Last week, Aaron, our Accessibility Program Manager, and I did an informal usability study with a Visual Studio .Net 2003 user who has low vision. I shouldn’t say it was a usability study, since a usability study implies asking the user to perform certain tasks. Instead, we just discussed accessibility with Roger Van Houten, a Program Manager for MSCom and an ASP.NET developer (his name / rank used with permission), asking him where the trouble areas for the Visual Studio environment were and what was on his wish list for accessibility features.

The most surprising thing I learned from the study was that not all High Contrast users use large fonts. On the contrary, Roger said that he found it annoying for High Contrast to just enable large fonts without the user’s consent. Just as it is a against accessibility requirements to override the OS System Settings, vice versa is against accessibility requirements as well. Don’t change OS System Settings, even if you assume it is the right thing to do.

Here are some interesting items that we’ve learned from the meeting:

·        Roger uses low font size to scan for info and then increases the font size to read.  He increases the font size on-the-fly by using the mouse wheel plus control key.

 

·        Marking keywords using different colors provided no assistance to Roger.  Instead, in some cases, the keywords were set to a darker color, making it more difficult to see on High Contrast‘s black backgrounds.

 

·        Roger wasn’t aware that we had an Accessibility section in the documentation.

 

·        Tool windows in their docked position are difficult for a person with low-vision to use, especially if their font size does not increase automatically.

Here is my wish list for future versions…

·        Provide all editor text fonts and colors as either white on black or black on white for a pure high contrast distinction.  Roger’s best practice example of this was Powerpoints control which allows him to switch back and forth as he needs to.

 

·        Undock all tool windows.  In other words, make tool windows behave as if they were files, so the tool window is always “maximized.”

 

·        Provide support for increasing / decreasing font size in the editor via mouse-wheel+control