Initial VoiceOver support now in Firefox nightly builds for Mac OS X

Yes, many of you have been waiting for this to happen, and now it’s finally there! From the April 30, 2012 Nightly build onwards, Firefox for the Mac comes with VoiceOver support turned on by default. All you have to do is turn on VoiceOver, or launch Firefox Nightly from Finder or LaunchPad with VoiceOver already running. No extra switches or other steps need to be performed.

This is a raw diamond that still needs quite some love before we can call it fit for wide-spread use by customers. But if you like to play with early development software, want to provide feedback or just get a glimpse at what’s hot and new, feel free to download the latest nightly build for the Mac. I do not recommend using this as your default browser just yet!

Known issues

Here are some known issues we need to address:

That’s our biggie at the moment. Compared to Safari, we’re still very slow and unresponsive. Navigating via the VoiceOver commands takes longer, and when a page initially loads, you’ll hear VoiceOver often say “Nightly busy” before you can actually do something.
Firefox does not yet notify VoiceOver when a page finishes loading.
This has been known, and we’re working on it to address the issue as soon as possible. We think we are sending the right notification, but VoiceOver does not pick it up. Once a new page loads, and you start navigating, VoiceOver correctly sees the new content, though, so you are able to surf to more than one page within a session.
All controls within a multi-tab XUL dialog is visible.
Within Preferences and other dialogs, VoiceOver sees all the content of all the tab pages, even those that are currently hidden. This makes navigating this type of dialog a bit cumbersome for now.
Some control states not correctly reported.
The initial control states of check boxes in XUL dialogs is not yet reported correctly. The initial question whether Nightly should be used as your default browser, for example, speaks an unchecked checkbox, when it is actually checked. We are aware of the issue.

How to install

You install the app by opening the downloaded DMG, focusing “Firefox” and copying and pasting it into your Applications folder, like you do with any other app. Sighted users can, of course, do their usual drag and drop from the DMG to the Applications folder. You then launch it like any other app.

Providing feedback

Beat it, hammer on it, install your favorite extensions into it that you might know from the Windows or Linux worlds, for example the WebVisum extension, surf to your favorite web sites and do the stuff you’d normally do. But expect a lot of things to not work yet as you would expect them to! Like I said: This is a raw diamond still.

To provide feedback, either comment to this blog post, and I will triage and file bugs as appropriate. Or if you’re familiar with our bug tracking system, feel free to file a bug yourself. If you use this link, things like platform, component and product are already preset for you correctly.

If you’re not a VoiceOver user, we still want to hear from you! Our goal is that you should not notice a difference in daily browsing and working with everything you work with usually. If there are changes that aren’t explicable, please provide us with that feedback, too!

This is my first real new platform accessibility roll-out, and I’m excited as hell about what’s to come from you all over the next couple of weeks!


50 thoughts on “Initial VoiceOver support now in Firefox nightly builds for Mac OS X

  1. Awesome! You’re right it is really slow but this is a great start, can’t wait till I can use VoiceOver and Firefox on my Mac!!! 🙂

    Here’s a strange bug for you. If I insert a tag into a form label VO announces the label twice.

    Code sample:

    First Name *

    Remove the span and it works fine.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. On a Say All, FF seems to repeat a lot of content.
    When reading by VO-Right Arrow, I get much better reading. Say all, VO-A, needs more attention.

  3. Yay, and well done Marco, Hub and the team for your hard work and persistence in making this happen. I appreciate how hard this is. It is definitely sluggish but it feels like it wont be long now until we can add Firefox on OSX to our screen reader test plans.

    So as to avoid duplication and keep on top of where you are at fixing these bugs is there a list of bugs related to VO/FF support in Bugzilla we can have a look at?

  4. Hi Marco,

    cool news! Thanks for your work making FF accessible on mac computers. Is it planed to work on access for Thunderbird too? I’d be so happy to have a real mailer on Mac OS and not that crappy mail app shipped by apple.


  5. I find that Firefox messages do not read with VoiceOver. using tab is possible, but you cannot use VO-keys to actually locate them such as when installing an add-on. Secondly, it still says “text” after each paragraph. I’m sure these are already filed though.

    Otherwise, I actually find it to be somewhat consistent. Google seems to absolutely kill VoiceOver though on the Firefox side if I try to view search results.

    I have some other bugs, even some major, but in case those I have mentioned are not filed I’d be happy if that can be taken care of. I’m faamiliar with Bugzilla though, and I’ll be filing every one I’ve found so far once I get to sit down for a few hours and write my notations along with examples for the sake of reproducibility.

  6. I’ll be more then glad to test this on my Mac if only I’ll be able to download anything. For now my attempt ended up with the file not found on the server message. Who knows, may be some day blind hams will use eqsl or hamainfobar on their Macs?

  7. Hi Damian, you can get the latest nightly build of firefox from here. Note a while ago, I got the old firefox and voiceover close button and stuff but hopefully it should be back where it was. At least it is for me and I hope for you!

    Bare in mind that it isn’t quite there yet! but Good Luck!

  8. Hi Marko, Daniel here. I completely understand if you can’t promise an answer but I was wondering do you have any ideas ahead as to when which stable version of firefox where we voiceover users of Mac OSX can take full advantage of the browser. Example a road map or a place where we can check out the bugs and stuff like that.

  9. Hello. I tested a build last week and it broke majorly. like I installed firefox nightly and nothing would open a page with voice over. cmd n, cmd l, cmd o? nothing. Vo just dinged at me. It’s the same with this current nightly build. I get nightly has no windows and can’t figure out how to open a page at all. using lion 10.7.4 here.


  10. I’ve just downloaded and gave a try to the latest nightly built. 1. objects recognized by voice over as groups are not usable; 2. no way to perform the read to end command; 3 people can believe it doesn’t work because performance is very slow.

  11. Oh, great work!!!

    I have been using my mac for a year and half now, and my only regret from using windows was Firefox!

    I know this is only a starting point for accessibility in FF, but could you give us an idea on the release date of a stable and accessible version of FF?

  12. with the 17th built sue progress can bi noticed. It’s a bit faster at least. I was able to log into y live365 account. Checkboxes are not always recognized properly but I believe it’s a voice over problem rather then the firefox because the same with checkboxes state can be seen in safari.

  13. Az for objects not recognized properly just go to then try the browse stations link. It is impossible to get to any links active because the list of genres or countries which under windows or safari on mac activates corresponding sublists is not handled as it should be. Empty or unusable groups again.

  14. So is the Aurora channel better to use than the nightly builds? What is the difference between Aurora and nightly builds. I can guess what nightly is but I don’t understand what Aurora is. Thanks much and looking forward to understanding what Aurora means. Daniel

  15. Using the new build released today I notice that I have to of shift space on the prefs categories. do you guys think it would be a good idea to make it so that you can vo space on the categories such as content, applications, all of that? I don’t know as I don’t know what the devs have in mind. Firefox w voice over is still extremely sluggish and I really hope that will be looked in to by the time a major release comes out for mac osx. Over all good job.

  16. Hi to the firefox team I thought it would be right to bring your attention to copying and pasting as the development of the nightly builds get better.
    I am sure and I think that many other users of Voiceover would agree with me that we now in Safari 6 which comes with Mountain Lion Note: I have not tested it with Lion Voiceover’s selecting text has been seriously improved. This would come in handy for situations as Jobs, School, College or Uni. I believe that being able to copy and paste text to the clip board and put it somewhere else would be a wonderful addition to firefox. Currently Google Crome doesn’t have this support yet so I thought I’d mention it while VO support is being worked on so that you can file a bug or in this case a requested accessability feature so it has an awareness. The thing I want to happen is to have a fully released version of Firefox and find that I’m not able to copy and paste text. So I thought make the support now rather than release it and then find you have to add it later. Of course I don’t know what you have in mind but I just wanted to share m views with you on this one thing.

    Thank you for reading.


  17. Hi Daniel, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I thought it was me and low knowledge level inVO and Safari area. Coping and pasting text from websites is an essential thing: research, translations, daily payments and other things could be easier

  18. Hi all, a quick question if I may. I have noticed that over the last couple of comments at the beginning it says “Feedback” Firefox16 beta3 and the next one the same with the number being changed to 15. My question relates to two things. 1. What does this mean? 2. How do the numbers relate to nightly because my version is “Nightly 18.0A1 Thank you for reading and I look forward to a response. Daniel

  19. Well after tryign the latest firefox released june 18 2013 I say we are back to square 1. Cmd l does not work to open address. cmd q does not work to quit and there is no menu bar. So what happened. Did firefox decide that they don’t want to commit anymore? this sucks as some of my stuff I do at school requres firefox and I don’t want to log in to windows for just 10 minutes of work. I hoep to see a change at some point for firefox.

  20. I can’t duplicate the described behaviour. Accessibility of the Firefox is however stil far from being applicable for normal productive internet activity.

  21. I’m really sad that there hasn’t been any significant progress for over a year. Are you still working on improving Mac OS X accessibility? If so, how can I help to move this work forward?

  22. Dear Marko, if you could be so kind in informing us all here what’s going on with the accessability of firefox for Mac OSX and us Voiceover users that would be grately appriciated. At present using V25 and its still far from being a browser that I would use dayly. However, I would really like to use Firefox as my default but until that comes where Voiceover and Firefox improve I’m afraid I can’t use it even though I want to. Thanks Daniel

    1. Sorry, no there have not been any updates, and nothing is forthcoming. The engineer who was working on Mac accessibility has changed positions away from accessibility, and we haven’t found a replacement. This portion of accessibility is rather special, because Firefox is not based on any existing Cocoa widgets, but we need to implement everything ourselves. Also, the accessibility APIs for OS X are radically different from everything else we support, and not all of it is documented by Apple. So the person working on this needs to be really good at diving into the depths of Objective C, Cocoa widgetry, and needs to either have accessibility skills or learn them while going. This combination of needed skills is quite difficult to find. Moreover, since not all is documented, many things need to be obtained by running web pages in Safari, and then peeking at Accessibility Inspector to see what queries are being sent and what Safari replies. Safari isn’t fully open-sourced, only the Webkit core is, so besides the task laid out above, it’s also going to be tideous.

      Sorry I don’t have any better news to report at this time!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.