Recent happenings in accessibility-related projects financially supported by Mozilla

For several years now, Mozilla has funded varying projects in the field of accessibility development. Projects like Orca’s support for WAI-ARIA live regions, GNOME Accerciser, NVDA, or more recently, audio and video accessibility work and Firebug accessibility, are, in whole or in part, being funded by the Mozilla Foundation and other Mozilla resources to help fulfill the Mozilla manifesto and the Mozilla Accessibility Strategy.

Here’s a summary of what’s currently happening in Mozilla-funded accessibility-related projects. Most of these surfaced over the past quarter, or last half a year.


In early August, it was announced that the Mozilla Foundation would renew its funding for the NVDA project. Mick posted a summary of the goals to the NVDA blog.

The project is well underway, en route to their 2009.1 release with improved support for WAI-ARIA landmarks, a totally revamped list of elements, support for 64 bit operating systems and much more!

Spearheaded by the Mozilla Foundation, who were the first to fund NVDA starting in 2007, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Adobe have since joined in supporting this open-source screen reader for Windows, offering a compelling alternative to commercially available assistive technologies on this platform.

For more news such as winning the Vision Australia Making A Difference award, check out their blog.

Audio and Video accessibility

Frank already detailled much of this in his blog post above, and Silvia Pfeiffer just recently published a progress report on the grant.

Silvia also gave me some demos to test, and if you use JAWS or NVDA or Orca, I suggest you try them out yourself to see how cool they are!

This work has the potential to involve a lot of volunteers in helping make more movies, songs, and other material accessible to a large number of people with varying disabilities. Talk about crowd-sourcing!

Firebug UI accessibility and the Firebug accessibility testing extension

There are currently two grants happening in regards to Firebug, the web development tool of choice for many thousand web workers.

One is the work the Paciello Group is doing to make the UI accessible. I posted about the Firebug 1.4 release already, but the work doesn’t stop there. The next alpha release of Firebug 1.5, 1.5xa25, will include accessibility of the net panel, a component that was still missing in 1.4. The documentation has already been updated with information on how this will work. I gave this a whirl this week using a custom build I received from Hans (the developer in charge), and it works as advertised! So keep your eyes on the Firebug release cycle to not miss this cool update!

The other portion is work the University of Illinois UIUC is doing to develop an extension that will allow web developers to test whether they’re using correct accessibility-compliant markup. The extension will honor the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and WAI-ARIA specifications. Development has started recently, and I will be testing an early version soon to see how it fares! Keep your eyes on this blog for more info as it becomes available!

Once this work is completed, Firebug will be a solution for web developers to do testing of accessible web pages with an accessible UI. It means that Mozilla will be able to offer, directly or indirectly, a full range of testing and usage tools starting from the browser itself, the screen reader, and the testing and development side, all in an open-source fashion, driving the accessible web standards effort forward in thus far uncharted territory.

So, let’s boldly go! 🙂

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