Sorry for being a slacker in updating you guys regularly on what’s been happening! But we’ve been quite busy at getting some stuff finished and hopefully ready for inclusion in 3.5. I already posted about the return of the descriptions last week. So here’s what else happened since my last report:

Exposing HTML 5 audio and video elements

The initial exposure for the HTML5 audio and video elements to screen readers landed, causing a minor regression that was quickly fixed. In testing this with NVDA, I found that the button labels weren’t properly exposed and that the slider values were not really useful. The progress meters were showing the number of bytes downloaded, or the milliseconds elapsed instead of useful percentage values. Along those lines, Alex also added a bug to expose proper names for each progress meter, so a screen reader user knows which slider is for what purpose.

Except for the last patch, all others have landed on mozilla-central and will be available for testing starting with the 11th of May nightly build.

To make it clear: This is for those HTML5 audio and video elements that have the controls attribute set, indicating that the internally available controls should be used. Other forms of controlling the media playback, such as from external HTML controls/widgets, already worked in the past since these were not part of the actual audio or video element itself.

Tree view item rectangle exposure

We received a report that in Thunderbird 3 beta on Windows, the rectangles for tree view items were not exposed correctly. The rectangle was too small, not encompassing the whole item. Alex investigated this and fixed the bug, putting an optimization in as a second step for all platforms. This also landed on mozilla-1.9.1 after having baked on mozilla-central for a while, and is available since the May 9th nightly builds of Shiretoko, Thunderbird and SeaMonkey.

The ARIA live region background tab leakage

David has been taking different stabs at bug 444644, with some good results thanks to feedback from Roc and BZ during the Mozilla all-hands week. However, we’re still fighting a situation where the creation of virtual buffers by NVDA is causing the live region updates from background tabs to be spoken again. Investigation is ongoing

Other ARIA-related triage

David’s also been a busy bee clearing out some ARIA-related bugs, gathering feedback here and there, closing others as they’ve been solved by other bugs, etc.

Firebug accessibility

This is not strictly inside the “Accessible” module of the platform, but very closely related to the Mozilla eco system. Accessibility of the Firebug UI has been shaping up very nicely over recent weeks. I spent a fair amount of time last week pounding the different alpha releases to help make sure things stayed in shape.

On Friday, Hans from the Paciello Group, Jamie from the NVDA team and I also managed to get the biggest outstanding problem solved in a very productive meeting on IRC, and that’s the reading of the Firebug JS panel by NVDA. Watch this space for a review once Firebug 1.4 goes to beta!

That’s it for this week, thanks for the read!

As you may or may not have read, the NVDA team released NVDA 0.6p3 last night. Below, I’d like to highlight those of the changes that are of special interest to those using Mozilla products such as Firefox or Thunderbird with it.

Support for text attributes and spell checking

NVDA takes advantage of the new text attribute and spell checking support of Gecko 1.9.1, which will enable exposure of the inline spelling features of Firefox 3.1 and Thunderbird 3.

  • NVDA+F will report things such as font, point size, styles such as bold etc.
  • When reading through text character by character or word by word, if a spelling mistake is encountered, NVDA will announce it, and also where it ends.

This feature will not work with Firefox 3.0.x, as the version of the Gecko platform used with this version of Firefox does not have accessibility information for text attributes and spell checking.

Automatic switching of focus mode

When browsing web pages in Firefox, certain controls such as textboxes, comboboxes etc. can now automatically cause NVDA to switch to focus mode without the user having to press Enter. Escape or NVDA+SpaceBar can be used to turn focus mode off and browse mode back on. Interacting with forms is much more seamless this way, so I recommend everyone to try out this new mode! You can configure it through the Virtual Buffers preferences dialog.

Better reading of the notification bar

Firefox, and to a lesser extent Thunderbird, make use of the notification bar to convey information without interrupting the user’s flow of work. NVDA 0.6p3 has improved the way it reads these important yet unobtrusive notifications by suppressing double-speaking, and other tidying up of the whole process.

Use NVDA to explore the accessible hierarchy of your web pages

From the What’s New document:

* new: In virtual buffers, the review cursor now reviews the text of the buffer, rather than just the internal text of the navigator object (which is often not useful to the user). This means that you can navigate the virtual buffer hierarchically using object navigation and the review cursor will move to that point in the buffer.

This means that the navigator commands (NVDA+NumPad8, NVDA+NumPad2, etc.) will work inside the virtual buffer of a web page, take the review cursor with them as you go, and allow you to bisect your page accessible node for accessible node, in case you wonder why your users complain about accessibility issues.

This makes NVDA not only suited for blind users relying on access to the Windows operating system and its applications, but also for web developers who need (or want) to get a feel for what their web page or application appears like to a blind visitor.

Miscelanious fixes

The below is a small collection of other notable changes that don’t warrant an own section.

  • fix: Fix the issue where tabbing to a checked checkbox in a Mozilla Gecko virtual buffer and pressing space would not announce that the checkbox was being unchecked.
  • fix: Correctly report partially checked checkboxes in Mozilla applications.
  • fix: When reading with the mouse, text in Mozilla Gecko edit fields should now be read.

In Summary

If you run the beta or nightly builds of both Firefox 3.1 and Thunderbird 3.0 AKA Shredder, you should be able to take advantage of all the new features in NVDA 0.6p3. If you use Firefox 3.0.x, you’ll be missing out on the new spell checking and formatting feature, and if you still use Thunderbird 2, most of the good support for Gecko 1.9 and above will not be available to you since that version of Gecko doesn’t work well with NVDA any more.

Go get it, and give it a whirl!

For those of you on the bleeding edge, namely on the Firefox 3.1a1pre nightly builds, the Friday’s nightly build will include one big new feature in accessibility for 3.1: Text attributes and spell checking support!

This means that assistive technologies now have access to the attributes of any text run on a page via the IAccessibleHyperText::getAttributes or ATK/AT-SPI equivalent API calls.

For example, running today’s nightly build of Firefox 3.1a1pre on Windows, visiting my blog’s main page, bringing up Accessibility Probe, and navigating to the link below the Heading Level 1 that says “Marco’s Accessibility blog”, a call to IAccessibleHyperText::GetAttributes on the link accessible will get you this result:


getAttributes(1) = NULL

Not very fancy, huh?

Tomorrow’s build, however, will yield a completely different result:


getAttributes(1) = org.eclipse.actf.accservice.core.win32.ia2.IA2TextSegment[text=font-style:normal;language:en-US;text-align:center;font-size:40px;background-color:transparent;font-weight:bold;text-indent:0px;color:rgb(255, 255, 255);font-family:'Trebuchet MS','Lucida Grande',Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif;text-underline-style:underlinesolid;,start=0,end=26]

So, not only do you get information about the font-family, style, color and backgroundcolor, you also get the language this text is in, the underline style, the font-weight etc.

Also when editing, and you misspell something, as soon as you hit spacebar and the red underline appears, the attributes of that word will change and will include “invalid:misspelling;”, indicating that this word is invalid in that it is misspelled. Of course, an according IA2/ATK event will be fired accordingly! Note that the denotation of this may change if the IAccessible2 and ATK groups decide on a different notation for misspellings. Right now, it follows the aria-invalid convention, and we hope that this will be accepted by the groups.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll fine-tune this feature to be a bit more performant and also iron out any last details that might come up.

But if you’re an assistive technology vendor and you’ve been waiting for us to finally expose these text attributes, now is the time to try them out and provide feedback.

Note that Thunderbird and other projects that will be moving to use the Gecko 1.9.1 platform will also get this feature. This means that inline spell checking notification can also be supported for those apps soon!

[Update]: This patch made it into Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.1a1pre) Gecko/2008071803 Minefield/3.1a1pre just fine. So go take a peek!