Today, I have some exciting news to share with you! Firefox for Android 24 will bring a lot of noticeable improvements for users of TalkBack and alternative Android screen readers. Here’s a round-up of those enhancements and new features:
Firefox 24 brings BrailleBack support. The braille output is not merely a mirror of the speech output, but rather a smart representation of the current and surrounding items. You can use the navigational commands of your display to navigate web content, and you can use routing keys to activate the current item. This may activate a link, press a button, toggle a check box, or whatever action an ordinary double-tap or press of the D-pad Enter would also execute.
New default reading order
A new order of reading information has been introduced, which may soon become the default reading order for new installs. When activated and TalkBack speaks the current item, it now speaks the name, label or text first, followed by semantic information such as the type (like link, button etc.) and the ancestry. This way, the most important information is spoken first.
If you want to try the new reading order, you can do this by following these steps:
- In the address bar, type about:config and press enter.
- In the search field, type access.
- Look for the entry named accessfu.utterance and double-tap it.
- Change its value from 0 to 1.
- Close the tab.
Now, your reading order will be the new one with the label of the current item first. To change back to the way it was before, follow the above steps and change the value back from 1 to 0.
Editing text is finally possible in text inputs and text areas of web pages! You can navigate by character, word, and in text areas, paragraph, too. With this, having control over what you’ve written and correcting what you typed is finally possible! I know you were waiting a long time for this!
Text areas now activate
It was previously not possible to activate many text areas and get a keyboard to input text. This has been fixed. Examples of this bug could be seen in Facebook and Mobile Twitter when trying to compose a status update or tweet.
Skipping of decorative images
Images which web authors clearly marked as decorative with the expression alt=”” are now properly skipped when navigating through web content. This should eliminate a lot of unnecessary stops on graphics which have no meaning for the understanding of the content.
Better speaking of rich labeled content
Firefox for Android now properly exposes explicitly given labels of web content instead of always trying to get the label from the inner text of that element. If an aria-label or other means of labelling an element is being used, for example on Facebook or Twitter, it will now be spoken and brailled.
Popups are announced
If the activation of an element causes a pop up to appear, this will now be announced. Examples of that are the items for Friend requests, Messages, and Notifications on Facebook.
Closing all tabs no longer breaks web content support
There was a bug that caused all web content to no longer be accessible once all tabs had been closed. You had to close and restart Firefox for Android to get TalkBack support working again. This has been fixed.
Double-tap and hold in web content
There was a bug that you could not use the double-tap and hold gesture to bring up the context menu for any given web element with TalkBack. This has been fixed, and you can now access all the features of those context menus.
Door hangers retain focus
There was a bug in the door hanger notifications, like the Save Password prompt, that caused focus to get lost frequently. This has been fixed.
There have been quite some more changes under the hood you will not notice immediately, but which all add to a much better user experience.
A big thank you goes out to Max, who is a summer intern at Mozilla this year, and to Yura, who is a very active community contributor. And of course to Eitan, whose main work is concentrated on getting Firefox OS accessibility in shape, but who always finds the energy to keep the rest of us in check when we hack on Firefox for Android!
So when will you get it?
Firefox 24 will hit the Play Store in August as Firefox Beta, and in September as the final release. If you’re on Firefox Nightly builds, you already have all these great enhancements on your device. And if you’re using Aurora, you’ll get it in the week of June 24, 2013.
We hope that you’ll enjoy these enhancements and definitely value your feedback! Also keep those bug reports coming, they are very helpful and will assist us in making Firefox for Android and Firefox OS even better!