How to use TalkBack support in Firefox for Android for accessibility

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Note: This article doesn't apply to your version of Firefox. It requires the latest Firefox Aurora for Android version which can be downloaded from mozilla.org/mobile/aurora.
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. 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".

The following sections 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.

Setup

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.

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.



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