If you haven’t noticed yet, Firefox 3.5.4 hit the web last night. For accessibility, this brings one major fix all of our Linux and Solaris users will appreciate: Certain comboboxes such as the “Security Question” one on the GMail signup page, were broken in the initial releases of 3.5. When you arrowed, Orca would not speak the newly selected item. This was a regression from 3.0 where this worked.

We initially fixed this for Firefox 3.6 alpha and now also backported the fix to the 3.5 branch.

Jim Zemlin of the Linux foundation wrote a very good post on this year being the year of the Linux desktop breakthrough. One thing he did only mention marginally, but which I think is just as important for certain users/markets, is the fact that there is now a wide range of accessibility solutions available for at least the GNOME desktop, which either come directly with the distribution such as the Orca screen reader for the visually impaired, or are easily installable. Screen reading, which includes support for a huge variety of braille displays, magnification, on-screen keyboard solutions, alternative input device support are all available as open-source now and open up the Linux desktop alternative to virtually every potential user.

And there’s more when it comes to the mobile platform. The Mozilla Foundation funded a feasibility study last year to migrate the communication layer for the assistive technology service provider interface (AT-SPI) from using Corba to using DBus, which is a key part in getting screen reading support on the mobile Linux platform. Nokia is now funding the actual migration work. I’ll blog more about the mobile prospective from an accessibility standpoint in the near future.

I just upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.6.

This version brings with it a number of accessibility enhancements.

One thing you might have noticed already is that there is now a default language set. Default English blogs should now always cause screen readers that support language switching to use the English variant of their default speech synthesizer.

Also new: Whereever possible, there are now labels properly associated with the corresponding form controls. This means that now also screen readers that do not do their own HTML processing should pick up the labels fine.

One more addition that the WordPress team has embraced is the inclusion of some WAI-ARIA markup. Whenever you comment on my blog now, and soon hopefully many others, and you use a compatible browser such as Firefox 3, and a compatible screen reader such as NVDA or Orca, you’ll hear that the text fields also textually marked as “required” in their labels, now are announced as “required” fields. The WordPress default theme now uses aria-required to denote such fields as required, giving even more accessibility to WordPress!

I’d like to thank the WordPress community to embrace ARIA! It is really amazing that ARIA is now finding its way into such a widespread mainstream piece of software!