Product Evaluations and Guides
An Introduction to Accessible QuickBooks by Intuit and My Blind Spot
Recently, My Blind Spot, Inc., has been working closely with Intuit, the makers of the popular QuickBooks accounting software for small businesses, to make the program accessible to people with vision loss and other print disabilities. In the past, screen reader users could use the software with version-dependent work-arounds. With recent versions, the program became unmanageable with a screen reader. Albert Rizzi, founder of My Blind Spot, began working with Intuit to bring accessibility to QuickBooks. My Blind Spot and Intuit have made amazing strides in QuickBooks accessibility through a blend of accessibility fixes applied directly to QuickBooks code as well as screen-reader specific scripts developed by John Martyn and Steven Clark.
In this evaluation, I look at select aspects of QuickBooks Pro Version 2014. Note also that QuickBooks accessibility is still a work in progress; the My Blind Spot and Intuit teams have focused their efforts on the aspects of the program that are used on a regular basis. Infrequently required aspects--such as installation and company setup--remain challenging. For this evaluation, I review some of the more commonly used facets of the program. My Blind Spot supplements internal QuickBooks accessibility by working with screen readers to add accessibility through scripting. JAWS is the screen reader used in this evaluation; currently, it offers the most advanced QuickBooks scripts and provides the best access to the program.
Documentation and Tutorials
My Blind Spot is in the process of producing documentation and tutorials developed by Vita Zavoli and Richard Kelly to assist users of Accessible QuickBooks. I was able to review a chapter of the documentation as well as the initial tutorials. The chapter concerned reports. This was useful as reports are slightly more advanced than other screens with better native accessibility. The chapter briefly described the relevant screen, followed by lists of instructions for accomplishing various tasks when working with reports. The instructions were clear and easily understood and the list structure makes it easy for a user to find a specific task. The chapter was also rendered in Microsoft word format making it easily navigable with a screen reader.
My Blind Spot is also producing video tutorials that provide extensive overviews of various tasks that can be accomplished in QuickBooks. At the moment of writing, two tutorials are available on YouTube: Selecting Chart of Accounts as Home Screen and Recommended Basic Settings and QB Check Writing. For these tutorials, each action is described and the JAWS screen reader is used so that a screen reader user can follow along with the tutorial. Each keystroke is described to add further clarity for viewers with visual impairments. It is extremely easy to follow the lesson and accomplish the tasks described, and the instructor, Richard Kelly, is excellent, clearly describing the program.
Initial Setup and Menu Bar
Once you have installed the QuickBooks program and created your company profile, you can open your company's profile when the program launches. QuickBooks opens to a list of QuickBooks company files on your computer. You can navigate this list using your up and down arrow keys. Once you have selected the QuickBooks file you want to work with, you can tab to the "Open Company" button and activate it with the spacebar key. If you have set a password on your account, you will be prompted to enter it here. When the file loads with the default home screen. This screen is very inaccessible but luckily, it is not needed; close it with Ctrl + F4. The items on the home screen can be accessed from the menu bar, which is presented as a Windows standard menu bar, so it's accessible to screen readers. After this, you should set some recommended settings to make QuickBooks easier to navigate with a screen reader. The first setting to deactivate the What's New setting in the Help menu. To do this, press Alt + H to open the Help menu. The What's New item is the second item in the list. If it is checked, press Enter to uncheck it. It is also recommended that you change some items in the View menu. You can open this menu by pressing the Alt + V keys. The first item you should check in this menu is the Hide Icon Bar item, listed fourth in the menu. Next, have QuickBooks only display one window at a time (this is the second to last item on the menu).
Creating a Bank Account
To create a bank account, first open the Chart of Accounts screen by pressing Ctrl + A. The screen displays the list of your current accounts. To create a new account, you can activate the "Account" button and select New or you can press Ctrl + N. When the new account screen appears, you first must select the account type via a list of radio buttons. The possible choices are: Income, Expense, Fixed Asset Major Purchases, Bank, Loan, Credit Card, Equity, and Other Account Types. For this evaluation, I created a standard Bank account. Below the list of radio buttons, there is a combo box for selecting the type of account for the Other Account Types. Below this is a "Continue" button that you must press to continue account creation. Note that there appears to be a second combo box after the combo box for selecting the Other Account Type, but it is not used. Once you select the account type and activate the "Continue" button, you move to a screen where you can enter your account information, starting with the Account Name field. Below this is a check box that allows you to make the account that you are creating a sub-account of another account. If you check this box, you are presented with a combo box just below the check box in order to choose the parent account. Next is a Description field, followed by a field labeled "Bank Act. No.," where you enter the bank account number. The following field is for the routing number, followed by a combo box for selecting the tax line for this account. The field is simply labeled "Select From Examples." To discover what this field referred to, I used Manual Navigation (described later). Following this combo box, you can enter an opening balance for your account. Instead of a field, this option is a button that launches a dialogue where you can enter the opening balance information. Note that the fields in this dialogue are not automatically read and some, including the field where you can enter the opening balance, are not read at all. Using Manual Navigation, it is possible to read these fields and enter information. After this button, there is a field where you can enter the check number that will alert you to order new checks. Below this is a check box that allows you to choose to order checks that can be printed with QuickBooks. After this box you can save the account by using the "Save and Close" or "Save and New" (Alt + A and Alt + S, respectively) buttons. You can also cancel the account by using the "Cancel" button, which is located after the "Save and New" button.
Press Ctrl + W to launch the check writing screen. This screen is like all other data input screens; you can navigate by either using the arrow keys or the Tab key. The first field is the Bank Account field, which is automatically populated with your bank account. Following this field is the date field, also automatically populated, then the Pay to the Order Of field, where you can enter the payee. As is true for most fields of this nature, you can begin to type the name of the vendor and the list will populate with names of vendors matching the letters you have typed. Note that if you have purchase orders for vendors, you can have that information automatically entered into the form. Below the vendor name is the Amount field. This may be populated with data, depending on your settings and the decisions you made in the previous field (such as using a purchase order to populate the check). Next is the Address field, which should be populated with the address of your selected vendor. Below this is the Memo field, followed by the Account field for selecting the account from which you would like to expense this check. Next is the amount to be expensed followed by another Memo field, which is followed by additional fields for entering other transactions. The fields include those for customer job, account, amount, and memo. Once you have completed entering your transactions, you can print the check by pressing Alt + T, or save it by either using Alt + A or Alt + S to save and close or save and begin a new check, respectively.
Navigating a Report with Manual Navigation
For several screens, QuickBooks currently requires the use of a scripted feature called Manual Navigation. This feature allows a user to navigate a screen's visual layout by using keystrokes. Here I describe using Manual Navigation to access a Profit and Loss report (which otherwise would not be accessible). To launch a Profit and Loss report, press Alt + R to open the Reports menu. From here, press the F key to open the Company and Financial submenu. The first item is labeled "Profit and Loss Standard." Activate this item to launch the report. From here, you need to use Manual Navigation to read the report. In the current iteration of the scripts used during this evaluation (R46), you must first toggle Manual Navigation by pressing Ctrl + Shift + M. Once Manual Navigation has been activated, you can press Ctrl + Shift + an arrow key to move in that direction. For example, the down and up arrows move vertically along the page and read each line completely; the left and right arrows move left and right across the screen, element by element. Note that when you reach the end of a line while moving left and right, you are moved to either the proceeding or succeeding line. When you navigate vertically, you are always placed at the beginning of the line of elements for the row to which you just navigated. When Manual Navigation is first activated, it begins at the top of the screen. The first item is a title bar followed by Minimize, Restore, and Close icons. One row below contains the Menu bar. A row below this is the text "Account Quick Report" and a Close icon. Following this is a list of action buttons for manipulating the report. These are as follows from left to right: "Customize Report," "Share Template," "Memorize," "Print," "E-mail," "Excel," "Hide Header," and "Refresh." Below this row is a listing of your current display settings including the range of time that the report covers and the method used to sort the data. You can use the Right Arrow while using Manual Navigation to edit these settings from this row of controls. The "Customize" button will display a more complete list of settings. Below this list is the time the report was generated, followed by the name of the QuickBooks user. On a row below this is the rest of the date the report was generated and the name of the report. The next row states accrual basis and the dates that the report spans. The following row restates the report dates followed by the report itself. You can navigate the report using Manual Navigation and the report may include items such as the following depending on the data you have chosen to display. My report displays income and expenses. The word "Income" is in a row by itself followed by accounts from which I gained income and their values. The total income is also displayed. The same is true for expenses. At the bottom of the report, my net income and net ordinary income are displayed. The information is easily read using the Manual Navigation cursor and it is also useful that you can directly interact with buttons using this cursor; it makes navigating such screens much easier than using the JAWS cursor.
The Bottom Line
My Blind Spot and Intuit should be commended for their efforts to improve accessibility. Not only have they made great strides towards developing an accessible product, they have also produced a product that is very usable. I am a QuickBooks novice yet I was able to learn to operate the program quickly including performing such additional tasks as making a deposit, creating an invoice and adding a customer. A long-time QuickBooks user should find using the accessible aspects of the program effortless. The inclusion of tutorials and extensive documentation also should make the program easy to learn for those accountants with visual impairments who are new to the QuickBooks program. If you have experience with QuickBooks and screen readers (JAWS/NVDA/Window Eyes) and would like to take part in QuickBooks testing for accessibility, send an email to Info@myblindspot.org.
Product: QuickBooks Pro 2014
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