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This is a report of the work done and planned to be done, in working on the grant given to improve ChatZilla's Accessibility. The original proposal for this grant can be found here.

Initial Discussions

At CSUN 2007, I had discussions with Charles Chen and Peter Thiessen, as well as various users that stopped by our booth who were blind or vision-impaired, about the accessibility of chat, and what was necessary to improve it. I had also had a demonstration by a blind person at the Dutch Blind- and Vision-impaired Organisation of how he worked with his computer. Finally, Over the past years I've had a lot of discussions with David Bolter, Aaron Leventhal, and Marco Zehe, as well as other members of the community, in order to understand better the needs of people using assistive technology.

Work Done

During the course of the project, so far the following issues have been resolved by me:

  • Allowing screenreaders to find the actual chat content:
    • Use "content" rather than "chrome" type browsers in ChatZilla, to enable screenreader access. bug 370760
    • Setting window.content to enable FireVox and other screenreaders to notice the content window in the same way they do for a browser window. bug 374977
  • WAI-ARIA support:
    • ChatZilla side of things:
      • Initial addition of WAI-ARIA attributes. bug 376728
      • Updating because of removal of the aaa: namespace. bug 431706
      • Updating because of the removal of support for aria-channel. bug 472803
  • Other accessibility issues:
    • Proper accessibility for the preference window's textboxes. bug 408596
    • Improve tab-key accessibility of input box. bug 374679
    • Improve visibility of focusing done using F6. bug 380204
    • Replace RDF-based userlist so insertions/removals there are accessible bug 315913

I have also written instructions for web and/or chat client authors about the accessibility of chat applications, based on my work on ChatZilla and the Mozilla Support Live Chat (see below).

At this point, all you need to take advantage of these changes is installing Firefox, then installing ChatZilla, and finally having an accessibility tool like JAWS 10 or NVDA installed that works with WAI-ARIA.

Additionally, the FireVox add-on was made compatible with ChatZilla. This was done cooperatively with its author, Charles Chen. On the ChatZilla side, we needed to set window.content (see above) on the main window to the chat window in the current tab, thus enabling FireVox to read its contents. This now allows FireVox to work for ChatZilla when installed as a Firefox add-on. In order for this system to work when ChatZilla is used as a standalone program, it should be added in the install.rdf files for FireVox (which I believe it was, at some point, but at the moment this does not seem to be the case).

Non-ChatZilla-specific work

I've also done my best to help the Mozilla accessibility team debug and work on several general accessibility issues in the platform that affected ChatZilla, mostly by discussing the issues, filing bugs, writing testcases, testing out patches, and so on. Issues concerned include:

  • Setting a role on tables prevented them from being accessible bug 400066.
  • Getting role=log tables to update required setting an aria-live attribute bug 404881
  • Needed to expose the role=log tables as data tables, not layout ones bug 414656
  • Tables that have rows with <br> tags in them don't get updated bug 418405 (still open!)

Additionally, I have added WAI-ARIA functionality to's Live Chat feature in bug 451693.

Finally, I have attended CSUN 2007, the Mozilla Accessibility meetup 2007, and SightCity 2008 with the Mozilla Accessibility team to spread the word about the mission of Mozilla, and in particular its commitment to accessibility, as well as to discuss development issues relating to my work and that of others.

Future Work

The major bug that I still plan to finish for completion of the project is bug 252848. This would add the ability for every user to control display of messages up to a minute degree. This helps blind and visually impaired users by allowing them to have more control over what messages do and do not get displayed (and thus spoken by their AT, or reflected through their braille display), and where that happens.

Additionally, this idea could be further expanded to allow ad-hoc filtering based on a search mechanism that allows people to find chat messages by certain people, filtering out everything else. It would be desirable for such a system to still include context (eg. messages to which the filtered messages were replies, replies to those messages, etc.).

Apart from these feature requests, at this point I am unaware of accessibility problems relating to ChatZilla.