Last Thursday I had the great pleasure of meeting Steve Lee (more on Steve in the next posts) – one of Web accessibility’s most passionate advocates I have met, and a great fan of Mozilla to boot! Steve was in London attending Accessibility 2.0, which was organized by Ability Net. The conference had been designed to get more people involved in thinking about Web 2.0 accessibility, and saw the likes of Christian Heilmann from Yahoo and Ian Forrester from the BBC amongst other important folks from the accessibility field. You can read Steve’s write up of the event on his blog: http://eduspaces.net/stevelee/weblog/329891.html

Talking to Steve about accessibility over lunch was a real learning experience for me. It was humbling to learn about the great efforts of so many people, who are helping others with disabilities have an easier and enjoyable experience of using the Web. You might want to consider how a blind person views the Internet? Or how a person unable to use a mouse or keyboard is able to write an email. Or even how an old aged pensioner copes. All things we take for granted.

I’m pleased to say there are a number of solutions out there, but often they are expensive. That’s where Open Source Accessibility comes in. I’m proud to say a number of Mozilla people have been working for some time on accessibility issues within the realm of the Open Web.

Previously championed by Aaron Leventhal (now living in Germany) and with full strategic support from Frank Hecker at the Mozilla Foundation, the growing accessibility community is now led by Marco Zehe (Germany) and includes people in Europe such as Alexander Surkov (Russia), Gijs Kruitbosch (Netherlands) and  Steve Lee (UK). Together with all of the Mozilla Accessibility Community they have all worked together tirelessly with the to ensure Firefox includes accessibility features.

These people are a real driving force. They have been working and advocating together to make the open Web a better place for all people, including those with disabilities.  Work includes, Firefox accessibility features such as display themes and keyboard access, add-ons and work with manufacturers of specialist Assistive Technology devices like Screen readers to ensure a good user experience of the web. There are also many Firefox add-on tools to help web site developers ensure their sites are accessible. Steve tells me, “…perhaps most important is Firefox’s implementation of the W3C’s WAI-ARIA specification that allows complex dynamic web pages to be accessible (as highlighted by Accessibility 2.0)”.

For the new version of Firefox 3 (currently out in Beta – version 5), we have been purposeful to include details to make browsing accessibility even easier e.g. Full page Zoom – whereby you can view any important detail by zooming in or out of the Web entire page, scaling the text, layout and all images. Firefox will also remember your zooming state the next time you visit the page. There are also some big features such as making Firefox 3 an accessible graphical browser on Linux and others mentioned at AccessFirefox.org.

My outlook has been widened by my discussion with Steve, and I’ll certainly be planning to let you know about more Mozilla Accessibility work in the coming months. In the meantime if you would like to find out more about Mozilla’s accessibility outlook please take a look at these blog posts from Frank:
http://hecker.org/mozilla/accessibility-for-all
http://hecker.org/mozilla/accessibility-vision-and-strategy

Finally the Mozilla Access logo… 🙂