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Accessibility in Xfce Core 4.10 Roadmap

In the next release we want to improve accessibility in the core applications of Xfce. The Gtk+ toolkit already provides most of the required accessibility, but there are a lot of parts of the interface (custom widgets, buttons without label) that are hard to access with a screen reader.

This includes the following tasks:

  • Test the modules with Orca and Accerciser.
  • Add additional contexts and/or bindings (atk).
  • Some applications need to install Orca scripts.
  • Make sure mnemonics work in all the dialogs and menus (keyboard navigation).

More information about accessibility can be found in the Gnome accessibility guide.

4.6 Status

Currently if Xfce4-session is compiled with –enable-gnome (enable gconf) and Gnome compatibility is checked in the setting, we check the /desktop/gnome/interface/accessibility key and if set to true, the string array in /desktop/gnome/accessibility/startup/exec_ats is spawned (see code).
This is obviously hard to find and also not fully working since the required Gtk modules are not loaded as well (this probably was handled by gdm, but not any more?).


Testing can be done by running Orca or Accerciser and start the application with GTK_MODULES=“gail:atk-bridge” in the environ.

Core Changes and Ideas


  • Possibly provide a 2nd session desktop file to launch a session with full accessibility enabled (assignee: Nick).
  • Drop the gconf-depended accessibility loading, but make something that works in Xfce systems too (assignee: Nick).
    • Xfce4-session starts the at-spi helpers and takes care of adding “gail:atk-bridge” to the GTK_MODULES environment variable.
  • The Log out dialog needs accessibility support implemented (assignee: Jerome).


  • Bind xfce4-popup-applicationsmenu to Alt+F1.


  • Add screen read tab in Accessibility dialog.
  • Add a checkbox in Accessibility dialog to enable accessibility support for the session.
  • What other options do we want in the “Assesible Technologies” tab? Large pointer size? Hight contrast theme? Or option to enable a status icon with quick accessors for those actions?

Assignee: Nick


  • Support for keyboard navigation on the panel (bug #2411).
    • The bottom panel should be accessible (somehow) by keyboard.
  • Notification area
    • The notification area should be accessible (somehow) by keyboard.
    • Icons in the notification area lack accessibility support.
    • The individual elements/icons in the notification area seem to lack associated accessible objects.
    • When the menu associated with an icon appears, there is no accessible event.
    • When the selection changes within one of the aforementioned menus, there is no accessible event.
  • Combo boxes in the Clock dialog should derive their name from the displayed text ('16:13' not '%R')

Assignee: Nick


  • Thunar emits no events when the selection changes in the list of icons (panel on the right hand side). It does emit events when the selection changes in the tree on the left.


  • xfrun4 seems to be completely inaccessible (will be removed in 4.10).


  • When pressing Alt+Tab to switch windows, the window first appears and displays text. We get a window:create event and an object:state-changed:showing event for the window. But at that time, the window seems to lack accessible children. As a result, ATs do not seem to have anything they can present when the window first appears. (Subsequent presses of Alt+Tab are accessible and now presented by Orca via a small script which has just been committed to Orca master.)


  • The accessible hierarchy is incomplete: There are no children exposed for the individual icons.
  • No events are being emitted when the selection changes.
  • Impact: When an Orca user arrows amongst items on the desktop, Orca is not able to present the location moved to. Nor can Orca provide “where am I” information (e.g. total number of icons, position, etc.)
  • Also, if these are custom widgets, please be sure accessibility is also implemented for when icons are being renamed.


  • Application Finder
  • Application Menu
  • All dialogs tested so far
  • xfwm4 window switching (minus the first appearance)
  • Mousepad text editor

To Triage

  • Terminal seems accessible, probably just needs an Orca script (joanie will do)
  • Request: Could the accessible name of Terminal be something more unique to XFCE, like xfce4-terminal or xfterm or something to that effect? If not, no big deal. But my (joanie's) goal is to maintain upstream support for as many Desktop Environments and their apps as is possible in Orca, which means unique app names are highly desirable when possible.
  • Request: Please give the applications menu an accessible, localized name (e.g. 'applications'). That way, when a user presses Alt+F1, Orca will say 'applications menu' rather than just 'menu.'
  • Request: If possible, please add first letter navigation for menus in which underline is not used. (e.g. the applications menu). We have this in GNOME and it can save a lot of arrowing.