NV Access receives a Mozilla grant to further push accessibility on the web

The Mozilla project is very committed to making the web available to all people. To further that goal, members of the Mozilla community actively work with Non-Visual Desktop Access and other accessibility initiatives to make sure everyone benefits from the web.

Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) is the best free screen reader solution for Windows and an open source project. It provides feedback via synthetic speech and Braille and enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. The NVDA developers work closely with Mozilla to ensure a great user experience with every Firefox release. Over the past few years, the projects have joined forces numerous times to drive new web technologies such as WAI-ARIA forward and into the hands of blind people so these could participate in the open web just like their sighted counterparts.

Its because of this close, ongoing link with NVDA that Mozilla has awarded a $80k grant to NV Access, the non-profit group overseeing NVDA. The grant will enable NVDA to improve the rich text editing and viewing experience as well as make general improvement over the next year.

You can help accessibility for the web by getting involved with the NVDA or Mozilla projects, or even coming on board at Mozilla Co!

What’s new in accessibility in Firefox 6

On Friday May 27, a bigger update was offered to everyone on the Aurora channel that brought them up to a revision 6 Firefox.

As this was a bigger update, it is time to also point out the new stuff to watch out for in accessibility. One thing I already blogged about is the HTML progress element, so I won’t cover that here. Some of the other things to be aware of are:

Seamless plugin accessibility integration on Linux

One feature that’s been baking in a bug forever, but which finally got its final push and made it into code is plugin accessibility for Firefox on the GNOME Desktop on Linux! There is only one plugin currently called Moonlight that actually uses this, but if other plugin authors want to, they can now plug into Firefox and expose their accessible content to Orca and other assistive technologies.

The Windows magnifier and the writing caret

There is a problem in Firefox 4 and 5 that will prevent Windows Magnifier and possibly other low-vision products from tracking the writing cursor properly when on the URL bar or in some other places. We were able to fix this in Firefox 6.

Improvements to the notification popup

The new notification popup that asks, for example, whether you want to save an entered password, has been improved a great deal. For one, it now announces itself to assistive technologies as an alert like the old notification bar did, which means that the text that the user is to be notified about is automatically being read by NVDA, JAWS and others. Secondly, we made the “Close this message” button tabbable again. One thing that we didn’t manage to solve in time is the inconsistency with the menu button that, when SPACE is being pressed on it, doesn’t actually do much, but you have to tab to a secondary regular button with the same label to get the actual function. We’re working on a solution to improve keyboard accessibility for these menu buttons in general, and the notification popups will benefit from this as we do.

ARIA support

In regards to WAI-ARIA, there are a number of changes/additions:

  • aria-sort now fires attributechange events when its value is being changed.
  • aria-selected is no longer being ignored for ARIA tabs.
  • aria-busy now properly fires statechange events.
  • ARIA documents children can now properly be queried via accChild API methods.

Others

Other noteworthy fixes are:

  • The Untrusted Connection page is again accessible via the virtual cursor in screen readers.
  • When deleting text from edit fields, the wrong text was reported through at-spi. We fixed that problem.
  • We got rid of the bogus pref accessibility.disableenumvariant.
  • The About… dialog is more readable than it used to be.