What’s new in accessibility in Firefox 6

On Friday May 27, a bigger update was offered to everyone on the Aurora channel that brought them up to a revision 6 Firefox.

As this was a bigger update, it is time to also point out the new stuff to watch out for in accessibility. One thing I already blogged about is the HTML progress element, so I won’t cover that here. Some of the other things to be aware of are:

Seamless plugin accessibility integration on Linux

One feature that’s been baking in a bug forever, but which finally got its final push and made it into code is plugin accessibility for Firefox on the GNOME Desktop on Linux! There is only one plugin currently called Moonlight that actually uses this, but if other plugin authors want to, they can now plug into Firefox and expose their accessible content to Orca and other assistive technologies.

The Windows magnifier and the writing caret

There is a problem in Firefox 4 and 5 that will prevent Windows Magnifier and possibly other low-vision products from tracking the writing cursor properly when on the URL bar or in some other places. We were able to fix this in Firefox 6.

Improvements to the notification popup

The new notification popup that asks, for example, whether you want to save an entered password, has been improved a great deal. For one, it now announces itself to assistive technologies as an alert like the old notification bar did, which means that the text that the user is to be notified about is automatically being read by NVDA, JAWS and others. Secondly, we made the “Close this message” button tabbable again. One thing that we didn’t manage to solve in time is the inconsistency with the menu button that, when SPACE is being pressed on it, doesn’t actually do much, but you have to tab to a secondary regular button with the same label to get the actual function. We’re working on a solution to improve keyboard accessibility for these menu buttons in general, and the notification popups will benefit from this as we do.

ARIA support

In regards to WAI-ARIA, there are a number of changes/additions:

  • aria-sort now fires attributechange events when its value is being changed.
  • aria-selected is no longer being ignored for ARIA tabs.
  • aria-busy now properly fires statechange events.
  • ARIA documents children can now properly be queried via accChild API methods.


Other noteworthy fixes are:

  • The Untrusted Connection page is again accessible via the virtual cursor in screen readers.
  • When deleting text from edit fields, the wrong text was reported through at-spi. We fixed that problem.
  • We got rid of the bogus pref accessibility.disableenumvariant.
  • The About… dialog is more readable than it used to be.

10 thoughts on “What’s new in accessibility in Firefox 6

  1. the Firefox 3 notification pop-up, the one that showed up as a bar across the top of the window, was one that Dragon NaturallySpeaking could speak to so I could say “save password” and it understood. The Firefox 4 notification pop-up that shows up like a call out seems to be invisible to NaturallySpeaking. What’s changed? This has been a real problem for me since I had to upgrade.

  2. Deborah, I believe you are seeing the same effect that screen readers saw. The panel didn’t announce itself properly. This should be restored in Firefox 6 as described in the blog post. Naturally Speaking relies on similar APIs that screen readers use, so you should definitely see an improvement there.

  3. Hi Marco. Please let me know if these changes are also applied to Thunderd 5. Currently I can’t get the latest JAWS 12 update to announce important TB5 messages either via the JAWS Cursor or via its hotkey for the Status bar. It seems to me that Thunderbird 5 Beta 1 displays messages about connecting to servers, downloading message X of Y, loading message, and so forth differently. Other than that the app is quite accessible, though.

  4. Yes, once Thunderbird picks up the platform version Mozilla 6, it will get all the changes to the platform I described above.

  5. It’s a bit silly to EOL a browser that has only been out for maybe six months at most, but oh well. At least a11y issues are being fixed. One of my major gripes about Linux a11y with Firefox though is Orca is a bit slow when navigating. I hear these are caused by Mozi caret bugs. Is this true, if so will they be fixed by the final unleashing of Ff6?

  6. Hi, notification popups are not read automatically to me: firefox 6.01 and jaws 11 (11.0.1147); this has never worked in firefox 4 and 5 also; i have to tab to the address bar and then two times again to have a notification read

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