Victor Tsaran, accessibility guru at Yahoo!, just posted to the newsgroup that they implemented wai-aria roles and states into the Yahoo! UI’s menu control. You can find the blog post here. To try it out:

  1. From within the blog post, open the link “new YUI example”.
  2. From the article that opens, open the “View Example in new window” link.
  3. On the page that appears, arrow to the first item that starts with “text/html”, and press ENTER on it. This will turn on Forms Mode (in JAWS) or your relevant navigation mode.
  4. Use Left and Right Arrows to navigate the menu bar, use DownArrow to open the menu, just like you would use any ordinary menu.

I tested it, and it works great! Good work, guys!
Note that you need Firefox 3 beta 2 and JAWS 8 or later, or Window-Eyes 6 to take full advantage of this.

Last night, the Orca team announced on their mailinglist that, due to a recent bugfix in the Firefox 3 nightly builds, they were able to drastically improve speed while navigating a web page line by line. I tried it out, and I must say you guys really understated this achievement! It feels like Orca with Firefox is really gearing up now!

A big thanks to both developers of the Mozilla accessibility module and the Orca team for working so closely to make these improvements possible! It shows that the open-source model is one that is really there to benefit all users wherever possible.

If you’re interested in trying out these improvements in responsiveness, get the latest nightly build of Firefox 3, install Py-ATSPI and Orca from source, read the notes on installing and using Firefox 3 with Orca, and have fun with this great improvement!

Note note note: Both Firefox nightlies and Orca installed from source arre products currently under development, so you should use them only for testing, but not expose any valuable data to them without a good backup strategy!

Please see also Orca developer Joanmarie Diggs’s announcement to the Orca list, which tells you all the details of the speed improvement.

By the way: This blog post was created using Firefox nightly of December 20, 2007, and latest Orca trunk from early December 21, which has the speed improvements.

Have you ever noticed announcements like “x-western” or “x-cyrillic” when reading messages in Thunderbird? JAWS and possibly other screen readers that support the detection of language attributes in HTML content may announce this. The reason is that Thunderbird puts the encoding of a message into the “lang” attribute for each paragraph of content.

The problem is: Screen readers such as JAWS usually do not know what to do with these language names. They’re familiar with regular language names such as “en-us” or “de”, but not “x-western” or the like. As a result, the “language” is indicated with its attribute value. JAWS would also do this if you used Eloquence as your speech synthesizer, but encounter a web site that is tagged with lang=da” for the “Danish” language. JAWS would indicate to you that the web site is meant to be in Danish, but that the current speech synthesizer does not support this language. If you used RealSpeak and had the Danish voice installed, that voice would be then switched to, and the Danish text read out in the native tongue.

So what do we do to get rid of these announcements? There are two possibilities:

Turn off language detection for Thunderbird

One possibility is to turn offf the Language Detection feature for Thunderbird alltogether. The steps are rather simple, but you’d lose language switching if you read a blog feed or properly language-tagged HTML message. To turn off Language Detection, in JAWS you would do the following:

  1. Start Thunderbird.
  2. Press INSERT+F2 to bring up the List of Managers.
  3. Chooose the Configuration Manager entry.
  4. Inside Configuration Manager, go to the Set Options menu, then select Text Processing.
  5. Within the Text Processing dialog, tab to the checkbox that says “Detect Languages”, and uncheck it.
  6. Press ENTER to accept the changes, CTRL+S to save the configuration, and ALT+F4 to close Configuration Manager and return to Thunderbird.

See the relevant steps if you’re using a different screen reader and also want to turn off Language Detection.

Make those encoding languages simply use your default synthesizer language

A less drastic, yet a bit more involved method is to introduce those encodings to JAWS by making them simply use the default Eloquence language you’re using.

JAWS stores language mappings in a [ShortName Language Aliases] section in the DEFAULT.JCF configuration file. There, language attributes such as “en-us” are mapped to Eloquence languages such as “American English”. This section can be enhanced or changed in application specific JCF files. To enhance the Thunderbird JCF file with the encodings that you no longer want announced:

  1. In your User Settings directory, locate the Thunderbird.jcf file. If it is not already there, create one using NotePad or your favorite plain text editor. Note: You can go to your JAWS User Settings directory by going to Start Menu, All Programs, JAWS 8.0 (or 7.10 or 9.0), Explore JAWS, Explore My Settings.
  2. In that newly created or existing Thunderbird.jcf file, add the following lines:
    [Eloq Language Aliases]
    x-western=American English
    x-unicode=American English
    x-central-european=American English
    x-cyrillic=American English
  3. Save the file.

Let’s break this down a bit so you know what you just pasted:

  • The [Eloq Language Aliases] section heading tells JAWS that this is a Language Aliases section for Eloq, the short name for the Eloquence synthesizer.
  • To the left of each equals sign is the value that’s being put in the “lang” attribute, and which is not recognized by JAWS by default.
  • To the right of the equals sign is the Eloquence language that is to be used whenever this “lang” attribute value is encountered.

Happy reading!