Updating to Firefox Quantum, Screen reader users wait

Screen reader users are asked not to  update to next version of Firefox. Mozilla is releasing Firefox 57 called as Firefox Quantum on November 14, 2017. Firefox Quantum is switching to a multiprocessor methodology to increase the speed and to be more efficient. Firefox quantum is a fast, modern and performant browser that puts users first. The new Firefox quantum will be using 30% less memory and will be 2 times faster than the earlier versions in general.

Though Firefox Quantum seems to be faster and efficient this version is not ideal for screen reading technologies. No matter if you are using JAWS or NVDA Firefox quantum is not suitable for you at this point. Freedom scientific on a blog post mentions that only the latest versions of JAWS, Zoom text and Magic are compatible to certain extent. Read the blog posts from creator of NVDA and Freedom Scientific JAWS to know more information.


Why shouldn’t I update to Firefox quantum?

The loading and processing time or simply the interaction of screen reader with Firefox quantum is very slow. This is due to the multiprocessor methodology used in the latest version. With this method the communication process between browser and assistive technology is significantly deteriorated. If you love experimenting new features you can go ahead with Firefox quantum.


Shouldn’t I update Firefox at all?

At this junction you have two options. One is to stop updating your browser until a screen reader user friendly version is released. To stop updating the Firefox browser navigate to Tools menu and open options. Under general tab select the radio button under updates i.e. Check for updates but let you choose to install them or Never check for updates. By default automatically install updates will be selected. The second is to install Firefox Extended Support release (ESR). Choose the appropriate option such as language and operating system type and install. This will prevent you from automatically updating to Firefox quantum. Better to install Firefox ESR before November 12, 2017 to avoid the pain.

Whom does it impact?

This Firefox quantum impacts the screen reader users who largely depend on Mozilla firefox for their day to day browsing needs. This impacts to those who use Firefox for accessibility testing. The product organizations and website owners etc should know this to address the customer queries.


Hope this article helps the screen reader users in making a choice before installing the new Firefox quantum.


aria-details (property)

Aria-details property identifies the element that provides a detailed explanation of an object. It is an ARIA 1.1 property.

When an image or a similar element needs a detailed explanation, something more than what aria-describedby can provide aria-details can be used. The detailed explanation can be a container of text on the same page or a link that takes the user to a different page. The content that is referred by aria-details should be always visible.

aria-details property just informs the existence of a detailed explanation of the object to the user. It does not convert the content available in the referenced location and read out by screen reader similar to what aria-describedby does. Since the content provided in the reference of aria-details is lengthy it might not be easy for the user to consume the entire content. They may also loose the meaning or intent of some content.

aria-details property uses id value of the container for referencing the content.

Aria-details and aria-describedby properties can be used for same element in certain situations. however, if the user agents only respects one attribute when more than one references the same element then aria-details property takes the priority.



<img src=”pythagorean.jpg” alt=”Pythagorean Theorem” aria-details=”det”>

<details id=”det”>



The Pythagorean Theorem is a relationship in Euclidean Geometry between the three sides of

a right triangle, where the square of the hypotenuse is the sum of the squares of the two

opposing sides.



The following drawing illustrates an application of the Pythagorean Theorem when used to

construct a skateboard ramp.


Alternately the detailed explanation can be in a different page linked and referenced as follows.

<img src=”pythagorean.jpg” alt=”Pythagorean Theorem” aria-details=”det”>


<a href=” Pythagorean.html” id=”det”> Pythagorean</a>


Aria-details property used in roles

Can be used in any element of the base markup.

Values of Aria-details property

Uses a single id reference as the value.


HTML5 abbr attribute

This article on HTML5 abbr attribute is part of the series of articles we want to post on HTML5 attributes and elements that impact accessibility. If you have not read have a look at our accesskey article.

HTML5 abbr is an attribute, do not get confused with the abbr element. The abbr element used to expand the abbreviations is different from the abbr attribute. The HTML5 abbr attribute is used within the header cell of a table i.e. <th> element.

The value of HTML5 abbr attribute is text or otherwise called as alternative label. The text is not visible on the screen but read by the screen reader. This text is read only when user navigates the table by referring with other cells of the table. Content authors can provide either abbreviation or expansion or a different text all together.

As on today the latest version of NVDA i.e. NVDA 2017.3 does not support HTML5 abbr attribute. JAWS seems to have support with this attribute on all three major browsers.

Using HTML5 abbr attribute

The abbr attribute is used within the <th> element. Example code below.

</p> <th abbr="Make">Toy manufacturer</th> <th abbr="Model">Vehicle model</th> <p>
Also have a look at the live HTML5 abbr attribute example.

Related Links

None available

VPAT 2.0 for Section 508, WCAG 2.0 and En301 549

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template 2.0 ® (VPAT 2.0 ®) is updated by Information Technology Industry Council ITICExternal Website. The purpose of the VPAT is to assist customers and buyers in making preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial “Electronic and Information Technology,” also referred to as “Information and Communication Technology” (ICT) products and services with features that support accessibility.

With the recent Section 508 refresh, it has become essential to have a The latest VPAT. can be downloaded from ITICExternal Website. Those who publish VPAT 2.0 have to follow the points outlined in essential requirements and best practices to complete the VPAT 2.0 conformance report.

VPAT 2.0 is updated from VPAT 1.0 to allow the venders create the accessibility conformance reports based on revised section 508 standards and section 255 guidelines. The current template also allows the user to report for W3C WCAG 2.0 standards and EN301 549 requirements. Venders are expected to report at least one of these standards to publish a VPAT® 2.0 report. VPAT 2.0 users agree not to deviate materially from the template format provided by ITICExternal Website, and to use the service mark (“®”) where appropriate. Further it is not mandatory to use the same format as provided on the ITICExternal Website. Venders can create their VPAT 2.0 reports in alternate formats such as PDF or HTML but the report must be accessible. Remove the content such as instructions and other sections which are not applicable for your product before publishing it following the instructions provided there.

The integrity of the data provided in VPAT 2.0 is the responsibility of the venders who created it. This template should allow the users / buyers to do a preliminary analysis of the accessibility features in the product.

WebAIM screen reader user survey 7

WebAIM screen reader user survey 7 is a study conducted by webAIMExternal Website to understand the preferences of screen reader users. This survey helps web developers and those who create web standards understand the new trends and practices screen reader users follow and thus try incorporating the best practices.

The webAIM screen reader user survey 7External Website is primarily intended for the actual screen reader users, however those who use screen readers for evaluation of websites and applications are also encouraged to take the survey.

The survey is open until November 1, 2017. It contains 30 questions that may approximately take 15 minutes. The survey is purely voluntary. Taking this survey will help in advancement of best practices in the space of accessible ICT.

Note that no personally identifiable information is collected in the survey. The browser and operating system information is collected when you submit the survey. The aggregated results of the survey will be made available by the end of the year.

To take the survey and for any further information visit WebAIM screen reader user survey 7External Website.

My thoughts

  • Few mobile screen readers such as Ideal and voice assistance are very rarely used as far as I know. In webAIM screen reader survey #6External Website these screen readers are not been shown. Interested to see the results in this area.
  • Another interesting question in the survey is “Which of the following most accurately describes your screen reader usage?”. I think results help in understanding the screen reader usage along with auditory/ visual comparisons.
  • Screen reader user survey #6External Website have not given a clear picture on the use of landmarks and skip links. Hope the latest survey helps to get to a more clear understanding.

aria-colspan property

aria-colspan property defines the number of columns a cell spanned within a table, grid or a treegrid. Use host attribute equivalent if available. If both the host language equivalent and aria-colspan property are defined user agents have to pick the value expressed through the host language attribute and expose it to assistive technologies.

Content authors must set the value of aria-colspan greater than or equal to 1 and less than or equal to total number of columns of the table. The exact value should be the number of columns the cell is spanned.

Aria-colspan property used in roles

Values of aria-colspan property

The value of aria-colspan property should be an integer greater than or equal to 1 and less than or equal to total number of columns in the table, grid or treegrid. In other words the value should be equal to the total number of cells the author want to span.

HTML5 Accesskey

HTML5 accesskey attribute can be assigned to any focusable or actionable element on the page. The HTML5 accesskey attribute’s value is used by the user agent as a guide for creating a keyboard shortcut that activates or focuses the element. An accesskey helps users with motor disabilities in activating the element. It also helps the power users to do the task without moving the hand away from the keyboard for mouse click.

In some browsers accesskey just takes the user focus on to the element. User has to activate the element manually. Certain browsers will move the focus and activate the element when the accesskey is invoked.

How to assign an accesskey

Use the accesskey attribute with the desired shortcut as the value. The value of the accesskey must be an ordered set of unique space-separated tokens that are case-sensitive.

Choosing a best accesskey

Choosing an accesskey is a tough job. Keep the following best practices in mind while assigning them.

  • Accesskey must not conflict with user agent (browser), assistive technology (eg screen reader) or operating systems shortcut commands. Eg: Assigning accesskey “a” will conflict with favorites’ menu in internet explorer (alt + a).
  • Use one or more shortcuts to invoke the accesskey. Having one of them as a number will help for devices where only numbers can be invoked and also less chance of conflicting with user agent, assistive technology and operating systems. Most of the screen readers announces the accesskey when user focus on it. Since different user agents(browsers) have different key combinations to invoke accesskeys it is good to label the key commands. Eg: Mozilla Firefox uses Alt + shift while MicroSoft Internet Explorer uses Alt along with accesskey. See the section below to understand the process of labeling the element with key command.
  • Duplicate accesskey combinations are not advised. Meaning accesskey “a” should not be used for different elements on the same page.

Labelling the key commands with accesskey on the element

The accessKeyLabel attribute must be used to display the key combination assigned by the user agent (browser). Sample code below.

<br /> <input type=submit accesskey="c @ 1" value="Compose"/><br /> <script> function labelButton(button) { if (button.accessKeyLabel) button.value += ' (' + button.accessKeyLabel + ')'; } var inputs = document.getElementsByTagName('input'); for (var i = 0; i < inputs.length; i += 1) { if (inputs[i].type == "submit") labelButton(inputs[i]); } </script><br /> </script>

Accesskey combination on different browsers

Different browsers use different key commands to invoke accesskey. Below are most used browser key command combinations.

Browser/ Operating System Windows Mac
Chrome Alt + accesskey Control + Alt + accesskey
Firefox Alt + Shift + accesskey Control + Alt + accesskey
Internet Explorer Alt + accesskey  
Safari Alt + accesskey Control + Alt + accesskey

Related Links

Latest advances in Assistive Technologies

It’s estimated that 48.9 million people in the United States have some sort of disability. 24.1 million people have severe disabilities, and 34.2 million people have a functional limitation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation.

As defined by the survey, people who have severe disabilities are those who are unable to perform one or more activities of daily living; have one or more specific disabilities; or are long-term users of assistive devices such as crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.

As defined by the survey, people who have a non-severe disability are those who have difficulty performing functional activities such as seeing, hearing, lifting, carrying, climbing stairs, walking or having their speech understood. The survey concluded that people who have a non-severe disability have difficulty with activities of daily living.

There are many new advances in assistive technology. Smart gloves, driverless cars, robotic arms and more are just some of the new advances coming out for people who have physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from living normally.

Smart Gloves

Smart gloves are one of the latest advances in assistive technology. Smart gloves were created by researchers at the University of California in San Diego. The inexpensive smart gloves automatically translate American Sign Language to digital text that appears on a computer or smartphone.

To use the gloves, the wearer simply signs American Sign Language. The American Sign Language is then recognized by the ways of variances in the electrical resistance. The variances allow an onboard computer to figure out what letter is being signed. The computer then transfers this information to a Bluetooth with no cameras required.

There are other gloves out there that claim to translate American Sign Language into digital text, but Smart Gloves use simple components. The components in the Smart Gloves add up to less than $100. It’s an affordable solution to a difficult problem The research team included materials scientists, chemists and chemical engineers. Graduate student Timothy O’Connor worked on the project for two years before it was completed.

The Car for Blind Drivers

Engineer Dennis Hong is currently developing a car that can actually be driven by people who are blind. Dennis Hong is integrating several sensors, computer systems and cameras. The cameras will be used to observe the environment around the vehicle while providing sound and vibration for the driver using sensory input. The sounds and vibrations may include auditory alerts, pulsing vibration signals in gloves worn by the driver, seat vibrations of various strengths and locations and a screen that displays a virtual picture of the vehicle’s surroundings using compressed air.

Even if the vehicle comes out, it may not be street legal even though the vehicle’s technology is extremely promising. If it isn’t a safe and affordable vehicle, other engineers can learn a lot from the sensors and innovations coming out as a result of the project.

Google’s Driverless Car

We all know that other car brands have come out with driverless cars, notably Tesla, but Google also has a driverless car. Google’s driverless car has potential in assistive technology. Not only will Google’s driverless car help people who are blind, but it’ll also help people who have physical and mental disabilities that prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a car. It would serve as independent and safe transportation for people with disabilities.

The team of engineers at Google have built the car to operate on its own using a combination of Google Street View and artificial intelligence using information gathered by the numerous sensors and cameras mounted on the vehicle. Google’s driverless car is already street legal in Nevada. Google engineers hope that one day it’ll be a life-changing device for people with disabilities all over the world.

The DynaVox EyeMax System

People who have disabilities such as paralysis, cerebral palsy and strokes can use the DynaVox EyeMax System to participate in communication using only their eyes. The device uses a sophisticated eye tracking system in which users can interact with an on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard allows users to enter words and phrases. After the user enters words and phrases, they’ll be translated into spoken text through the device’s text-to-speech mechanism.

The InterACCt language software that’s included with the device offers the user hundreds of pre-defined words and phrases. The pre-defined words and phrases can then be selected from lists or chosen through images and scenes. The InterACCt language software is ideal for young children and people with mental disabilities who may not understand written language.

Cochlear Implant

The cochlear implant isn’t new, but it needs to be talked about. The software and hardware for the device continue to improve.

The cochlear implant is more than just a hearing aid. The implant picks up sound using a built-in microphone. The built-in microphone then carries the signal to a small computer worn behind the ear where it’s transferred to a digital signal and transmitted to the implant. Once the digital signal is transmitted to the implant, the device then directly stimulates the auditory nerve. The implant provides new means of auditory input.

The development of the implant began in the late 1950s. It was the first commercial implant received to receive FDA approval in 1984. Cochlear implants have dramatically improved since the 1950s and the 1980s. When the implant was first developed, it provided mostly static. Today, cochlear implants have more than 20 sound channels. The extensive sound channels allows the user to hear with much better quality compared to decades ago. Sometimes, people will hear background noise with a cochlear implant, but verbal communication is made possible.

The iBot Stair-Climbing Wheelchair

The iBot is a self-balancing, stair-climbing wheelchair for people who are physically disabled. Traditional wheelchairs aren’t able to climb stairs, but the iBot is. Stairs are nearly everywhere, so the iBot is a good wheelchair to have easier mobility. Most people who use traditional wheelchairs have to have help from someone to carry them up and down stairs. Having someone else carry them up and down stairs is dangerous for both individuals.

The self-balancing technology found in the iBot is similar to the technology found in the Segway. Using the iBot will allow physically disabled people able to climb any terrain without any issues.

Unfortunately, the iBot isn’t currently in production. People with physical disabilities can only hope that the iBot will return one day in the future to give them a life-changing experience.

The DEKA Robotic Arm

Dean Kamen, the same creator of the iBot also created the DEKA robotic arm. Dean Kamen and his researchers received funding for the project from the Department of Defense’s DARPA research agency. Dean Kamen and the researchers decided to create the robotic arm for injured soldiers returning from the Middle East.

The robotic arm weighs less than eight pounds. It has so much precision and control that it can easily peel an orange. The robotic arm has numerous customizable controls and modular components.

The robotic arm also has a sensory feedback system. For example, the hand sensors measure the strength of the hand grip so that it can provide feedback to the person wearing the arm in form of vibrations that grow stronger as the grip increases. This allows the person wearing the arm to be able to determine what strength of grip is and isn’t appropriate for specific tasks. It also gives them feedback on how much pressure is being applied.

Final Words

Assistive technology has come a long way in the last few years. There are always new devices coming out to help people who have physical and mental disabilities. The devices that are out now that help disabled people continue to see improvements and upgrades.

A lot of people who have physical and mental disabilities haven’t been able to live a normal life until new assistive technology has come out. Now, some people with disabilities are able to live a normal, comfortable life just like other people around the world.

Even though the iBot isn’t currently in production, we can only hope that someone has learned from what they built so another stair-climbing wheelchair can be built again so that people with physical limitations can easily get around the world.

2.5 million people in America have developed a developmental disability. In a one-year period, approximately 51.3 million people have a developmental disability. 5 million people in America have a severe developmental disability.

Building assistive technology may allow people who are unable to work because of their disabilities work again. This will decrease the amount of people who are on disability, and it’ll help the economy grow. It’ll also ensure that the disabled person will always be able to pay their bills instead of living month-to-month on disability.

Disabled people are finally getting the freedom they deserve.

This article was originally published in Guardian HelmetsExternal Website and reposted here with their permition.

About Guardian Helmets

Recent CDC data shows that approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually in the U.S. Guardian HelmetsExternal Website is committed to reducing these statistics. These helmets are uniquely designed safety helmets that serve multiple purposes. Being used as a general safety helmet, autism helmet, epilepsy helmet and more, Guardian Helmets is dedicated to developing products that reduce the risk of brain injury for people struggling with medical and special needs as well as those who partake in at risk work or play activities. The designs of the helmet are based on specific feedback from parents and medical experts in traumatic brain injury. They offer maximum safety when it comes to protective headgear and come in a large variety of colors and sizes. The intro is in the making.


Appeal to Apple for Adding Telugu Text to Speech support in Voiceover

Dear all,
A sincere appeal to add Telugu Text to Speech to aid blind IOS users.

Content on the web and elsewhere is increasingly rendered in local languages. Multilingual websites are increasingly becoming popular. On social media like facebook, I have several times urged my friends to provide the content alternately in English just because popular screen readers not at all or in few cases partially read Telugu.

It is quite evident that IOS with voiceover is the best accessible operating system / screen reader combination in the mobile space. Though the devices are expensive people with disabilities are showing interest to have an IOS device because of its accessibility. To use Apple devices by persons with disabilities more effectively and efficiently having support of regional languages is vital. Many of my student friends have to read their books, newspapers in local languages, employees who work in the state government have their circulars and other internal documents in Telugu language and of course none of us want to miss that great conversations on facebook, whatsapp, twitter etc.

My friend Parameshwararao nagavolu have filed a petition on Change.org appealing Apple to add support to Telugu Text to Speech on Voiceover. We need support from all of you for this cause.

What should you do?

Open the link Appeal to add telugu text to speech for blind to read telugu in voice over On your browser.

Share your simple information such as First Name, Last Name and email Address and hit Sign button under “Sign this petition”.

More Information

Youtube video in English

Youtube video in Telugu

Note: In case if you cannot see the section “Sign this petition, clear your browsing history.

  • Internet Explorer: Control + Shift + Delete
  • Google Chrome : Control + h
  • Mozilla Firefox: Control + Shift + Delete

aria-colindex property

aria-colindex property is used on a table, grid or a treegrid where all the columns are currently not present. aria-colindex property notifies the index or position of the column in a table or grid or a treegrid with respect to the number of columns available. User agents can calculate the index of the column if all the columns of the table or grid are available, so aria-colindex property is not required in those cases.

The value of aria-colindex property must be greater than or equal to one, greater than the value of previous colindex in the same row and less than or equal to total number of columns in the table. For a cell or gridcell that spans more than one column set aria-colindex property at the beginning of the cell. If the set of columns which is present in the DOM is contiguous, and if there are no cells which span more than one row or column in that set, then authors may place aria-colindex on each row, setting the value to the index of the first column of the set.

Also see similar aria-colcount property

aria-colindex property used in roles

Values of aria-colindex property

The value of aria-colindex property must be greater than or equal to one, greater than the value of previous colindex in the same row and less than or equal to total number of columns in the table.