Visual Studio Code has many features to help make the editor accessible to all users. Zoom and High Contrast colors improve editor visibility, keyboard-only navigation allows use without a mouse, and the editor has been optimized for screen readers.
You can adjust the Zoom level in VS Code with the View > Appearance > Zoom commands. The zoom level increases or decreases by 20% each time a Zoom command is executed.
- View > Appearance > Zoom In (⌘= (Windows, Linux Ctrl+=)) - increase the Zoom level.
- View > Appearance > Zoom Out (⌘- (Windows, Linux Ctrl+-)) - decrease the Zoom level.
- View > Appearance > Reset Zoom (⌘Numpad0 (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Numpad0)) - reset the Zoom level to 0.
Persisted Zoom Level
When you adjust the zoom level with the View > Zoom In / Out commands, the zoom level is persisted in the
window.zoomLevel setting. The default value is 0 and each increment/decrement changes the zoom level by 20%.
High Contrast theme
We support a High Contrast color theme on all platforms. Use File > Preferences > Color Theme (⌘K ⌘T (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+T)) to display the Select Color Theme dropdown and select the High Contrast theme.
You will find that VS Code provides an exhaustive list of commands in the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) so that you can run VS Code without using the mouse. Press ⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P) then type a command name (for example 'git') to filter the list of commands.
VS Code also has many preset keyboard shortcuts for commands. These are displayed to the right of the command in the Command Palette.
You can also set your own keyboard shortcuts. File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts (⌘K ⌘S (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+S)) brings up the Keyboard Shortcuts editor where you can discover and modify keybindings for VS Code actions. See Key Bindings for more details on customizing or adding your own keyboard shortcuts.
For a quick navigation across the workbench, we recommend using Focus Next Part (F6) and Focus Previous Part (⇧F6 (Windows, Linux Shift+F6)) commands.
To make it easier to start and end selection using the keyboard we have four commands: Set Selection Anchor (⌘K ⌘B (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+B)), Select From Anchor to Cursor (⌘K ⌘K (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+K)), Cancel Selection Anchor (Escape) and Go to Selection Anchor.
You can use the Tab key to jump between VS Code UI controls. Use Shift+Tab to tab in reverse order. As you tab through the UI controls, you can see an indicator around the UI element once the element gains focus.
All elements in the workbench support tab navigation, but workbench toolbars and tab lists have only one tab stop, to avoid having too many. Once the focus is on a toolbar or a tab list, you can use the arrow keys to navigate within them.
By default, pressing the Tab within a source code file inserts the Tab character (or spaces depending on your Indentation setting) and does not leave the open file. You can toggle the trapping of Tab with ⌃⇧M (Windows, Linux Ctrl+M) and subsequent Tab keys will move focus out of the file. When default Tab trapping is off, you will see an indicator in the Status Bar.
You can also toggle Tab trapping from the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) with the Toggle Tab Key Moves Focus action.
Read-only files never trap the Tab key. The Integrated Terminal panel respects the Tab trapping mode and can be toggled with ⌃⇧M (Windows, Linux Ctrl+M).
VS Code supports screen readers in the editor using a strategy based on paging the text. We have tested using the following screen readers: NVDA and JAWS on Windows, VoiceOver on macOS and Orca on Linux.
For NVDA, we recommend staying in focus mode and using the hotkeys to navigate, instead of using browse mode.
The Go to Next/Previous Error or Warning actions (F8 and ⇧F8 (Windows, Linux Shift+F8)) allow screen readers to announce the error or warning messages.
When the suggestions pop up, they will get announced to screen readers. It is possible to navigate the suggestions using Ctrl+Up and Ctrl+Down, you can dismiss the suggestions with Shift+Escape and if suggestions get in your way, you can disable the auto-popup of suggestions with the
The Go to Next/Previous Difference actions (F7 and ⇧F7 (Windows, Linux Shift+F7)), when in a diff editor pane, will bring up the Diff Review pane, which allows the navigation of the diffs, presented in a unified patch format. Arrow Up and Arrow Down can be used to navigate through the unchanged, inserted, or deleted lines. Pressing Enter will return focus to the modified pane of the diff editor at the selected line number (or closest still existing line number in case a deleted line is selected). Use Escape or
kb(Shift+Escape) to dismiss the Diff Review pane.
You can press ⌥F1 (Windows Alt+F1, Linux Shift+Alt+F1) to trigger the Show Accessibility Help dialog while in an editor to check the state of various accessibility options in VS Code:
Screen reader mode
When VS Code detects that a screen reader is being used, it goes into screen reader optimized mode for the UI such as the editor and Integrated Terminal. The Status Bar displays Screen Reader Optimized in the lower right and you can exit screen reader mode by clicking on the display text.
Certain features such as folding, minimap (code overview), and word wrap are disabled when in screen reader mode. You can control whether VS Code uses screen reader mode with the Editor: Accessibility Support setting (
editor.accessibilitySupport) and the values are
off, or the default
auto to automatically detect a screen reader through querying the platform.
Output in the Integrated Terminal can be navigated through by using the "navigation mode" commands available in the Command Palette (press F1 and search for "terminal navigation mode").
Minimum contrast ratio
terminal.integrated.minimumContrastRatio can be set to a number between 1 and 21, this will cause the text color either increase or reduce luminance until the contrast ratio is met or pure white (
#FFFFFF) black (
#000000) is hit.
Status Bar accessibility
Once a focus is in the Status bar via Focus Next Part (F6) arrow navigation can be used to move focus between Status bar entries.
Diff editor accessibility
There is a review pane in the Diff editor that presents changes in a unified patch format. You can navigate between changes with Go to Next Difference (F7) and Go to Previous Difference (⇧F7 (Windows, Linux Shift+F7)). Lines can be navigated with arrow keys and pressing Enter will jump back in the Diff editor and the selected line.
The VS Code debugger UI is user accessible and has the following features:
- Changes in debug state are read out (for example 'started', 'breakpoint hit', 'terminated', ...).
- All debug actions are keyboard accessible.
- Both the Run view and Debug Console support Tab navigation.
- Debug hover is keyboard accessible (⌘K ⌘I (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+I)).
- Keyboard shortcuts can be created to set focus to each debugger area.
Current known issues
VS Code has some known accessibility issues depending on the platform. Here's a full list of VS Code accessibility issues.
There is screen reader support for the editor with VoiceOver.
Screen reader support for the editor is still work in progress because the accessibility implementation for Chrome on Linux is work in progress. Thus there are a couple of things needed in order to have screen reader Orca working with VS Code:
- Make sure to use the latest version of Orca out of the master branch. More details can be found on the Orca page.
- We have tested that VS Code works well with Orca on Ubuntu 18, Fedora 31, Arch Linux. With Ubuntu 19, we have encountered issues.
- Make sure to have the setting
"editor.accessibilitySupport": "on"in VS Code. You can do this using settings, or by running the Show Accessibility Help command and pressing Ctrl+E to turn on accessibilitySupport.
- If Orca is still silent, try setting
ACCESSIBILITY_ENABLED=1as an environment variable.
After enabling that setting, VS Code should work with the Orca screen reader.
Read on to find out about: