Active Accessibility Object Inspector: Cool Tool to Test Software

When AMP Toolbar Cannot Do the Testing

The Accessibility Management Platform (AMP) Toolbar is great for testing web pages for accessibility. It can test images for text alternatives, form fields for explicit labels and headings and data tables for proper structure to name a few. However, the AMP Toolbar cannot test software applications—not yet, at least. The ideal testing tool for software is Active Accessibility Object Inspector, otherwise known as Object Inspect.

The Inspected Elements

Object Inspect is used to test software applications to check if their elements and interfaces have Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) information. MSAA information helps screen reader users identify software components easily through the following properties:

Property

Definition

 Example

Name

The label of the element or interface The accessible Name of a button is “Go”

Value

The contents of edit fields, combo and list boxes, sliders, tree nodes, etc.  The accessible Value of a combo box that lists city is “New York”

Role

The function of an element or   interface The accessible Role of an interface is “button”

State

The status of an element or interface The accessible State of a radio button is “selected”

Description

The explanation of what the element or interface is The accessible Description of a data table is “The data table shows how many businesses are downsizing and at what rate”

DefAction

The default action of an interface The default action of a button is “press”

Kbshortcut

The keyboard combination to   activate an interface The keyboard shortcut for the “File” menu is “Alt+F”

The properties listed above are only some of the MSAA information that Object Inspect renders from software applications. It can also show MSAA properties for data table components (i.e. GridItemRow and GridItemColumn) and percent bars (i.e. ScrollVerticalScrollPercent) among many others).

Views of Object Inspect

Testing can be done from different views of Object Inspect. The selection of a view type, which can be chosen from the Options menu, depends on the depth of testing, the location of the element being tested and the quantity of MSSA information desired.

Always On Top View

When Inspector is launched, the “On Top” view is default. The Inspector screen remains on top of other opened programs, even if one of the other programs has focus. To view both Inspector and another program, resize Inspector to share the screen with it. This view is good for analysts and developers who want to see all properties of an element. With the Always On Top View, they also can see the Tree View of the screen’s elements so they can navigate among them and check their MSAA information.

Raw View

When “Raw View” is selected from the Options menu, the most details of a screen appear in the Tree View. Even the desktop shows up in the Tree View. It can help locate external factors that may affect a component in the application. For instance, if a focus issue exists in one application, the “Raw View” may detect that the cause is external from it.

ToolTip View

The “Show Information Tooltip” option can be selected from the Options menu. To choose what MSAA properties to display in a tooltip, go to the Options menu and select Settings, then choose the properties from the “Display Information Tooltip” listbox by holding down CTRL and pressing the spacebar.

A tooltip with the selected MSAA information appears when an interactive element obtains keyboard focus. A tooltip also can appear on a non-active element when the mouse cursor hovers over it. The advantage of the “ToolTip View” is that the information is adjacent to the element instead of appearing in Object Inspect somewhere else on the screen.

Watches of Object Inspect

Besides views, Object Inspect also has “watches”.  A “watch” is the method by which the MSAA information is rendered. The “Watch Focus” shows MSAA details in any of the views when an element gains keyboard focus. Keyboard users, therefore, utilize this watch type. Just using it can also be a test for keyboard accessibility.

As anyone can probably guess, the “Watch Cursor” option makes MSAA details appear when the mouse cursor hovers over an element. With the “Watch Cursor”, both actionable and non-actionable elements can be tested in one of several views listed above.

“Watch Caret” shows MSAA information when keyboard focus lands in a form field. The caret, or flashing cursor, renders the information when the mouse cursor hovers over a form field or when the user tabs into it. The “Watch Caret” can be highlighted with two yellow arrows.

Actions of Object Inspect

Another feature of Object Inspect is “Actions”, which enables element interaction. This feature allows keyboard users to reach interfaces that otherwise are not accessible to them. After an element of an application is chosen from the Tree View of Object Inspect, the user can select “Focus” from the Actions menu so the actual element can obtain focus. Users can also invoke the “Default Action” option after selecting a toolbar button from Object Inspect’s Tree View, for example, which activates the actual button on the application. Depending on what “Watch” or “View” is set, MSAA information is shown when an “Action” is taken.

A Lot More to Object Inspect

Object Inspect has a lot more features than what has been discussed here. To read more about the software tool, visit http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd318521(VS.85).aspx.

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