User Experiences: Accessibility in IE9 Beta

Internet Explorer is a universal product used by people young and old, new and experienced, speaking many different languages.  A lot of people take advantage of IE’s built in accessibility features (like page zoom, caret browsing, find in page, etc) and additional assistive technology such as screen readers to use the web.  Accessibility is beneficial to everyone no matter what their abilities.   

As with every Internet Explorer release, we are committed to delivering a browser that’s accessible for all users.  Part of achieving that goal is making sure assistive technology works well with IE.  IE9 fundamentally changes how users interact with the browser and how the browser takes advantage of the entire PC.  Those changes also impact how assistive technology interacts with IE, which necessitates updates from some assistive technology.  For example, the new notification model is not read by many screen readers, and screen readers can no longer depend on the GDI display subsystem since IE9 uses Windows Direct2D and DirectWrite as part of enabling hardware-accelerated HTML5. 

We are working with assistive technology vendors on how to engineer their products to best interact with IE9, and the IE9 Beta is one step on the way to an accessible final release.  Users who rely on a screen reader or other assistive technology should read the release notes to understand the accessibility issues in the IE9 Beta.  If you encounter other accessibility issues as you browse with IE9 please let us know by submitting a bug in connect

Sharon Newman
Program Manager

Comments (43)

  1. easson says:

    If you are so concered about accessibility, why have you hidden the status bar by default?  It used to allow people to change the magnification with one click, to accomodate people with seeing difficulties.  Now, people are forced to lean that you have to clcik on an icon on the bar, which then brings up a menu dealing with screen font size, which then allows you to select a size or for best results, brings up a dialog box in which they can change the size?  This is a big step backwards for accessibility, in my opinion.  (And don't tell me that people can use keyboard shorcuts to zoom in and out.  Hardly anybody knows those shortcuts, and they are very unlikely to learn them!)

  2. Louis Kessler says:

    I just downloaded IE9 and I'm surprised at a few changes that to me are worse User Interface design than what was in IE8.  

    1. The back/forward buttons no longer have a history dropdown arrow.

    2. Tabs used to share space with the Command Bar, limiting their space. Now they share with the address line, giving them even less space. But you have the links now with the Command Bar, and generally the links need less space than the tabs.

    3. Tabs used to be next to the browser window (except when the FInd box was open), which I think was much better. I often have many tabs open and it would be nice to be able to read them. A whole row for the tabs would be nice. But where you have them now, I can't read them if I've got more than 3 open.

    4. You moved the Favorites button over to the top right and it is now a star. That is fine, but pressing it opens the window on the right, and pinning it shifts it to the left to lock it. Now you have to mouse over to the left to do the selections. Either keep it on the left, or keep it on the right. Don't mix it up.

    I'm sure you must have done some usability testing on this, but obviously I wasn't one of the testees. :-(

  3. Frank Olivier [MSFT] says:

    "The back/forward buttons no longer have a history dropdown arrow."

    Right-click or click-and-hold on the button.

  4. easson says:

    @Frank Oliver.

    That violates another basic UI principle: don't hide functionality so much that no one can reasonably be expected to discover it.  It is NOT obvious that ANYTHING will happen if you click the button.  In IE8, it was perfectely clear.

  5. lkessler says:

    Thanks Frank. I'm sure I would have figured out the right-click option after a while. I bet maybe 5% of people would. But the Click and Hold is a completely new and foreign idea to Windows users. No user would think of that. The only thing remotely similar is hovering over a short hint until the long hint shows up, but its been never used for commands to appear. That's a terrible UI idea unless MS has plans to implement it everywhere.

    I don't know why the drop down arrow, known and used by hundreds of millions of IE users needed to be changed. Does it take that much extra space?  And if you're changing the drop down on the forward/back keys, then why are there still drop downs on the "Add to favorites" and Command Bar icons?  If the drop down is so bac, shouldn't you also change those so they use right-click and the new Click and Hold?

    Sorry. This just seems like a step back to me in ease of use. Every little bit counts, you know, if you want IE to be the best browser.

  6. I agree... says:

    …but the claim "known and used by hundreds of millions of IE users" is very very unlikely to be true. No feature besides the back button is likely to get used by more than a few percent of people.

  7. lkessler says:

    I would disagree. The drop down arrow is in the menu and toolbar area of just about every Windows program available. It is an essential device in Microsoft Office's ribbon – and for that they did extensive usability testing. I think you'll have a hard time finding people who don't recognize it. And even those who don't would still think of clicking on it to see what it does – and instantly they'll understand. It's just a no-brainer as a great UI feature.

  8. thenonhacker says:

    Please implement smooth zooming!

  9. Hank says:

    Favorites were sorted in Z to A order when imported.  How do you change the display order?

  10. DT says:

    Does anyone on the IE team have telemetry data on the amount of use IE8's history dropdown has?

  11. Hank says:

    Favorites were sorted in Z to A order when imported.  How do you change the display order?

    Yes, open favorites and right click, then select sort.  Same as ie 8.

  12. ggreig says:

    @lkessler As far as I know, you're right that click-and-hold is new to Windows – but it's well established on mobile devices where it's the equivalent of right-click for stylus and touch interfaces. Now that touch and stylus are becoming more common ways to interact with Windows, it makes sense to introduce click-and-hold.

  13. PaulTopping says:

    One of the impediments to accessibility in IE9 is its problematic support for MathML in HTML5. See "MathML in HTML5: Internet Explorer 9 is Broken"…/MathMLinHTML5.htm.

  14. Frank Olivier [MSFT] says:

    @PaulTopping We are aware of that issue and are looking into it.

  15. rojer_31 says:

    IE9 is looking REALLY good right now. My biggest issue with IE9 is just this:

    The 'find in page' system is really bad. The highlighting isn't all that great by itself. I'd hoped they'd have followed safari/opera in really highlighting the found text. I have to look & keep looking in the page to find what's actually supposed to be highlighted.

    It doesn't help that F3 doesn't seem to work as it's supposed to either. When I hit F3 I expect it to rotate through found items on current page, not just highlight the find dialog & just sit there :)

    The find dialog UI itself could be improved, I'm sure. It looks like a relic when placed where it is now.

    Thanks for a great browser! And hope for continued development even after release :)

  16. Jim Buffington says:

    The drop downs in the DHTML menus on my websites do not work in IE9 Beta.  Will this be fixed?  Here's a link to one of my affected sites:

  17. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Jim: Inside stmenu.js, swap

       var es=w.document.all(id);


       var es=w.document.getElementById(id);

    Or remove the entire if (bIsIE) check immediately preceding it, and you'll find your page works just fine.

  18. Rob Fedorchuk says:

    Minimize, Restore, Close buttons don't work.  I know it's beta, but really?  I'm running Vista.  Anyone else have this problem?

  19. Accessibility Expert says:

    There two accessibility problems with IE7/8 which I want fixed in IE9.

    1. The focus is often moved, either by accident or by IE itself perhaps, into the command bar or the toolabar

  20. Accessibility Expert says:

    There are two accessibility issues in IE7/8 which I want fixed in IE9. They are quite serious for everyday visually impaired users and have not been fixed in 5 years or more.

    1. The focus often jumps into the command bar or the IE toolbar or the Address Bar by itself. Perhaps the user presses tab before the page has loaded or perhaps IE sometimes moves the focus unexpectedly into the command/tool/address bars, who knows, but the thing is that focus often jumps unexpectedly into those regions and away from the main page's contents. For most unexperienced blind users the main page's contents are a well-known and familear area. They can navigate it using the cursor keys. Imagine their surprise when focus unexpectedly has jumped into the command/tool/address bars where the cursors do not work. For them to get back into the page's contents, they have to press tab or shift+tab 10, 15 or even 20 times, depending on how many extra add-on toolbars are installed. Some toolbars even, like the Bing Bar, trap the user inside them and even if you were to press tab 100 times you would stay trapped inside that toolbar and you would never get back into the page's contents. So, many visually impaired users load a page and then they find themselves into the command/tool/address bar and having to press tab many many times to get into the page they have just loaded so that they can navigate it using the cursors. And if you are an experienced blind user, you know about the command/tool/address bar. But many visually impaired users do not and thus they get so confused to hate IE. So, please pleease investigate this issue and either fix it, if it is an IE7/8 bug which makes the focus move into these areas and away from the main webpage's contents, or, if it is a user issue, add code which will move the focus back into the webpage as soon as a web site loads. This is what all users would want anyway. Nobody wants to load a site and find the focus in the command bar. They want to load a site and as soon as it has finished loading, to be able to navigate it using the cursors, i.e. have their screen reader's focus in the webpage itself and not in the IE chrome.

    2. To get to the Information/Notifications Bar, one has to press alt+n. This keyboard combination nobody knows it. If you want ask around in the blind community. Nobody knows about it and yet it is so so useful. The Information/Notifications Bar is such an important piece of UI and so the shortuct for getting to it should be more widely known, perhaps by advertising it more via a tooltip?

    Most importantly, when you get to the Information Bar by pressing alt+n, the user has to then press space to bring up the list of available choices, such as "Allow Pop-Ups from This Site", "Allow Download", etc. However, the more common key of enter does not work. So, even the visually impaired users who know about alt+n, would press it and then try to press enter to get to the choices to find that enter does not work. Very very few would think that they should instead press alt+n and then spacebar, before they can choose from a menu to allow a pop-up or a download. So, please improve this user experience. Look what Firefox for example does which offers different keyboard shortcuts based on the choices. At least fix it so that enter would also work instead of only space. This is this bug in the product for 5 years? Also pressing alt to dismiss a context menu opens the main application menu instead of dismissing the context menu as it does it all other Windows applications. Why?

  21. Try it? says:

    You should maybe try IE9?  ALT dismisses the context menu without a prompt. The "Notifications Prompt" works very differently than the old Information Bar and has individual buttons for individual commands.

    F6 moves between toolbars and the page.

  22. Alasdair King says:

    One thing that might be handy for screenreader users is an option to turn on a "working" or "navigating" sound that plays when the throbber is active. An "audio throbber" if you like.

    Sighted users can see that the browser is still working with the status bar and throbber and the state of the page. Screenreader users are dependent on their screenreader announcing progress and their noticing and understanding it. One of the frequent comments I get from my WebbIE users is "the navigating sound is really useful because it tells me when the page is still working". It would also help ameliorate the "tab out of the window by accident" problem – I suspect users are hitting tab to start exploring and find out what is going on when the browser doesn't appear to be doing anything and they think it is finished.

    You could turn the sound on by default if the SPI_GETSCREENREADER accessibility parameter is set. I wouldn't turn it on ever for WebBrowser controls, though.

    I suspect it'll conflict with some existing functionality of some screenreader or other, though, so you'll get some grief from those users, and the less-able users who could benefit from it probably won't have the means to contact you to say so. Ah, and throbbers are per-tab now: tricky. Do you only play the sound for the current tab? Then if you Ctrl+PageUp/Down to go through tabs you can hear the status of each tab as you go…

  23. Will says:

    Having some problems with IE9 + Windows Live Mail. Outgoing emails on my gmail account via imap have a question mark added to the first line of the body. Fixed it using the procedure outlined here: Basically, set all outgoing mail to use UTF-8 encoding.

  24. Ben50 says:

    Screenreader will also have to be updated for Firefox 4 (mainly because tab aren't windows in Windows' window manager anymore), that's good since

    "A problem shared is a problem halved." :)

  25. Greg says:

    For acessibility, can we get a 'view as grayscale', 'view as high contrast' button?  This will help those with color vision issues.

  26. Sean B says:

    I have been using IE since the 3.x days and find the sudden change of the favorites location to be extremely disturbing.  I found it extremely intuitive to have it right next to the address bar.  is there some sort of way to make IE look like the classic IE?  or is there a checkbox somewhere to move it to the other side permanently?

    Also I do not care that the menu bar is hidden by default.  I STILL have not found the way to turn it on.

  27. Roscoe James says:

    Can anyone tell me how to get more than five addresses into the dropdown for sites to visit?  I'm not finding a configuration for that and when I add new addresses they push the old ones out.



  28. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @RJ: The number of sites in the dropdown is not configurable. As you type, however, the sites listed will change to match what you've typed so far.

    @SeanB: IE9 Beta does not have a "classic" mode or a checkbox to move the favorites. It also does not have an option to turn on the menu bar at all times.

    @Will: We're looking at the UTF-8 email issue. thanks!

  29. Salu says:

    Well I'm here to ask a simple tool: a button that serves to enable / disable the proxy settings. So when we do not want to use the proxy, only one click would be required to disable it. Firefox does not come with this function originally, but you can download it as an add-on. So far I have not found one of those for IE. It could be build-in on IE!

  30. David Bailes says:

    In general, feeds in ie are easy to use for users of screen readers. However, if there is more than a small number of subscribed feeds, then it's tedious to read each one to find out if any of them have new content, by the word new being appended. A suggestion for improving this would be to have a keystroke in the feeds pane for moving to the next feed with new content. This would be similar to moving to the next unread email in an email program, and you could perhaps use the same keystroke, ctrl + u.

  31. EricLaw says:

    @Salu: I wrote a proxy-picker add-on for IE a few years ago; you can find it here:…/proxypick.asp

  32. JIMMY says:

    To use Microsoft Office Live, your computer must meet one of the following requirements:

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8 running on Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Vista. You can download Internet Explorer from the Internet Explorer page.

    Mozilla Firefox running on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X 10.2.x and later. You can download Firefox from the Firefox download page.

    IE9Beta won't work with OFFICELIVE.COM

  33. JIMMY says:

    To use Microsoft Office Live, your computer must meet one of the following requirements:

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8 running on Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Vista. You can download Internet Explorer from the Internet Explorer page.

    Mozilla Firefox running on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X 10.2.x and later. You can download Firefox from the Firefox download page.

    IE9Beta won't work with OFFICELIVE.COM

  34. Greg says:

    I have to say that if IE9 is released in its current layout I will be forced to look for a new browser. The changes to the layout are not at all intuitive and I am having so many problems on various websites I had to uninstall the beta. The worst one was not being able to use my online banking site. Losing the command bar was probably the worst part of the layout changes. Closely follwed by moving the favorites to the right side of the screen. Yuck! I am not opposed to change, but come on guys, lets make it a change for the better.

  35. Bishop says:

    Just got finished UN-installing IE-9 beta, and I mean very BETA! I was impressed with the preview that I watched before installing it, but very surprised when trying the real deal. Just like the band wagon, user interface has taken a leap backward. I haven't read all of the feedback to see if it was a common problem but, I felt like it was very unstable, and not able to handle multitasking at all. I didn't much care for the hollow look and feel of it, it made me feel like I was on a restricted public pc. Every other page I loaded had an unresolvable issue with Flash, which I imagine they will build to support it….eventually. I have to say it would take alot to make me leave Firefox, but I am using IE8 relentlessly, I love it. I had hoped that 9 was a close replica of 8 but, with more useful and open source add on platform. It would be nice too have alot more tweakability and modification potential. Hopefully it will stay in beta for a while longer.

  36. Adhdmom says:

    I have to uninstall Internet Explorer 9 Beta, it will not work with Narrator. It was nice to see it but I can't read the pages.I will not work it keeps jumping around.

  37. N.Jagannathan says:

    Ican't install IE9 and not able work with narrator while reading it keeps jumpedout.

  38. N.Jagannathan says:

    no comment pl.

  39. Chaitanya says:

    Sir, I have downloaded IE9 in vista home premium but always i open it it shows INTERNET EXPLORER HAR STOPED WORKING ………..I have tried to uninstall and re installed it but it doesnt work still…………………….Give me a solurion please.

  40. Ailveen says:

    I do not see any updates on the expansion of the single select / dropdown / html select-one. There have been many complaints that this element cuts off text that spills over the dropdown width. This is a software developer nightmare! Firefox has this feature a very long time ago, why can't IE?

  41. kyle says:

    I dont know if its a bug or feature, but if you click and hold the left mouse button, mouse over a link, and then unclick, the browser will follow the link you were over. It's a problem if you are just trying to highlight some text and happen to unclick over a link.

  42. Bill K-B says:

    Well, I give up.   It is not obvious to me where "find in page" went.  A browser is not very usable is there  is not an obvious, easy find-in-page function.  It must be there someplace.

  43. Klimax says:

    @Bill K- B: Tools-File-Find on this page or ctrl-f (same as IE8)