When working with a site, you can perform most tasks by using accessibility features such as keyboard shortcuts. In addition to the accessibility features and utilities in Microsoft Windows, the features described in this article make sites more accessible for people with disabilities.
In this article
More Accessible Mode
In a site, most user interface (UI) elements, such as links, form controls, and buttons, are designed to use Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA). MSAA enables people with disabilities to interact with content by using assistive technologies such as screen readers, which are devices that provide a synthesized speech or Braille description of what a blind or low-vision user is unable to see on a computer screen or Web site. Because some custom UI elements do not use MSAA properties, you can turn on More Accessible Mode. This mode renders custom controls as an equivalent standard HTML controls. This rendering ensures that users of assistive technologies are able to interact with the custom controls.
You turn More Accessible Mode on or off by pressing the TAB key immediately after placing focus on the page in a browser. Press the TAB key until you reach the Turn on more accessible mode or Turn off more accessible mode link, and then press ENTER. Even though the link to turn on More Accessible Mode is the first element in the tab order — which means that it is the first option that you interact with on the page — you may need to press the TAB key more than once to activate the feature. This is because the browser menus or toolbars may initially have the active focus. More Accessible Mode changes the way that the page renders for you, not for other users of the site. Because this is a local setting, no one besides you knows that you enabled this setting. More Accessible Mode remains enabled until you turn it off or close your browser. More Accessible Mode enables the following items to be rendered in a way that optimizes them to work better with assistive technologies such as screen readers:
Menus Instead of displaying a drop-down menu of options for files in a document library, a new browser window is opened that contains all of the menu items as hyperlinks. This format is easier for assistive technologies to interpret.
Optimized fields Some fields are difficult for assistive technologies to interpret. When More Accessible Mode is enabled, these fields are replaced with fields that are optimized for assistive technologies. For example, some lists support enhanced text fields that enable users to add formatted text, images, tables, and hyperlinks. Because of the way these fields are rendered in a browser, some assistive technologies cannot read them. When More Accessible Mode is enabled, such fields are replaced with standard plain text fields that are compliant with assistive technologies.
In addition to enhanced text fields, several other types of fields are replaced with alternate fields in More Accessible Mode.
List of fields and alternate fields in More Accessible Mode
Field in standard mode
Alternate field in More Accessible Mode
Enhanced text field
Multiple line text field
Graphical summary charts (for surveys)
Table with table headers
Gantt chart (in a project list)
Table with table headers
A table with table headers also appears below a Gantt chart in standard mode.
Many features and commands are available directly by using the keyboard. You can press the TAB key and SHIFT+TAB to move back and forth between elements on any page. You can also find keyboard shortcuts for many commands.
The page and navigation elements on a site, including the ribbon, follow a logical and intuitive tab order. The tab order is the order in which you move the focus from one UI element to another by pressing the TAB key. In addition, three important options — the Turn on more accessible mode, Skip Ribbon Commands, and Skip to main content links — are the first three options in the tab order. If you want to turn on More Accessible Mode, you can do so by pressing the TAB key when the page in the browser has active focus, and then pressing ENTER to activate the command. In addition, if you want to skip the ribbon and go directly to the navigation links, or skip the navigation links and go directly to the main content area of the page, you can do so by pressing the TAB key until you reach the Skip Ribbon Commands or Skip to main content links, respectively, and then pressing ENTER to activate either command.
In addition, the pages in a site have a page location menu, activated when you click the Navigate Up button on the ribbon, to show where you are in the hierarchy of the site or site collection. The Navigate Up button appears near the top of most pages, next to the Site Actions menu. For example, if you browse to a folder named Reports in the Shared Documents library for the Contoso site, the location menu may display Contoso at the top, with Shared Documents on the next line, and Reports on the next line after that.
Table headings For tabular data tables, table header cells are used (TH tags). For example, on the Announcements page, in the default All Items view, the column headers Title and Modified are contained in table header cells. Table header cells help users to understand the structure of a table and improve the reading experience for people who use assistive technologies.
Heading tags Tags are used on sites to help convey the structure of the page to users of assistive technologies. The heading tags (H1, H2, H3, and H4) build a logical outline of the content on a page. If you use an accessibility tool such as a screen reader, you can configure it to read only the heading tags on a page. This virtual outline of heading tags helps to improve the clarity of the page content. For example, the home page for a site contains one H1 tag that contains the site title, one H2 tag that contains the page title, an H3 tag around the View All Site Content link, and H3 tags around the title of each Web Part. Users of certain assistive technologies can retrieve an outline based on these tags and use it to easily understand the layout of the page and skip to the heading that they want.
Images, alternative text, and display settings
Alternative text and titles for images People with visual disabilities cannot see images (such as files in JPEG, GIF, or PNG formats), and rely on the use of alternative text for images on a site. Alternative text for images is set with the ALT attribute inside the IMG tag. Without well-written and informative alternative text visually impaired users have no way to understand the meaning of the images on a page. The alternative text also appears in visual browsers if the image does not load or if the rendering of images is not enabled for a browser. Sites use descriptive ALT text for images that convey meaning or important information to users. Images that are considered spacer images or have no informational value contained in them have ALT="". which tells assistive technologies that the images do not convey content or information.
In addition, when you upload an image file to a site, you can add alternative text to that image, which is fundamental to creating an accessible site. For example, the Site Image Web Part contains a field in which you can type custom ALT text when you add an image. When you add pictures to a picture library, you can define custom ALT text for the pictures.
Occasionally, clicking an element opens a new browser window. The ALT text for images that open new windows, and title attributes for hyperlinks that do so, contain additional information to help the user understand that a new window will open. For example, the title attribute of a hyperlink that opens a new window contains (new window).
Support for High Contrast color schemes The pages in a site are designed to display correctly if you apply a High Contrast color scheme to your computer.
Using assistive technologies
Some assistive technologies may not work well with certain elements on the pages in a site. If you experience problems, refer to the following information and resources for possible solutions.
Working with Windows Speech Recognition in Windows Vista and Windows 7
Windows Speech Recognition is a speech based accessibility tool that is available in Windows Vista. Windows Speech Recognition enables users to perform actions by speaking instead of using a keyboard or mouse.
There are known issues related to the use of Windows Speech Recognition with some menus on a page, including the menus for New, Upload, Welcome User and the drop-down menu of options that are available for files in a document library.
To access these menus by using Windows Speech Recognition, activate More Accessible Mode by doing the following:
Open the site home page in a browser, and then say, "Press TAB" until the Turn on more accessible mode link appears.
Say, "Press ENTER."
To use a split button menu such as the New or Upload button on a list toolbar, or to use the menu of options for a document in a document library, bring the active focus to the element first by saying, "Press TAB," and then say, "Press ALT DOWN ARROW."
A new browser window that contains links from the menu will open.
Some assistive technologies such as screen readers may not work with the expandable links in online Help. If you experience problems, try installing Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 or Internet Explorer 8. For more information, visit the Internet Explorer Web site.
Features provided by your Web browser
Your Web browser has features that improve the readability of pages. For information about the accessibility features provided by your Web browser, look for information in the Help for the browser about how to customize your browser to display the fonts and colors that you prefer. If your browser is Internet Explorer, look for Accessibility in the Help table of contents.
Getting more accessibility information
The Microsoft Accessibility Web site at Microsoft Accessibility provides information about assistive technology for improving the lives of people with disabilities. The information on this site benefits people with disabilities and their friends and family members, people in outreach organizations, educators, and advocates.
A free monthly electronic newsletter is available to help you keep up to date with accessibility topics about Microsoft products. To subscribe, visit Free Subscription to the Accessibility Update Newsletter.
To learn about creating accessible content for your Web pages, refer to the accessibility standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.