Major new accessibility features in Firefox 3.0.4

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

It is the morning of 17 November amd I have just switched my computer on. The first thing that happened was that Firefox upgraded to 3.0.4. At first it looked just like another security update but on closer inspection I discovered a new item on the menu. The menu now includes an accessibility drop down.

I’m still getting my mind around this but it is definitely worth having a look at. For example you can now get a list of all headings on the page and jumped straight to a particular heading. This is something that screen reader users have been able to do for a long time. However this feature was not available for people who have limited use of the keyboard; they just had to scroll down until they found the right heading. Now they can go directly to the right heading and skip immediately to a relevant link or input field.

Just to give a flavour here is the list of items on the accessibility menu:

  • Reports – provides an accessibility check on the current page.
  • Navigation – lets you navigate to headings as described above and most other object types.
  • Text equivalent – includes the ability to hide all images.
  • Scripting – includes a variety of ARIA and event options.
  • Style – allows users styles and provides standard high contrast options.
  • Validators – gives immediate access to the W3C HTML Validator and similar tools.
  • Tools – gives access to a variety of automated accessibility testing tools.
  • Keyboard – appears to enable users the option of adding extra shortcut keys.

The accessibility menu adds to other accessibility improvements which came in 3.0 including:

  • Support of IAccessible2 on Windows.
  • Support of ATK/AT-SPI on Linux.
  • Improved support of the ARIA recommendation.
  • Full Zoom with images.
  • The ‘Report a broken website tool’ now has an Accessibility option, so if you find a problem you can immediately report it.

All of this makes a significant improvement to accessibility of Firefox. My only complaint is that some of the help for these new functions is either missing or of limited value. As I discover more I will write another post.