Microsoft Targets Better Accessibility in Chromium

Posted on December 10, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 12 Comments

The current version of the Microsoft Edge accessible presentation layer

Perhaps not surprisingly, the first feature Microsoft has committed to adding to Chromium is for accessibility.

News of this “intent to implement,” as a Microsoft engineer calls it, comes via the Chromium forums; thanks to Sam for pointing this out to me via email. The feature is called UI Automation Providers, and it will allow Chromium-based browsers on Windows to seamlessly interact with accessibility client applications like Narrator.

“These interfaces are specific to the Windows platform and [are] not intended to be introduced as web standards,” Microsoft’s Rossen Atanassov explains. “It is not expected that web developers will need to make changes to their content as a result of this work, as UIAutomation support reflects lower-level implementation details, and will not be replacing or removing accessibility APIs already supported in Chromium.”

According to Microsoft, adding UI Automation Providers support to Chromium will allow assistive technology (AT) providers to “innovate on top of rich text-level interaction and smooth reading experiences; spend less time writing to different accessibility APIs, and more time on core capabilities; and take advantage of a continually-evolving platform, and the performance gains and extended capabilities that come along with it.”

Best of all, there are no perceived risks to this addition: UI Automation Providers support will not degrade browser performance at all, and it will not impact web developers at all, either.

The only issue, I guess, is that UI Automation Providers requires Windows 7 or newer. It will not work with Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, or Android.

Microsoft will now document what it’s adding to Chromium via a new Microsoft Edge Explainers repository on GitHub. So this will be a good place to keep an eye to see what else the firm has planned for the new Edge browser.


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