2006 Conference General Sessions

FIREFOX 1.5: WEB BROWSING BEYOND THE STATUS QUO

Presenter(s)
Aaron Leventhal
IBM
14 Crosby Street
Arlington MA 02474
Day Phone: 781-583-4083
Fax: 781-583-4083
Email: aleventh@us.ibm.com

Presenter #2
Glen Gordon
Freedom Scientific
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg FL 33716
Day Phone: 607-272-5787
Email: gleng@freedomscientific.com

 

Presenter #3
Michael Betlzner
Mozilla Foundation
1981 Landings Drive
Mountain View CA 94043

Day Phone: 650-903-0800
Email: beltzner@mozilla.com

Firefox 1.5 is a free, popular, mainstream web browser with great accessibility features. We will demonstrate Firefox's unique features and integration with screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Introduction
Firefox has become a very popular web browser in a short period of time. More than 100 million users downloaded it in the first year as it reached 10% market share penetration, and it has won major awards such as PC World Product of the Year.

The reason for Firefox's popularity is that it is fast, standards compliant, and takes a fresh approach to making the web work for everyone. Firefox rethinks the web, and deals with many of the common annoyances that cause browsing to be difficult for ordinary people. Firefox's "WWW for everyone" philosophy calls out for a great accessibility story, as people with disabilities need a streamlined web browsing experience free of popup ads and adware just like everyone else.

This very kind of rethinking has led to the question, "Why can't Javascript web pages be more accessible?" And indeed, Firefox is the first web browser to bring accessibility to rich internet applications built from technologies such as Javascript, AJAX and DHTML.

About This Session
During the session we will cover the full spectrum of features available to all users of Firefox. This includes feature that protect users from annoying realities of the web today like adware, spyware, viruses and popup ads. Firefox also helps you stay organized and find things quickly with features like tabbed browsing, FastBack, FastFind, the built-in web search bar, custom smart keywords, the download manager, and history and bookmark search. We will also discuss "extensions" that can be installed to enhance the individual browsing experience. One such extension is The Accessibility Extension from University of Illinois, Urbana Champagne which was designed to improve the availability of accessible information for both web authors and end users. Other extensions are available for free on the website addons.mozilla.org, including the ever popular AdBlock which greatly reduces screen clutter and improves the accessibility of mainstream web pages for many types of users.

We will also cover features that are specific to accessibility. First, we will show the built-in unlimited text-zoom in Firefox. Next, Glen Gordon from Freedom Scientific will demonstrate compatibility with the JAWS screen reader, and will discuss the similarities and differences with other accessible web browsers available today. We will also discuss what other assistive technologies currently support Firefox or will in upcoming releases.

Web and software standards are important for any modern web browser. We will briefly discuss the important standards Firefox supports, including Section 508 compliance and basic web standards such as CSS, DOM and XHTML. Finally we will touch on a standard being developed at the W3C, called DHTML accessibility. Firefox is the first web browser to support it, and it will enable accessible rich internet applications that use Javascript and even AJAX. This technology is one of the key motivations for IBM's support of Firefox, and we will discuss IBM's involvement in the project.

Next, Michael Beltzner from Mozilla and Aaron Leventhal from IBM will discuss the community process behind the Firefox "open source" phenomenon. Open source accessibility is an interesting topic in its own right, and audience members will be encouraged to ask questions about it. For example, will open source products be more accessible simply because programmers with disabilities can go in and fix problems? Will organizations of persons with disabilities be able to take a more proactive approach in solving the employment problems faced by their members? Where does an end user get support for an open source product like Firefox?

We will put the open source approach into practice during the session and ask audience members for ideas to put into Firefox 2.0. At the end of the session we will have an interactive brainstorming period where we will take down ideas and thoughts on priorities. Should Mozilla put more effort into making their Thunderbird email software accessible? What's more important, accessibility for diagrams (SVG), mathematics (MathML), next generation forms (XForms) or Firefox running on Linux? How can we leverage the community process and features like the broken website reporter tool to drive web authors toward better accessibility?

Michael and Aaron will end the session by providing resources for interested parties.


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