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Improved Accessibility is the Focus of Latest .NET Framework

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Microsoft has announced the pre-release of .NET Framework 4.7.1, which includes various improvements across the board.  Today we will look at the changes made to improve the accessibility of WPF applications.  The areas slated for improvement include screen readers, and high contrast situations.  Microsoft’s Preeti Krishna indicates that Windows Forms have similar improvements, but these will be addressed in a future release.

Users of screen reader software rely on them to provide a useful description of what is currently being displayed on screen.  User interfaces that do not take this software into account can make it difficult for users to be aware of a UI change occurring somewhere outside of the current focus.  By implementing LiveRegions, a UI developer can alert screen reader software of these changes occurring outside the current focus.  LiveRegions can be designated through the AutomationProperties.LiveSetting property on the desired element.  Once designated, a new event can be triggered when UI changes occur.

Visual improvements have also been made; in this case changes to UI elements have been made to improve their visibility in high contrast situations.  Controls that have been modified include the expander control, CheckBox, RadioButton, ComboBox, and DataGrid.

WPF DataTemplates also receive a few changes in 4.7.1.  Now it is possible for elements in DataTemplates to be automatically updated.  The driver for this change is to provide better support for Edit-and-Continue on Visual Studio but there is nothing that limits change to that use.  By enabling this feature, users making changes to DataTemplates during debugging sessions can see the effects of their changes when the application continues.

The pre-release of .NET Framework 4.7.1 is available for Windows 7 SP1 and newer operating systems.  Per Microsoft's recommendation, this pre-release should only be installed in test environments and is not supported or licensed for production use.

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