Accessibility for Developers

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Enable accessibility support

First of all, don't forget to compile the accessibility (from now on, a11y) support in LibreOffice:

  make accessibility

Before running LibreOffice run this command to enable a11y in the GNOME toolkit so the program knows that it should start sending events:

  gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface toolkit-accessibility true

Script to read a11y events

With the following small python script you will be able to log all the a11y events happening in your system:


import pyatspi

def onFocused(e):
        if != "soffice":


def onKey(e):
    if e.type == pyatspi.KEY_PRESSED_EVENT:
        eType = "PRESSED"
        eType = "RELEASED"
    print("%s: %s" % (eType, e.event_string))

    kind=(pyatspi.KEY_PRESSED_EVENT, pyatspi.KEY_RELEASED_EVENT))
pyatspi.Registry.registerEventListener(onFocused, "object:")


Accerciser is a software to check if an application is providing correct information to assistive technologies and automated testing frameworks. It's available in most distros, just:

  yum install accerciser


  apt-get install accerciser

Accerciser is good to browse the accessibility tree or to do some quick queries with its python console, but the event monitor is a bit buggy; to debug events it's better to use the script attached in the previous section.

Debugging a11y

Two basic points to make applications accessible for visually impaired:

  • Keyboard navigation
  • Events

There is one trivial way to detect the first kind of a11y bugs: just try to use the application without your mouse, only with keyboard commands (arrows, tabs). If you can't reach every place in the application there's definitely something wrong.

It may be possible that you can reach some UI element with the keyboard but the corresponding a11y event is not being sent. You can use accerciser to read these events and check if the transitions are being properly informed to a11y-enabling technologies, like a screen reader. Use the "Event monitor" tab, enable "Events monitoring" and "focus" type. Now navigate through LibO window with your keyboard and check that the events are being reported when you change the focus.

Reporting an a11y bug

If it's related to events, it's a good idea that you attach a tuned version of the listener script that prints only the relevant events and attributes for that bug.