The following is a list of questions often asked by screen reader or screen magnifier users who think about migrating to Firefox 3, but who are concerned about accessibility or other issues that affect them.
Many users cite benefits such as increased speed and security, as well as easy-to-use, powerful features. The article Top 10 Reasons to Switch lists general reasons that apply to all users. This FAQ contains additional information about benefits specific to users with disabilities.
Absolutely! Overall, the browser is faster, lighter, more secure, more stable and simply better than ever before. In addition, the many accessibility improvements have made Firefox 3 screen reading a smooth experience. Ask around, search the web, or try it yourself -- this conclusion is inevitable. If you have trouble updating, please ask for help (see the info on getting help later in this FAQ).
Firefox can be customized for your own use. There are numerous free add-ons or "extensions" which can be installed to make browsing work just as you like it. Extensions can do things such as make web pages more accessible or block advertisements that get in the way of accessibility. Some of these add-ons are especially exciting for visually impaired users.
You can always browse the entire list of extensions, many of which may be quite helpful. Look for extensions such as AdBlock Plus on the Firefox add-ons website or through Tools->Add-ons in Firefox itself.
Keep in mind that extensions are written by 3rd party authors, and like web pages, not all are accessible. Remember, if you have trouble, ask for help. The community may even end up working with you to contact the extension author and get the problem fixed.
Yes. There are many extensions and themes of special interest to visually impaired Firefox users. A number of them are described on the helpful site AccessFirefox.com.
Read on to learn about one very special extension, called WebVisum.
WebVisum is a revolutionary extension for visually impaired Firefox users. WebVisum does the following things:
WebVisum is a unique feature for Firefox users, and will most likely never be available for other browsers, as explained by the WebVisum Frequently Asked Questions page.
Firefox 3.02 has been extensively tested and is known to work well with the following screen readers:
Trial or demo versions are available for all above screen readers which are proprietary. It should be noted that the open source screen readers do not have demo versions because the full versions are already completely free to use.
The current versions of Firefox do not support the VoiceOver screen reader or the Mac OS accessibility APIs yet. We plan to address OS X support in a future version of Firefox.
JAWS users should use 7.1 or later. Window-Eyes users should use Window-Eyes 7 or later. If your screen reader just doesn't support Firefox 3, or you are tech-savvy and don't mind trying a free, cool screen reader, try NVDA. Since it's still early in the development, you may want to wait ... it's improving quickly. However, it works quite well with Firefox 3. There is no need to uninstall your other screen reader first, and you can always just back to your previous screen reader if you are not satisfied.
No. In all above Windows screen readers, navigating inside web pages is the same regardless of the browser. JAWS or Window-Eyes Quick Navigation keys, for example, all work the same in Firefox 3 as they would in IE. Check your screen reader's documentation on keystroke references for navigating virtual buffers.
Here is one exception, where there is a difference with other browsers:
Firefox offers full, convenient keyboard and screen reader access to its features. Here are some specific examples:
More keyboard navigation features are described in the Firefox help under "Keyboard shortcuts" or simply by visiting the page at Keyboard shortcuts - Perform common Firefox tasks quickly.
Help is available at Mozilla's support site, in the [news://news.mozilla.org/mozilla.support.accessibil
Support is also available for the WebVisum extension, please use their contact form to provide ideas, feedback or get help.
Yes. Firefox will not interfere with any other software on your system. You can continue to run any other browser, even at the same time in another window.
JAWS 7.x, 8.x and 9.x all work with Firefox. However, JAWS 10 has the most polished support. JAWS 10 has added many improvements to Firefox and Thunderbird support. This includes better support for editing and improvements to the virtual buffer support for web pages, making it virtually indentical to what is provided for IE. As an example, JAWS 9 tended to combine lines of text together in the virtual buffer, but only in Firefox, but in JAWS 10, these kinds of troublesome differences with IE support have vanished.
JAWS 8.0 has a known problem that the JAWS Find command or Speak Address Bar commands do not work as expected. The reason is that Firefox 3 uses a different executable name than Firefox 2 did, for which JAWS 8.0 was originally configured. To get things working, edit the file Confignames.ini, which is located in your Shared Settings folder. To open this folder, go to Start Menu, Programs, JAWS 8.0, Explore JAWS, Explore Shared Settings. Note on Vista, before pressing Enter, press the Applications key and choose Run as Administrator. Edit the file using NotePad, and add the line:
to the end of the file. Save the file, and when you next start Firefox, the shortcuts will be available.
This change must be made in the Shared file. An override in your user specific path will not work.
JAWS 9.0 offers a feature in Internet Explorer to copy not the virtual buffer text of a page, but the real HTML content, as if you had selected the text using the mouse on the screen. Unfortunately, Freedom Scientific has not yet implemented this feature for Firefox. If you need to copy text from a web page including formatting, there is a workaround you can use that is a combination of JAWS functions and Firefox's Caret Browsing feature. The steps are as follows:
The text is now stored on the clipboard with formatting and font information, colors etc.
This is not a feature but nonetheless is a motivatation for many users: supporting Firefox by using it helps to push forward standards and accessibility for the entire web. Web tracking organizations are continually computing the percentage of overall web page views for each type of browser. The more market share Firefox gets, the more that web page developers care about supporting standards. Fortunately, it would appear that the main battle to make standards matter again has already been won. However, even more market share would really drive all companies to ensure their web browsers supported the standards equally well.
Open standards are truly important for the future of the entire internet. However, they also specifically helpful in the ongoing effort to enable software users with disabilities. Here's a great example: Web 2.0 accessibility. Working together with companies such as IBM, and standards bodies such as W3C and the Linux Foundation, Mozilla has provided technology in Firefox that can make Web 2.0 applications accessible, using a W3C standard called WAI-ARIA. Mozilla's leadership in this area not only paves the way for others to follow, but it encourages all browser vendors to follow suit.
Mozilla participates in open standards and supports open source projects that help improve the state of the art for accessibility. In general, Mozilla believes that choice and innovation on the web are for everyone. If you're interested in the Mozilla initiatives in accessibility, please read an article by Frank Hecker, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, entitled Making choice and innovation accessible to all.