NetBeans Accessibility Plugin
By Jiri Mzourek on Apr 28, 2008
Jiri Mzourek is a senior manager in xDesign, responsible for Sun Developer Products and SOA/BI. In his spare time, he evangelizes usability in the Czech Republic by organizing SIGCHI meetings, World Usability Day, and working closely with the Czech Technical University on usability and accessibility related projects.
Have you ever dreamed of developing an accessible Swing GUI the easy way? Stop dreaming and checkout the new NetBeans a11y plugin!
Let's start from the beginning:
The xDesign team in Prague has a long history of cooperation with our local Czech Technical University in Prague, Department of Computer Science and Engineering. For example, together we built the first usability lab in our region, organized a local World Usability Day, and ran Czech SIGCHI. The last 12 months we also cooperated on the a11y plugin for NetBeans. The main goal for this plugin was to allow Java developers without any special knowledge of accessibility to develop accessible Swing GUIs in NetBeans.
After a year we are proud to announce the availability of version 1.0 (for NetBeans 6.0 and 6.1)!
How you can use it:
1) If you don't have it already, get NetBeans 6.0 or 6.1 from www.netbeans.org.
2) Download the a11y plugin from a11y.netbeans.org , or use the AutoUpdate (Beta) functionality built into NetBeans. If you downloaded it manually, once you're running NetBeans, from the pull-down menus go to Tools -> Plugins, select the "Downloaded" tab, and click on the "Add Plugins" button; then browse your disk for the downloaded plugin (nbm file) and select it.
3) Now, start the NetBeans GUI Builder (for example add a new JFrame file into an existing Java project.)
4) Go to the Window menu and select "A11Y Result Window". That's it!
Now, when you edit the GUI it will automatically be checked for accessibility. The findings will be sorted into 3 categories (Errors, Warnings and Infos), which will be described and also will have a suggestions on how to fix them. By double clicking on the findings, you accept the suggested fix (for example, double clicking a "Name" error would add an appropriate accessible name). More details (for example checking of tab-traversal) is described in the documentation.
Many thanks from all of us to the Sun External Research Office for their financial support, Tomas Pavek (NetBeans engineering manager) for technical support, Max Sauer and Martin Novak - who wore two hats during the process (Sun QE and CTU students) and for their contributions and cooperation with all of the other CTU students.