Accessibility

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.

Zoom

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.

Zoomed in editor

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 drop-down and select the High Contrast theme.

High Contrast Theme

Keyboard navigation

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.

Keyboard shortcuts in 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.

Anchor selection

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.

Tab navigation

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.

Some areas that support Tab navigation are:

  • The View switcher (File Explorer, Search, Source Control, Run, Extensions)
  • The header of collapsible sections in a view to expand/collapse
  • Actions in views and sections
  • Actions for items in the tree

Tab trapping

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.

tab moves focus

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).

Screen readers

VS Code supports screen readers in the editor using a strategy based on paging the text. We have tested using the NVDA screen reader, VoiceOver on macOS and Orca on Linux.

When using NVDA on Windows, we recommend to update to NVDA 2017.3 or higher. NVDA 2017.3 increases NVDA's timeout for receiving a caret move event from 30ms to 100ms. This version is the first one where the built-in timeout is increased from 30ms to 100ms.

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 editor.quickSuggestions setting.

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.

Accessibility help

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:

accessibility status

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.

screen reader optimized mode

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 on, off, or the default auto to automatically detect a screen reader through querying the platform.

Terminal accessibility

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

The setting 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.

Debugger accessibility

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.

macOS

There is screen reader support for the editor with VoiceOver.

Linux

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 master. 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=1 as an environment variable.

After enabling that setting, VS Code should work with the Orca screen reader.

Next steps

Read on to find out about: