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Accessibility/Strategy

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The document below is a proposed high-level strategy for Mozilla accessibility-related activities, both those funded by grants to third parties and those engaged in by Mozilla personnel.

Note that this covers accessibility work proposed for the future; it is not meant as an exhaustive description of past Mozilla and Mozilla-related accessibility projects, and also does not constitute a commitment to fund or perform future projects.

Contents

Proposed Mozilla Accessibility Strategy

Our basic principle is taken from the Mozilla Manifesto: "The Internet is an integral part of modern life ... a global public resource that must remain open and accessible". Here we interpret "accessible" to refer to the task of making Internet and web services accessible to people with disabilities (whether permanent or situational) and in general practicing "inclusive design" for Internet and web software and applications. This principle motivates our getting involved not only with accessibility issues in Firefox, Thunderbird, and other Mozilla-based products, but also with the design and development of "assistive technologies" (AT) that are used with Mozilla-based products to help make them accessible.

That then leads to the following additional principles:

  • Ubiquitous AT. To the maximum extent possible everyone should be able to obtain assistive technologies as needed to help make the Internet and web more accessible, regardless of their computer platform, economic situation, native language, or other factors. In accordance with another principle of the Mozilla Manifesto, we see the development and use of free and open source software as a key element in making this possible.
  • Accessible innovation. As the Internet and web evolve to encompass innovative new applications and technologies, those innovations should be designed to be accessible (or evolve rapidly to become so). This includes making a commitment to accessibility in new innovations developed at Mozilla and delivered as part of Mozilla products. Note also that accessibility enhancements can themselves drive new innovations (the "electronic curb-cut effect"); see below for an example of this.
  • Integrating accessibility. Making applications accessible should be a core task of Internet and web developers, as important as improving performance and usability in general. This implies that accessibility testing and accessible design should be integrated into the standard web development process.
  • Awareness and Education. Infusing each of the above is the need to make users and developers aware of the existing requirements, options and technologies. Sites like Access Firefox for users, Access Mozilla, for developers and W3C WAI for web developers, all play a part but more should be done to bring these together.

Our current and proposed future accessibility work fits with these principles as described; note that this includes work funded (or proposed to be funded) by grants as well as work done by Mozilla staff and other contributors.

Ubquitous AT

Relevant current and/or possible future projects include:

  • Support of development of NVDA as a no-charge open source screen reader for Windows (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). This provides a no-cost accessibility solution for both individuals and for mass deployment, on a platform for which previously only expensive proprietary solutions were available. Close coordination with the NVDA project has also considerably advanced Mozilla's WAI ARIA support (see below) as well as other aspects of the Mozilla accessibility code. (In fact, this model proved so successful that Microsoft funded the NVDA project to do something similar with Microsoft's own products.)
  • Support of development of Orca as a no-charge open source screen reader for Linux, and related GNOME/Linux accessibility efforts (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). This provides users with a fully open source and zero-cost accessible solution for the entire desktop and operating system; this is extremely important to low-income users needing equal access to the web, and helps bring accessibility to new product categories like mobile devices and netbooks. On the Mozilla side the collaborative work with the Orca project has helped form the design and implementation of the current accessibility support in the Gecko engine, including support for ARIA. On the GNOME/Linux side the collaboration has also led to the maturation of the liblouis Braille translator as a functional open source project for use by screen readers and braille transcription software.
  • Work to make Firefox and Thunderbird accessible on OS X using Apple's bundled accessibility support (possible project by Mozilla staff). This expands our cross-platform accessible story and corrects a historical deficiency in Mozilla accessibility.
  • Promotion of localization of NVDA and (where needed) Orca to different languages (possible future project). This would help make Firefox and Thunderbird accessible in all or almost all of the languages in which they are localized. (At present, for example, NVDA supports 20 languages vs. over 70 languages for Firefox. Orca has support for many more languages, but still falls a bit short of supporting all languages supported by Firefox.)
  • Support of integrated DAISY functionality via the DAISYFox extension (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). The XML-based DAISY format provides access to books to readers with print disabilities (whether vision-related or otherwise), and the DAISYFox extension allows such books to be accessed directly in Firefox as opposed to requiring a separate DAISY reader.

Accessible innovation

Relevant current and possible future projects include:

  • WAI ARIA support in Firefox, Thunderbird, and other Mozilla applications, along with work to support ARIA in open source AT products used with Firefox and Thunderbird (e.g., Orca and NVDA) as well as in popular JavaScript libraries, and work to promote ARIA and train web developers in its use (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). This provides infrastructure support for making complex AJAX-based web applications accessible.
  • Accessibility support for open video as implemented in Firefox and other Mozilla applications via the <video> tag (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). This makes a major Firefox 3.5 innovation accessible (assuming there are also easy-to-use applications to add captions, etc.). This is also a good example of accessibility enhancements potentially driving new innovations: Better support for open ways to caption video and audio content can enhance searchability of such content (since you can search against caption text) and also promote more localization of video and audio content (via subtitling).
  • Video accessibility support in HTML5 also needs further accessibility work around how to associate and deal not just with captions and subtitles, but also with audio descriptions and sign language in a consistent manner. Mozilla is doing extensive work in this area and leading with trial implementations.

Integrating accessibility

Relevant current and/or possible future projects include:

  • Integrating accessibility testing into the Firebug extension used by a significant fraction of web developers (previously funded by the Mozilla Foundation). This allows accessibility testing to be part of the core web development workflow, as opposed to an extra step tacked on to the end.