Making Visual Studio Accessible

Making Visual Studio Accessible

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Microsoft as a whole is committed to making our technology accessible to everyone (see our Accessibility Mission Statement). This is true for us here in Visual Studio as well, and we work continuously to improve the accessibility of each product we release. The recently released Visual Studio 2013 is our most accessible version yet.

In all versions of Visual Studio, our designers routinely consider a number of areas related to accessibility when designing a new UI. Some such areas are:

  • Mnemonics are included on all controls within dialogs and the tab order for controls is set in a logical sequence.
  • Foreground/background contrast ratios meet accessibility goals.
  • Charts and various reporting graphics are viewed in grayscale and various color blindness variants to ensure that there is enough difference between the color saturation/hues so that they can be distinguished from each other regardless of vision limitations.
  • Default keyboard binding are set for most features and users can customize keyboard shortcuts through the Tools/Options dialog.

In alignment with our goal to make each release of Visual Studio perceptively better than the previous versions, we have been collecting feedback from our customers through Microsoft Connect, Customer Support Services and internal feedback systems. From these sources, three primary themes emerged related to our accessibility: screen reader compatibility, contrast ratios, and keyboard shortcut documentation. In this post, I’d like to share some updates in each of these three areas.

Screen reader compatibility

According to the most recent WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey, Freedom Scientific’s JAWS is the primary screen reader in use around the world. With this in mind, as well as to maintain compatibility with Microsoft’s screen reader Windows Narrator, our development teams made an extensive investment to ensure that Visual Studio 2013 is compatible with Windows Narrator and JAWS.

Contrast ratios

Feedback also indicated there wasn’t enough differentiation between the colors we chose in the new Visual Studio color themes. In Visual Studio 2013, we increased the contrast ratio in our primary code editor in the blue, dark, and light themes as well as in the High Contrast modes. Fonts and colors are still fully customizable via the Tools/Options dialog, and can be further customized by using the recently released Color Theme Editor for Visual Studio 2013 which is an extension allowing maximum control over colors.

Keyboard shortcut documentation

The Visual Studio documentation has been updated to include keyboard shortcuts for core Visual Studio 2013 features. Here are links to these documents:

Next Steps

We are already planning work on the next version of Visual Studio and are interested in hearing about the issues that impact developers the most. Please share your thoughts on our product’s accessibility as comments below, via the Send-a-Smile feature from within the Visual Studio 2013 IDE, or via User Voice. If you have come across a bug, you can log it through the Visual Studio Connect forum.

Thank you for helping us make Visual Studio more accessible!


Elisabeth Blees: Program Manager

Elisabeth is a Program Manager on the Visual Studio Platform Tools team. Prior to becoming a Program Manager in early 2013, she worked as a Build Facilitator Developer for Visual Studio’s central engineering group. She loves to spend her time at Microsoft working to improve processes and communication to help drive every iteration of Visual Studio to be better than the one before.
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  • Thank you for working to improve the contrast in Visual Studio (I wish someone would go tell the office team about contrast, specifically that an cream field next to an eggshell field is impossible to tell where one begins and another ends).

  • I am having problems even leaving a comment here.

  • So when will the fixes be available?

  • Hi

    I started using VS 2013 because of it's potential, link to Azure etc.

    However, there are missing bits, some more serious than others, and there are no online resources or old, answered inquiries that help.

    In the last week I wasted 3 working days trying to resolve issues, personally and in forums, finding out in each case that it was a dead end, and that's frustrating, time wasting, and in general slowing acceptance.


    The 'Settings' in an ASP.NET project created vy VS 2013 are not avilable programatically, an dud feature

    The Roles front end for ASP.NET projects has been removed and there is no replacement withing VS 2013, and if I want to create a viable web site I have to write my own

    Please create an expedited way to pass questions to the people in the know, so as to get initial acceptance going.

    I'll check back in a day or two and see if any effort has been expended in making this tool useful to me, and others.

    David L.

  • I am using a screen reader and I had to get help to leave this comment.    I find lots of problems access Visual Studio, although I have not tried 2013 yet.  I think one of the biggest problems is intellisense.  I am using Window-eyes and intellisense feature causes major problems.  Also, there are lots of things in the editor which are not voiced at all, like what buffer you are in, or what happens when you save a file.  It looked like you would have to write a plug in to make some of this happen.  I was looking into doing this, but ran out of time.  If you wish to contact me my Email address is .


  • Appears MS is still failing horribly. VS 2013 carries on the atrocious UI of 2012. It's only nominally better. The flat look is horrible. How long will people continue on with 2012 just for the UI? With 3rd party extensions it's possible to make VS2012 look nominally better, I suspect the same will be the case with 2013, but overall, the UI design of metro is complete fail. :( (In an effort to make things better fro 2% of the population, we made things unbearable for 95% of the population) Good job...

  • @John Covici

    Thank you so much for the feedback on your experience with screen readers and Visual Studio. I will connect you via email with the team that is working to prioritize critical updates for the editor.

  • @David L.  roles/azure etc

    Thanks for the feedback David. You can start with my tutorial Deploy a Secure ASP.NET MVC 5 app with Membership, OAuth, and SQL Database to a Windows Azure Web Site

    >>Please create an expedited way to pass questions to the people in the know

    It's helpful if you post your questions is the correct technology blog, tutorial or forum. The site is a good place to start.

  • You mentioned Fonts & Colors dialog - I have to say it is very impractical. You have to close it and open again (and scroll that small box with code elements listed) to estimate how changes you made reflect in real code readability. Have to do many times until reaching satisfactory result. It's 2013 outside and there's still no toolbar with immediate changes preview (like in MS Word). I haven't tried Theme Editor yet, but if it solves this problem - it should be included in the next VS release.

  • thanks for the link, I'll use it Rick

    As I said in the earlier comment, I did post questions in the forum, and the msdn forum for and all I got was thundering silence.

    There are no real resources or mavens of VS 2013 as of yet, that's why I asked for an inside line

    If developers recognize VS2013 as a time wasting device they'll not use it, I passed on 2012 and continued with VS 2010 because of similar issues.

    David L.

  • When will it become somehow touch/tablet friendly? MS is heavily promoting touch in Win8.1 and Surface Pro and lots of developers uses Win8.1 tablets. Others, including me, carries a tablet all the time and code almost anywhere possible, including in the train and sometimes standing. VS2013 is still such a pain via touch...hope MS do something. I'm not expecting it to be fully touch-friendly, but at least make it easy enough to use for normal devevelopment tasks.

  • Please, don't do that.

  • When you performed the monochrome tests, I think you forgot to turn the icons back to color!

    I seriously doubt you performed any of these tests with VS2012.

    I actually found VS2013 to be less usable (than VS2010). My eyes felt strained when I used it.

    After three weeks of trying to get used to it, I'm back on VS2010. And I get VS for free.

    You can try to convince us it's usable with blog posts like this - "here's our proof it's usable, if you don't think so then it's YOU who's wrong".

    Unless it actually IS usable - it won't be.

    Please go back to your UX Guidelines (google "UX Guide"). I'll come back to you when you've read them.

  • Yep, round-filed

  • I've been using VS 2013 for a couple weeks now, I really appreciate the better colors and contrasts you've added. Thanks for making the Visual Studio icon change color when the window isn't primary, it makes it a lot easier to see that it's not in focus.

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