Summit2008/Sessions/Proposals/Accessibility:An Overview Of APIs And Standards Firefox Supports

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In 2001, Aaron Leventhal started to implement accessibility into the Mozilla Application Suite. The main goal was to allow screen readers to interface with Mozilla apps in a similar way as they already did with Internet Explorer, allowing access to both rendered web content and Mozilla's own UI elements.

With Firefox 1.5, the technology was finally ready to se the light, and the first commercial screen readers like Window-Eyes and JAWS began supporting Firefox alongside IE as an alternative browser.

New technologies and new platforms

As progress was made, and the web developed further, too, it became evident that HTML was no longer just a set of static pages, but became a much more dynamic environment than it used to be.

As an answer to that, Accessible Rich Internet Applications, formerly known as DHTML accessibility, was conceived to help standardize and drive forward dynamic web app accessibility.

At the same time, it became evident that the then-used Microsoft Active Accessibility was limiting in its capabilities to make all that was needed accessible to screen readers. As a result, the IAccessible2 extension to MSAA project was started, allowing more rich exposure of widgets and content to supporting screen readers. Most prominent consumer is Non Visual Desktop Access, a free and open-source screen reader on Windows.

However, also on Linux there was progress made in standardizing accessibility APIs for access to the GNOME desktop. Firefox in version 3.0 includes access to its content using these APIs. The Orca screen reader, Jambu and other projects now take advantage of these accessibility enhancements, making Firefox the first graphical web browser accessible on Linux.

The session

The session is aimed to give an overview over the above mentioned technologies and their support within Firefox, along with some demos and explanations of techniques used to make the web 2.0 more accessible.