Switch access and the Internet

May 30th, 2008

Grrr… I’ll try and keep this short. I’m annoyed by something and it may be unjustified so please let me know if I’m missing something.

Jelly bean switchLots of switch users want to be able to access the Internet, right? The number of potential meaningful activities out there is enourmous and the very popular BBC iPlayer (as well as the ITV and C4 equivalents) should be able to offer TV on-demand to switch users as well as anyone else. But there’s a problem.

I generally see three recurring problems when attempting to access the Internet using one or more switches:

The first is the sheer number of links on a page that need to be scanned through. This can often be fixed by creating a ‘Scan 5 Links’ button (which I generally always do using The Grid 2) or by convincing the webmasters to build pages with less links (I’ll let you try that one).

Tabbing highlight screenshotThe second major problem is the focus highlight as the tab moves around the web document. It’s almost impossible to see. Now you can use a User Style Sheet but these do not work properly for Internet Explorer 7 on many websites (including the BBC iPlayer). The user styles work beautifully in Firefox as can be seen in this screenshot. The yellow block is the moving highlight caused by a local userContent style sheet.

Unfortunately Firefox won’t allow a switch user to access Flash elements. The tab key just skips straight past unless a mouse is used to select the element first. This is a pretty significant flaw as it prohibits switch users from accessing video content on YouTube, iPlayer and pretty much everywhere else.

We’re left with the option of having an easy-to-follow tabbing focus highlight OR access to video content. Not both. Please fix it.

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  • 1. Steve Lee  |  May 31st, 2008 at 9:40 am

    HI Charlie

    >Unfortunately Firefox won’t allow a switch user to access Flash elements. The tab key just skips straight past unless a mouse is used to select the element first.

    You know I’ve seen a fairly recent discussion on this over at Mozilla. I think the issue is the Flash plugin from Adobe and not Firefox itself. It might be that the plugin grabs the focus and won’t let go. I think there was an attempt to work with adobe on a solution.

    > Please fix it
    if you get in contact on the mail list or IRC (Marco Zehe is the a11y QA lead now and *very* helpful), you can find out if a bug exisits or you should file one …

    How are you using the switches? My project Jambu allows switch users to step through the firefox UI and web pages and could be extended to support different scan modes and highlight options (it uses SVG overlay). Currently is in development and Linux/GNOME only.

    PS you might like addthis to replace all those social bookmark icons. Marco has used it on his blog and is working with them to resolve a couple of a11y glitches using WAI-ARIA.

  • 2. Simon  |  June 3rd, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Exactly, the great thing about firefox is that you can submit a bug and if you do it well it will probably, hopefully get fixed….


  • 3. charlie  |  September 26th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Gotcha thanks guys. I guess my blog wasn’t the best place to complain about a bug in an open-source project. The bug has now been submitted by Patrick Lauke:


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