How to use TalkBack support in Firefox for Android for accessibility

Revision Information
  • Revision id: 27192
  • Created:
  • Creator: willkg
  • Comment: added the rest of MarcoZ's changes
  • Reviewed: No
  • Ready for localization: No
Revision Source
Revision Content

Firefox for Android version 14 is not yet accessible to users with visual impairments. The chapters below apply to Firefox 15 and higher.

Starting in version 15, Firefox for Android supports the accessibility features built into the Android operating system, so people with visual impairments can browse the web on their devices. This includes exposure of all UI elements as well as web content to TalkBack, which is used to generate speech output, in essence reading the content out loud. In version 15, basic navigation using a directional controller or virtual directional pad is supported. In addition, the browser UI can be explored and interacted with using the Explore By Touch feature built into Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich". In version 16, full support for the Explore By Touch feature has been added to web content as well.

The following chapters describe the different supported features in detail. If you are a blind user, you may want to read this to get started more easily. If you are not blind, much of the following probably will not mean much to you, unless you are familiar with the Android accessibility features.


There are no extra steps to take to make Firefox for Android work with TalkBack. If your phone is already set up to talk to you, you can just install Firefox for Android from the Google Play store and start surfing the web right away.

Note: If you are using Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" or earlier, you may have to enlist sighted help to download Firefox from the Play store. The store app is not very TalkBack-friendly in this and earlier versions of the Android operating system.

Firefox supports both devices that have hardware keyboards and a hardware directional controller as well as devices that only have touch screens and use a software on-screen keyboard and a virtual d-pad for directional navigation. For best results, we recommend that you install and use the Eyes-Free keyboard for typing and navigation.

Basic navigation and usage

Screen Layout

The screen of Firefox for Android is laid out in the following way:

  • In the upper left corner, there's the awesome bar. This is initially a button that expands to a text field when you tap or press Enter on it. TalkBack either says "Enter search or address" or speaks the name of the currently displaying website.
  • If your device does not have a hardware button for opening a menu, the item next to the awesome bar is the "Menu" button. This opens a menu that is arranged vertically top to bottom. Not all items may fit on the screen, so you might have to use the two-finger push upward gesture to show the remaining items. Use your hardware directional controller to navigate the items. On the Eyes-Free keyboard, switch off the D-Pad and use the touch screen, since the virtual D-Pad cannot interact with menus very well in general. This is a system-wide limitation of the Eyes-Free keyboard.
  • In the upper right-hand corner, there's the "Tabs" button. It tells you the number of currently open tabs. If you tap or press Enter on it, a new screen will open showing the currently open tabs from top to bottom. Each tab has a "Close tab" button to the right of them which will close the tab. To switch tabs, simply tap or press Enter on the desired tab text.
  • Below this bar of controls, the rest of the screen is used to display web content, or a switchable display of either top sites, recommended add-ons, bookmarks or browser history. Using your d-pad, navigate down into this area, and then swipe right or left to switch these displays. Swipe down and up to hear content from the selected area of items. Enter will activate (load) the selected page. If web content is displayed, see below for instructions on how to navigate it.
  • Below that, your usual "Back", "Home", "Recent apps", and if present, "Menu" hardware buttons will be shown, as in most other Android applications.

Basic Web Content navigation

To navigate web content, do the following:

  1. Open a page using the awesome bar at the top. Either enter an address or search, or choose from your bookmarks, history, or top sites.
  2. Navigate down once. This will focus the web content.
  3. Use your Right and Left directional navigation to sequentially navigate web content. TalkBack will announce links, headings, list items, form field elements, and other semantic information as it reads the text of pages to you.
  4. To activate a link or place focus in a form field, toggle a checkbox etc., press down on your controller, Enter, or tap in the center of your D-pad. This will result in a new page loaded, focus to be placed inside a text field where you can switch to Typing mode and enter text, toggle a checkbox etc.
  5. To return to the awesome bar, use your Up arrow or upward directional swiping. The position in the current web page is remembered, so when you navigate downwards again, you will start navigating where you left off. This is, of course, unless you loaded a new page, in which case, navigation will always start at the beginning.

Exploring web content by touch

This feature is only supported in Firefox for Android 16 and higher.

You can use the typical Android touch and drag gestures to explore the displayed web content.

  • Put your finger in the web content area and drag it around to hear different types of content.
  • If you found an item you want to activate, like a link, lift your finger and tap in the same spot to activate it.
  • Use the two-finger push up and pull down gestures to scroll through several pages of web content. You will hear the ascending tones indicating that the page is scrolling down, or descending ones if the page is scrolling up.

This works just like in any other typical Android application.

This feature is only supported in Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and above.

Using Quick Navigation keys

This feature is only supported in Firefox for Android 16 and higher.

Quick Navigation keys are keyboard keys that allow you to quickly jump to certain elements on a page, skipping all content between your current position and the desired target. This allows you to quickly browse a page that you are familiar with for specific content. This way is usually much faster than browsing a page sequentially. Like sighted users can quickly glance at a page, these Quick Navigation keys allow you to quickly skim a page's content by headings or other popular elements. These work with both a hardware keyboard as well as the Eyes-Free keyboard set to typing mode (yes, even when there\'s currently no text field in focus!).

List of supported Quick navigation keys
AMove to the next named anchor
BMove to the next button
CMove to the next combobox or listbox
EMove to the next text field or text area
FMove to the next form field (button, checkbox, combobox, textbox, radio button, slider)
GMove to the next graphic
HMove to the next heading
IMove to the next list item (unordered, ordered, or definition lists)
KMove to the next link
LMove to the next List (unordered, ordered, or definition)
PMove to the next page tab control (in rich internet applications)
RMove to the next radio button
SMove to the next separator
TMove to the next data table
XMove to the next checkbox

Combining the above letters with the Shift key will take you in the opposite, backwards, direction.

These keys are active if you're in web content and not focused on a control where you can enter text. So if the keys don't work where you expect them to, check that you are not in a text field and are typing something in accidentally. Use your directional controller to move out of such a field first before using these keys.

Awesome bar

To use the awesome bar, follow these steps:

  1. Find and tap the button in the upper left corner of your screen, right below the status bar. TalkBack will either say "Enter search or address", or speak the name of the currently loaded web page.
  2. Tap this button, or press Enter on your directional controller or keyboard to activate it.
  3. Switch to your typing mode, or use your hardware keyboard to enter an address, page title, or search term.
  4. Press down arrow, or touch in the area below the awesome bar to find out if there are any suggestions.
  5. If there are and it shows the one you want, tap or press Enter on it.
  6. If not, continue typing.
  7. If you enter a full web address, simply press Enter or "Go" to open the page.

If instead you want to browse your bookmarks, or history, do the following:

  1. Find and tap the "Enter search or address" button.
  2. Navigate down into the content that is displayed along with the text field. You will land on your most visited sites.
  3. Navigate up and down to choose from your most visited sites. Or navigate Right to switch to the Bookmarks view. Use Up and Down to navigate your bookmarks. Navigate Right again to go to the History view and use Up and Down to browse your last visited sites.
  4. Once you found what you were looking for, press down on your D-Pad or Enter to activate the item.

Setting Up Sync

The setup process for Firefox Sync states that you should enter a sync code your mobile device displays when pairing it with your desktop version of Firefox. This code is fully accessible, it is displayed in 3 chunks, each on one line, in the center of the screen. Enter the code starting from the top of the three lines and moving downwards.