Article on how to use NVDA and Firefox to test web sites for accessibility

I just published an article on how to use NVDA and Firefox to do website testing.

This article can be found on the front page of my blog under the “Pages” section, in the “Articles” sublist.

The article is meant as an introduction, not as a replacement for the NVDA user guide, and it is certainly not meant to replace other accessibility testing tools you might use for your website testing, just as an additional tool to help you get a feel for how blind users interact with your web sites or web applications.

I plan to update the article periodically as new versions of NVDA become available, features are added and other info relevant to the article might change.

Enjoy the read, and feel free to leave feedback!

14 comments:

  1. Marco,

    Thanks for the step-by-step guidelines on setting up and using NVDA. I have NVDA installed on my computer at home.

    Unfortunately, it seems the NVDA website is down this morning (April 14, 2009 EST). I’ve tried several times to access the site, but the URL keeps timing out.

  2. We have a copy of JAWS installed on one of the machines at the college I work at. It’s used by one of our designers, but I would like to use NVDA on my computer so I can have first hand experience using a screen reader too.

    Marco, do you see any key differences in how NVDA reads a page compared to JAWS?

  3. Hi Deborah,

    there are a few differences, for example indications of entering or exiting a list are written as plain text in JAWS, but are only verbal indications in NVDA. Also, by default, NVDA tries to give a feel for the actual screen layout, which JAWS does not do by default. In JAWS, one has to turn on an option to get that.

    Those are the key differences I can think of off the top of my head.

  4. Thanks Marco for the quick summary of NVDA vs. JAWS. I have Fire Vox on my computer, so I can test pages in two different applications.

  5. Sorry about the web site problems. :) We’re having some occasional trouble with our web server which is driving me rather insane. It should be working now.

    Marco: Thanks for the great article. Just a couple of comments with regard to focus/browse modes:
    * You describe the possibility to enter focus mode, but (unless I missed something) you don’t provide instructions on how to activate it (by pressing enter while the cursor is in the field).
    * NVDA+space can certainly be used to return to browse mode. However, a simpler keystroke to remember which has been added in recent versions is escape.
    * Note also that if NVDA+space is used to *enter* browse mode, browse mode is “locked” and nothing will exit it except another NVDA+space. This is meant to be used to work around ARIA applications which should really set role=”application” but do not. This is obviously probably not something you want to mention in your article – I just mention it here because it highlights the subtle difference between NVDA+space and other forms of focus/browse mode switching.

    Thanks again.

  6. The article works the same in Firefox 3.6 with NVDA. What Google Chrome is concerned, it is not accessible yet. It doesn’t expose information to screen readers properly currently, so it cannot be used with NVDA to test your web pages. The one other browser on Windows that currently works with screen readers such as NVDA is Microsoft Internet Explorer.

  7. Hey Marco– great article. I’m training new developers to do contract work with my company and when I stumbled across your article I shared it with them. The summary of NVDA vs JAWS is clear and concise and infinitely useful. Keep up the good work.

What are your thoughts?