Please, if there’s anybody in the room here from Mozilla, make Firefox accessible.
So said Bob Regan at one of the SXSW presentations (well, I’m paraphrasing a little). And I have to agree that while I personally love Firefox (but to a lesser extent Mozilla), I simply cannot defend it on its accessibility record. The simple fact is that if you want to be serious about using assistive technology, you have to use Internet Explorer. So, I was pleased to read this interview on an Italian web site with Aaron M Leventhal, leader of the Mozilla Accessibility Project:
There are two main areas of Firefox accessibility. The first part is the HTML window … This area is in pretty good shape, although we have a DHTML accessibility project, and will also want to make XForms accessible.
The other area is Firefox’s user interface … One of the reasons that the Firefox UI is so great is that a very small group of developers worked very closely on it, and only started allowing the larger community of developers access to it after much progress was made. Unfortunately, accessibility was not always considered during these early stages. As a result, we have a large number of small scale glitches that need to be fixed. The most common problem is missing keyboard functionality, such as the innability to compeltely use the options dialog with the keyboard. The other major set of problems is widgets that are not correctly exposed, such as the download manager, which screen readers currently can’t recongize as an interactive list of items. In general Firefox is like a rough sculpture which needs to be polished for accessibility. The basic structure is already there, but the details are very important.
So while there’s no specific news about a release date for an accessible Firefox, there is some promising news in the pipeline - ‘it’s being looked at’. It’s a start - keep on it, guys and girls. I look forward to following up this post!