The descriptions are back!

For those of you following along the Firefox 3.5 development cycle, you may have noticed a regression when dealing with HTML elements that have both screen text and a title attribute, such as the previous link in this sentence.

In Firefox 3.0.x, we expose the screen text, in this case the word “regression” as the accessible name. This is the piece that screen readers speak when focus lands on the link, and which usually also gets rendered into the virtual buffer.

If there is also a title attribute, in this case “@title attribute no longer exposed on accDescription”, this will be translated into the accessible description of the link object. This is additional information that can be spoken by the screen reader on demand. For example, in NVDA, focus the link or arrow to it in the virtual buffer, and hit NVDA+Tab. NVDA will speak first the name, followed by the fact that this is a link which is linked to something, followed by the description.

The one exception where we do not expose a description is when the screen text and title attribute contents would match. This is considered bad practice anyway, because it is redundant information, and thus we suppress it.

Firefox 3.5b4, and in fact all builds that date back to mid October last year, have a bug in that the title attribute is no longer exposed as the accessible description. Jamie from the NVDA team found this recently and notified us.

I’m happy to report that this functionality got restored in the Firefox 3.5b5pre nightly builds starting with the May 7, 2009 build. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

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