcuts for the Windows desktop version of Slack (for other versions, see More Resources). The following tips and shortcuts may be helpful:

General Tips

The tips below work best when Slack is maximized: press (Alt Space) then (X) to maximize the window.

  • If keyboard shortcuts are not working, it can help to either restart Slack or cycle through workspaces:

    • To restart Slack, press (Control Q) to quit, then relaunch it from the start menu.

    • To cycle between workspaces, press (Control Tab)

  • To prevent the screen reader from interpreting Slack's keyboard shortcuts, keep your screen reader in focus mode or forms mode when using Slack shortcuts.

  • To review the text of a message, switch your screen reader to browse mode. A good method: navigate to the message in focus mode, switch to browse mode to review the message, then immediately switch back to focus mode.

  • To access preferences, press (Control ,).

Navigation Shortcuts and Usage Tips for Conversations

Unless otherwise specified, navigate menus and lists by using the (Up Arrow and Down Arrow), then make your selection by pressing (Enter).

Left Sidebar

Once you sign into Slack, the best starting point is the left sidebar.

  • To get to the left sidebar at anytime, press (Control Shift D).

  • To move forward through sections of the window, press (F6).

  • To move backward, press (Shift F6).

  • You can use (Tab) and (Shift Tab) to navigate between controls in each section of the window.

    • It is worth noting that focus is restricted to the current section of the window when using these commands and will wrap to the beginning or end of the section.

    • You must use (F6) and (Shift F6) to move between sections of the window.

Channels and Direct Messages

  • To get to Direct Messages or Channels, repeatedly press (F6) until you hear the screen reader speak “Workspace Navigation Grouping, Channels and Direct Messages”.

    • If you hear “Workspace Navigation Grouping” followed by something else, navigate the sections in the left sidebar by pressing (Tab) until you hear “Channels and Direct Messages”.

    • This step will only sometimes be required, because Slack remembers your last position in each section of the window, and you may not have been focused on “Channels and Direct Messages” last time you were in the left sidebar.

  • When you select one of the Channels or Direct Message recipients, you will be taken to the field to compose a message.

  • If you prefer to see the list of messages, press (Up Arrow) to be taken to the message list.

  • If you want to view replies to a message, see the Threads section below.

  • You can press (Up Arrow) or (Down Arrow)to move within the message list, when at the bottom, a final press of Down Arrow will take you into the edit box for composing.

  • To move back to the compose box, start typing your message anytime while in the list of messages.

  • To get information about the people in the current conversation, press (Shift Tab) twice from the list of messages (not the text field for a new message) to move to a toolbar menu that can be navigated with (Left Arrow) and (Right Arrow). Note that some of the options in this menu open submenus.

Writing a Message

Aside from the above, there are two ways to compose a message:

  • To compose a message while reviewing the items in a channel or direct message, start typing your message. Press (Enter) to send it.

  • To compose a new message from anywhere within Slack, press (Control N). Type the name of a channel or person to select a conversation for your message, then press (Enter). Type your message, then press (Enter) to send it.


Slack provides the opportunity in both direct messages and channels for someone to reply to a message. When you arrow up and down through the messages, the screen reader will announce the number of replies if someone has replied to the currently focused message.

  • To open the list of replies in a right sidebar, press (Right Arrow).

  • To return to the main list of messages in the “channel” or “direct message”, press (Left Arrow). The sidebar will not be closed; to return to the sidebar, press (F6).

  • To close the sidebar from the list of replies in a thread, press (Control .) which is the shortcut to show and hide the right sidebar.


Huddles allow you to have a voice chat and share your screen with others in the channel or direct message.

  • To start a huddle from within a conversation, press (Control Shift H).

  • To start a huddle from the list of conversations, use (Up Arrow) or (Down Arrow) to navigate to the conversation you want. Instead of pressing (Enter) to enter that conversation, press (Tab). This will take you to the “Start Huddle” button. Now press (Enter).

  • To mute and un-mute yourself, press (Control Shift Space).

  • To leave a huddle, press (Control Shift H).


Slack workspaces are different instances of Slack, each featuring their own users, channels, and direct message history. The University of Michigan has multiple all-staff workspaces, and individual units, departments, teams, or project groups can have a workspace.

  • To get to the list of workspaces from within a conversation, navigate to the message field and press (F6) (once if the right sidebar is closed, and twice if it is open).

  • To move forward through workspaces, press (Control Tab) anywhere in Slack.

  • To move backward through workspaces, press (Control Shift Tab) anywhere in Slack.


  • Channel: Space for a continuous conversation to take place for a conversation or project. Different people can be in different channels keeping the workspace organized so that folks only participate in relevant conversations.

  • Conversation: A message or thread in either a channel or a direct message.

  • Direct message: A personal message to a person or a group of persons.

  • Huddle: Huddles are impromptu voice chat areas that can be activated in channels or in direct messages. In direct messages, Slack sends a notification. In channels, you will be able to determine that people are in a Huddle, but the text may be unclear as compared to the visual icon.

  • Threads: The chain of responses to a message in a channel or direct message. The separated thread allows folks to discuss a specific message in detail without cluttering the channel/direct message with disorganized chatter.

  • Workspace: Slack workspaces are different instances of Slack, each featuring their own users, channels, and direct message history. The University of Michigan has multiple all-staff workspaces, and individual units, departments, teams, or project groups can have a workspace.

Slack at the University of Michigan

Slack is a supported IT product/service deployed at the University of Michigan. To learn more about Slack at the University of Michigan, please visit the Slack at U-M page. Units, departments, or teams that use Slack may have specific configurations and workflows for how they use Slack on campus.

If you are a user with a disability who encounters issues using Slack based on your unit or department's usage of the tool, please contact the accessibility team.

More Resources

Users of the web client as well as the desktop and mobile apps may wish to consult these documents: