Screen readers and hardware system buttons

Screen-readers, such as Narrator, must be able to recognize and handle hardware system button events and communicate their state to users. In some cases, the screen reader might need to handle these hardware button events exclusively and not let them bubble up to other handlers.

Beginning with Windows 10 version 2004, UWP applications can listen for and handle the Fn hardware system button events in the same way as other hardware buttons. Previously, this system button acted only as a modifier for how other hardware buttons reported their events and state.

Note

Fn button support is OEM-specific and can include features such as the ability to toggle/lock on or off (vs. a press-and-hold key combination), along with a corresponding lock indicator light (which might not helpful to blind or vision-impaired users).

Fn button events are exposed through a new SystemButtonEventController Class in the Windows.UI.Input namespace. The SystemButtonEventController object supports the following events:

Important

The SystemButtonEventController cannot receive these events if they have already been handled by a higher priority handler.

Examples

In the following examples, we show how to create a SystemButtonEventController based on a DispatcherQueue and handle the four events supported by this object.

It is common for more than one of the supported events to fire when the Fn button is pressed. For example, pressing the Fn button on a Surface keyboard fires SystemFunctionButtonPressed, SystemFunctionLockChanged, and SystemFunctionLockIndicatorChanged at the same time.

  1. In this first snippet, we simply include the required namespaces and specify some global objects, including the DispatcherQueue and the DispatcherQueueController objects for managing the SystemButtonEventController thread.

    We then specify the event tokens returned when registering the SystemButtonEventController event-handling delegates.

    namespace winrt
    {
        using namespace Windows::System;
        using namespace Windows::UI::Input;
    }
    
    ...
    
    // Declare related members
    winrt::DispatcherQueueController _queueController;
    winrt::DispatcherQueue _queue;
    winrt::SystemButtonEventController _controller;
    winrt::event_token _fnKeyDownToken;
    winrt::event_token _fnKeyUpToken;
    winrt::event_token _fnLockToken;
    
  2. We also specify an event token for the SystemFunctionLockIndicatorChanged event along with a bool to indicate whether the application is in "Learning Mode" (where the user is simply trying to explore the keyboard without performing any functions).

    winrt::event_token _fnLockIndicatorToken;
    bool _isLearningMode = false;
    
  3. This third snippet includes the corresponding event handler delegates for each event supported by the SystemButtonEventController object.

    Each event handler announces the event that has occurred. In addition, the FunctionLockIndicatorChanged handler also controls whether the app is in "Learning" mode (_isLearningMode = true), which prevents the event from bubbling to other handlers and lets the user explore keyboard features without actually performing the action.

    void SetupSystemButtonEventController()
    {
        // Create dispatcher queue controller and dispatcher queue
        _queueController = winrt::DispatcherQueueController::CreateOnDedicatedThread();
        _queue = _queueController.DispatcherQueue();
    
        // Create controller based on new created dispatcher queue
        _controller = winrt::SystemButtonEventController::CreateForDispatcherQueue(_queue);
    
        // Add Event Handler for each different event
        _fnKeyDownToken = _controller->FunctionButtonPressed(
            [](const winrt::SystemButtonEventController& /*sender*/, const winrt:: FunctionButtonEventArgs& args)
            {
                // Mock function to read the sentence "Fn button is pressed"
                PronounceFunctionButtonPressedMock();
                // Set Handled as true means this event is consumed by this controller
                // no more targets will receive this event
                args.Handled(true);
            });
    
            _fnKeyUpToken = _controller->FunctionButtonReleased(
                [](const winrt::SystemButtonEventController& /*sender*/, const winrt:: FunctionButtonEventArgs& args)
                {
                    // Mock function to read the sentence "Fn button is up"
                    PronounceFunctionButtonReleasedMock();
                    // Set Handled as true means this event is consumed by this controller
                    // no more targets will receive this event
                    args.Handled(true);
                });
    
        _fnLockToken = _controller->FunctionLockChanged(
            [](const winrt::SystemButtonEventController& /*sender*/, const winrt:: FunctionLockChangedEventArgs& args)
            {
                // Mock function to read the sentence "Fn shift is locked/unlocked"
                PronounceFunctionLockMock(args.IsLocked());
                // Set Handled as true means this event is consumed by this controller
                // no more targets will receive this event
                args.Handled(true);
            });
    
        _fnLockIndicatorToken = _controller->FunctionLockIndicatorChanged(
            [](const winrt::SystemButtonEventController& /*sender*/, const winrt:: FunctionLockIndicatorChangedEventArgs& args)
            {
                // Mock function to read the sentence "Fn lock indicator is on/off"
                PronounceFunctionLockIndicatorMock(args.IsIndicatorOn());
                // In learning mode, the user is exploring the keyboard. They expect the program
                // to announce what the key they just pressed WOULD HAVE DONE, without actually
                // doing it. Therefore, handle the event when in learning mode so the key is ignored
                // by the system.
                args.Handled(_isLearningMode);
            });
    }
    

See also

SystemButtonEventController Class