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Mac Accessibility

There are two main issues to think about when writing new native Mac code: full keyboard access and VoiceOver compatibility.

Full keyboard access

On Mac OS X, the operating system is not fully keyboard-accessible by default. For example, there's no way to access the menu bar or most toolbars without using the mouse. However, users can turn on Full Keyboard Access by pressing Control+F1, and they can separately control whether they want Tab to cycle between all controls or just text boxes and lists by pressing Control+F7, or in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts. When Full Keyboard Access is enabled, users can press keys like Control+F2 to highlight the menu bar, Control+F3 to highlight the Dock, and Control+F5 to highlight an application's toolbar.

When Full Keyboard Access is enabled, Chromium should provide full keyboard access to all controls. In many cases, Cocoa will take care of this for you automatically, so you should simply test its behavior. If you're implementing a custom UI widget, you may need to implement it yourself. To determine if Full Keyboard Access is enabled programmatically, query isFullKeyboardAccessEnabled in NSApplication.

Accessibility Inspector

Xcode comes with a tool that let's you as the developer see all of the information your new widget exposes with respect to accessibility. With the developer tools installed, use spotlight and search for "Accessibility Inspector", then launch it and hover over your widget to see all of the attributes a potential assistive technology will receive. Look carefully for errors and warnings indicated by the tool. Also, read through each of the attributes and make sure they make sense. For further guidance, see the NSAccessibility informal protocol reference and the brief code snippet below. Sometimes the best way to figure out what the attributes should be is to hover over a similar control elsewhere in Chromium or in a different application.

VoiceOver compatibility

Mac OS X includes a built-in accessibility service called VoiceOver that provides an alternative experience for users who are blind or low-vision. VoiceOver works quite well with Chromium today and it's important that we keep it that way!

It can take some time to master VoiceOver, but the basics aren't too hard. Press Cmd+F5 to toggle it on or off; give it a few seconds to start up if you haven't used it before. Consider going through the tutorial.

VoiceOver provides a synthesized-speech interface by default, but users with a refreshable braille display can access equivalent content in braille form, too. If you're not used to listening to synthesized speech, you can turn down the volume and ignore it, and instead just watch the Caption Panel that shows you everything VoiceOver is saying.

When testing with VoiceOver, it's very important that you only use VoiceOver keys to interact. Don't test things using other keyboard shortcuts you might know, because you won't be testing whether or not your interface is discoverable for VoiceOver users.

The VoiceOver keys are Control+Option and are abbreviated VO. Keep your fingers on these keys! Here are the keys you need to get started:

When writing custom cocoa code, the most common change you'll need to make is to override the title and role of a UI element. The role tells VoiceOver what type of element or control it is, and the title tells it what text to use when describing it. You occasionally may want to just tell VoiceOver to skip an element entirely, if it's purely decorative. Here's an example code snippet that sets the accessible label on button button to the localized string IDS_MY_BUTTON_LABEL:

NSString* description = l10n_util::GetNSStringWithFixup(IDS_MY_BUTTON_LABEL);

[button accessibilitySetOverrideValue:description


For detailed information, start here: Accessibility Programming Guidelines for Cocoa (