Microsoft Announces New Accessibility Tools and Resources for Developers
March 13, 2008
New Web site and open-source accessibility testing tools will help developers meet the growing worldwide demand for accessible technology.

REDMOND, Wash. — March 13, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today launched a new online resource and released two new open-source accessibility testing tools for developers who want to create accessible and assistive technology products that make it easier for everyone —including people with impairments and disabilities — to see, hear and use computers and other devices.

As the demand for accessibility increases, driven by a rapidly aging work force and an increasing number of people who use accessible technology to customize their computers for greater comfort and productivity, so does the need for more developer resources and better testing tools that have the capacity to evolve.

“We are helping to create a developer community that is focused on accessibility, and to improve the ability of developers around the world to share their experiences and build more accessible desktop, server and Web applications,” said Norm Hodne, Windows Accessibility lead at Microsoft. “Microsoft has been a leader in accessibility for over 20 years, making our products more accessible and providing resources that other companies can use to develop their own accessible technology products. Today’s announcement is another example of our long-standing commitment to accessibility.”

A New Developer Community and Accessibility Testing Tools

The new Web site, Microsoft Accessibility Labs (http://msdn.microsoft.com/accessibility), is integrated into the Microsoft Accessibility Developer Center in the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). The site is designed to provide developer resources, from technical content to prototypes, and to foster dynamic communication among people who develop accessible technology (AT), conduct accessibility research or rely on AT products.

The two new tools, UI Accessibility Checker (AccChecker) and UI Automation Verify (UIA Verify), enable developers to test accessibility implementations and functionality in applications that use either Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) or Microsoft User Interface Automation (UIA). Both tools were released through CodePlex (http://www.codeplex.com), a Web site that Microsoft created to host open-source projects and to better serve the developer community.

Open-Source Tools: Keeping Pace With Changing Needs

“By releasing AccChecker and UIA Verify as open-source tools,” Hodne said, “Microsoft enables the developer community to improve and extend the tools so that they keep pace with developers’ changing needs and requirements.”

AccChecker, which enables testers without previous MSAA experience to easily discover and correct problems in MSAA user interface implementations, was designed to fill a gap. Existing tools provided in-depth details about MSAA implementations, but no information about whether an implementation was correct.

AccChecker comes in three modes: a graphical user interface (GUI) tool for the initial investigations of UIs; a set of simple application programming interfaces (APIs) for easily creating automatic test cases; and a command-line tool for batch processing. Using the GUI tool, testers can easily scan a UI and review a list of errors and warnings. Then, using the per-issue documentation, testers can determine why each issue has occurred, assess the implications for users with impairments or disabilities, and decide how to fix the problem. Once all issues have been addressed, testers can use the APIs to create regression tests. If testers are not skilled enough to use the APIs, they can employ the command-line mode to create tests in a batch file.

UIA Verify is a test automation framework that facilitates ad-hoc and automated testing for Microsoft UI Automation implementations. The framework provides the basis for tools such as the UI Automation Test Library and Visual UIA Verify, a graphical user interface for the test framework.

These tools also provide better support for UI Automation working group within the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (http://www.accessinteropalliance.org).

“We created these new tools to help developers throughout the industry test their implementations and create better access for all users,” Hodne said. “We want developers to have the tools they need to create the very best accessible technology. We also want them to have the opportunity to modify the tools as their needs evolve.”

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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