## Tuesday, November 5, 2013

### IAccessible2 relation API

Before IAccessible2 Mozilla practiced all manner of extensions of MSAA. I don't mean I exalt the forethought of MSAA API, I'd rather say this is an example of necessity is the mother of invention. But fortunately MSAA was extensible enough to workaround some lacks of it. Firefox ignored MSAA spec occasionally, implemented tricks and - what a surprise - some of them are in use by modern screen readers nowadays.

All aforesaid is applicable to accessible relations. MSAA has accNavigate method to navigate the accessibles in tree hierarchy and layout order. Firefox introduced a bunch of extra constants for this method to expose accessible relations. That was a neat approach so that after IAccessible2 invention and implementation the assistive technology wasn't in hurry to switch to the right API. accNavigate was light and simple and had only one disadvantage: it didn't allow you to get multiple targets. IA2 relations in turn didn't have this limitation but API appeared heavy and Firefox implementation was quite slow those days. Firefox 4 implemented a fast version but it didn't change things. That made me think Firefox wasn't a stumbling block here. So

IAccessible2 1.3 refreshed relations API and we've got relationTargetsByType method which allows to get all targets of the given relation type. In other words this is a multiple target version of MSAA accNavigate: plain and simple. The method was implemented in Firefox 27.

I'm curious how fast the assistive technology will pick it up. Otherwise do we need those multiple targets at all?

## Tuesday, October 29, 2013

### MathML accessibility APIs

Browsers traditionally overlook MathML accessibility besides MathML implementation itself by some of them. Because of that there is a bunch of 3d parties software to display MathML and expose math content to assistive technology. They do a good job but what relates to screen readers support it's far from being perfect.

So MathPlayer works with IE only. MathJax, a cross browser math renderer, claims they do accessibility by means of MathPlayer. Last time I checked MathPlayer did a trick by adding accessible properties like accessible name to MathML nodes in accessible tree. There's a bunch of problems with this approach like the user can't control the speech output. However I must admit it makes screen readers to read math.

Main problem here there's no right API and they have to use existing APIs which is Procrustean bed for math. The browser and assistive technology have to invent something that describes math well. Until that there's no right tool to succeed. I should notice that above-mentioned primarily applies to Windows and Linux worlds. Much to my surprise WebKit has got a math accessibility API on OS X last year. I didn't hear VoiceOver picked it up yet but as soon as it does the MathML content should become accessible on Mac.

In Firefox we have a meta bug to track MathML accessibility work. As the first step on this way Firefox 27 started to create generic accessible objects for MathML elements. It's not so valuable by itself because a generic accessible don't expose any math semantic but it allows the assistive technology to navigate the math and watch for tree mutations. Next we could follow WebKit effort by extending ATK and IAccessible2 APIs to make math accessible on Windows and Linux but I have been told libraries that screen readers rely on to process MathML speak also MathML language. It might be unwise to split MathML into atoms of high level API to make the assistive technology to reconstruct MathML on its side.

Gecko exposes ISimpleDOMNode interface providing a direct access to DOM for assistive technology. I never was a devotee of ISimpleDOM because I believe that high-level APIs like IAccessible2 are more efficient. But in case of MathML it's apparently not true. Having said that I think it'd be good to have something more sophisticated than plain DOM to implement, for example, an extended math navigation. Otherwise I think AT have to learn some MathML.

So we stopped at this point for now. Assistive technology can navigate the MathML tree, get MathML markup and feed it to utility libraries processing the math. It looks good for a start, at least after years of keeping silence. Ostap Bender would say the ice has broken, ladies and gentlemen of the jury!

If you have ideas, thoughts to share you're welcome to comment our meta bug.

## ARIA

* We don't map aria-atomic:false to accessibility API anymore (see bug). UAIG is flexible on this and allows a fork in implementation: either ignore it or map it. Ignoring seems more reasonable so we did it this way. And here's why. Assistive technology relies on container-atomic object attribute exposed on every child of atomic region. In other words if there's no container-atomic object attribute then the accessible is not contained by atomic region. It's worth to notice it works pretty well if the users deals with nested aria-atomic regions, i.e. when atomic regions contain not atomic areas.

* We've got smarter about accessible tree creation, we started to ignore whitespace accessibles between ARIA grid cells (see bug). These whitespaces can be unintentionally introduced by the author when he creates the web page. They serve the pure layout job like they add some visual space between cells. What's worse any whitespaces are not expected under the grid control hierarchy and thus can confuse the assistive technology.

* ARIA column and row headers are not selectable by default anymore. Technically speaking if you do not specify aria-selected then SELECTABLE state is not exposed (see bug). The idea behind that is ARIA column/row headers are either not interactive at all or they are used to select the whole column/row at once.

* ARIA textbox exposes accessible value constructed from the content beneath the element (see bug).

* ARIA tablist is no longer a live region (see bug). The bug popped up from the wild: the users run into the problem. So we've got the bug fixed and asked for an update to UAIG spec.

* ARIA listbox exposes FOCUSABLE state regardless how it manages its children. That means if the listbox is not DOM focusable and its items are focusable instead (tabindex on items approach) then we enforce FOCUSABLE state on the listbox accessible. The trick is primarily introduced for MSAA environment where screen readers relies on FOCUSABLE state to differentiate HTML:ul from HTML:select since they share same MSAA role (see bug).

* ARIA treegrid like ARIA grid are editable by default now (see bug).

* In some cases we didn't treat 'undefined' value as absent value, for example, ARIA checkbox with aria-checked="undefined" was marked as not checkable. We fixed it.

## HTML

longdesc attribute is exposed in Firefox context menu (see bug) as "View description" menu item. Right click on the image having a longdesc allows you to see it in new tab.

## Text interface

A major change in this release is ATK and IAccessible text traversal by lines got a new heart. We still observe some problems (and even some serious ones) but definitely it must be a good update.

## Events

* We started to fire SELECTION state_change evens on items of selectable widgets like combobox or listbox (see bug). On MSAA level these events are partially duped by selection event but having only it AT had no way to detect which items was deselected.

* We fixed a nasty focus bug observed at google.com start page: we missed the focus event when search textbox is moved through the page (see bug).

* In case of HTML checkbox input we fire state_change event whenever checkbox value is changed (previously we were restricted to user interactions), see bug.

## Anything else

* We fixed hit testing for Firefox UI menus and popup (see bug) on Windows. Now each menu and popup hosted in own window returns HWND of that window and when the window receives WM_GET_OBJECT message then it answers it by returning the menu/popup accessible. If you take a hit test on the returned accessible then you get kids of menus/popups.

* We've got rid of XPCOM constant BOUNDARY_ATTRIBUTE_RANGE. It doesn't seem useful and practical.

## Wednesday, July 10, 2013

### Accessible Mozilla: Tech overview of Firefox 24

Here's a list of Firefox 24 (currently Aurora) improvements for assistive technology.

## ARIA

We supported one more way to create hierarchy for ARIA lists and trees (see bug). Now you can do

  <ul role="list">
<li role="listitem">Item 1
<ul role="group">
<li role="listitem">Item 1A</li>
<li role="listitem">Item 1B</li>
</ul>
</li>
<li role="listitem">Item 2
<ul role="group">
<li role="listitem">Item 2A</li>
<li role="listitem">Item 2B</li>
</ul>
</li>
</li> 

So following this pattern allows you to get for free the group position for items and relations between them.

It's worth to say that Firefox supports another kind of hierarchy for ARIA trees for a long time:

  <div role="tree">
<div role="treeitem">Item 1</div>
<div role="group">
<div role="treeitem">Item 1A</div>
<div role="treeitem">Item 1B</div>
</div>
<div role="treeitem">Item 2</div>
<div role="group">
<div role="treeitem">Item 2A</div>
<div role="treeitem">Item 2B</div>
</div>
</div> 

Here ARIA group element defines a sub group of items for the item preceding to it.

You can use either hierarchy that suites better for you. Note, second approach doesn't work in case of ARIA lists.

## HTML

datalist attribute on the widget makes the accessible object to expose HASPOPUP state in addition to SUPPORTS_AUTOCOMPLETION state we used to have (see bug).

Action interface works on HTML textarea element now.

HTML td elements may be pointed by headers attribute, i.e. HTML td can serve as row/column header. In other words the following pattern is supported:

<table>
<tr><td id="juice">Juice</td></tr>
</table>

Moving at the "orange" or "apple" cell by screen reader you will hear that this is orange or apple juice.

## Text work

getTextAfterOffset and getTextBeforeOffset methods for word boundaries were improved a bit (see bug and bug). There are still problems left.

## IAccessible2

We did first steps on the way to implement new IAccessible2 version released couple months ago. We've got IA2_RELATION_NODE_PARENT_OF relation exposed on ARIA and XUL trees (thanks to Zach who volunteered for this work).

Note, alternatively to IAccessible2 relation interface you can obtain this relation by MSAA IAccessible::accNavigation method using 0x1010 constant. Refer to our source code for all possible values (no docs sorry).

Another bit of IA2 support was IA2_STATE_CHECKABLE (thanks to Marcos A. Di Pietro for the fix). You can see this state on all checkbox-like widgets. Prior to this state the checkable:true object attribute was used for that. Now we expose state and object attribute both.

## User interface

Menu items of Firefox UI have correct state now, i.e. no OFFSCREEN state for visible menu items anymore (see bug).

Pinned tabs in Firefox UI expose IA2_STATE_PINNED now.

## Thursday, June 13, 2013

### Accessible Mozilla: Tech overview of Firefox 23

Here's a list of core accessibility improvements in oncoming Firefox 23 (will be available as beta 24 June).

## ARIA

A non standard extension of ARIA was introduced. Now Firefox recognize a "key" ARIA role which is mapped to push button role on IAccessible2/ATK layer. It is supposed to be used for on-screen keyboards and dialpads. AT can use  xml-roles object attribute to pick up that role.

## HTML

* A major change of this release is we don't longer create a flat hierarchy for HTML selects (see bug). Say you have a HTML select having optgroup elements like

<select>
<option>item
<optgroup label="group">
<option>subitem
</optgroup>
</select>

then we used to have an accessible hierarchy like:

combobox - HTML select
option - HTML option (item)
option- HTML option (subitem)

Firefox 23 exposes the following hierarchy:

combobox - HTML select
option - HTML option (item)
grouping - HTML optgroup
option - HTML option (subitem)

* Another change is HTML5 input@type=range is now accessible. It's exposed as a slider role and implements the value interface, i.e. you can obtain min, max and current values and step. Also it fires value change events.

## Nasty bugs

A bug where JAWS lost the virtual buffer was fixed. The patch was back ported to Firefox 22 and Firefox 21.

Another bug was that we lost inactive document occasionally. So if the user didn't interact with the document and the document wasn't self updated via JavaScript then it could be not accessible for screen readers (see bug).

## ISimpleDOM support

Yet another ISimpleDOM interface (ISimpleDOMText) was tear offed as continuation of this work.

## Other bug fixes

* A selection bug where we wrongly claimed that unfocused text area has a selection was fixed.

* We don't prune children anymore for number of roles like text entry, menu items and etc if they have complex trees. In other words, if for example a text entry has anything else than a plain text then you will see that in hierarchy (see bug). So if you do

<div role="textbox"><span role="button"></span></div>

then you will get a button inside the text entry.

## Tuesday, May 21, 2013

### IAccessible2. New features and performance.

After months of long discussions the IAccessible2 group released 1.3 version. It was probably most disputable release after the initial shipping. A number of assistive technology vendors requested a number of changes for better integration with the browser. So it took a time to find a common multiplier for all ideas.

So updated IAccessible2 API require some engineering love and thus it will be implemented in Firefox by parts. It'd be helpful to know which features are most crucial and needed for you as AT developer so we can give them a priority. To let us know please leave a comment in the bug or just ping me saying that. Alternatively you can vote for or comment right into the interesting bug (see sections below).

## Roles

IA2_ROLE_COMPLEMENTARY_CONTENT is supposed for HTML5 aside element and WAI ARIA complementray role (see Mozilla bug).

## States

A new IA2_STATE_PINNED state will be exposed on pinned tabs in Firefox UI (see Mozilla bug).

Technically speaking IA2_STATE_CHECKABLE was introduced in place of hacks used to workaround a lack of this state. For example Firefox exposes checkable object attribute (IAccessible2 hack) and STATE_SYSTEM_MARQUEED (pure MSAA approach). See Mozilla bug.

## Relations

There is a bunch of new relations introduced to simplify a navigation through the hierarchy. Now you can quickly move to

Note, IServiceProvider is an alternative to described relations (strictly speaking a subsest of described relations). See Mozilla bug.

Also now you can get a next and previous elements in tab order (IA2_RELATION_NEXT_TABBABLE and IA2_RELATION_PREVIOUS_TABBABLE). It's useful for AT that implement own in-page navigation (see Mozilla bug).

New IA2_RELATION_NODE_PARENT_OF is a dual relation to IA2_RELATION_NODE_CHILD_OF. It's useful to get all logical children of the accessible (as you know a logical parent-child relation may be different from parent-child relation defined by accessible tree). Example is aria-owns (like aria-owns tree) and flat structured hierarchies like XUL tree (used for message list in Thunderbird) or ARIA tree where the hierarchy is supplied by aria-level like:

<ul role="tree">
<li role="treeitem" aria-level="1">Item 1</li>
<li role="treeitem" aria-level="2">Item 1.1</li>
</ul>

See Mozilla bug.

## IAccessibleDocument

IAccessibleDocument is a new interface that allows you to get an anchor target, i.e. an element that the page was scrolled to after the page was loaded. Also an object of this interface is returned by relations like and IA2_RELATION_CONTAINING_WINDOW. See Mozilla bug.

## Manage the media content

The idea was to manage the media content by accessible actions (IA2 group got parsimonious for a new interface so the existing mechanism was reused).

If a screen reader starts, say, a subtitled video then it invokes IA2_ACTION_OPEN action. The browsers plays a portion of subtitled video and stops it until a screen reader invokes IA2_ACTION_COMPLETE action. This action is used to notify the browser that screen reader consumed the portion of played video subtitles, for example, it finished reading of them. If screen reader is no longer interesting to manage the media playback then it invokes IA2_ACTION_CLOSE action.

If more than one AT tries to manage the same media (i.e. AT that invoked 'open' action) then the browser holds on the video playback until all AT invoke 'complete' action. See Mozilla bug.

## Performance

After IAccessible2 implementation by Firefox and AT it got clear that IAccessible2 API can be improved in certain ways to make the intercommunication between the browser and AT faster. So number of changes was introduced for performance matter.

### Object attribute by name

Now you can obtain object attributes by name rather than get them all together and then parse the string (see Mozilla bug).

### Relation by type

Now you have a method to get relation targets by type. You don't need to get all relations when you need a single one (see Mozilla bug).

### Accessible containing the caret

You have a fast way to get a text accessible containing a caret in the subtree and the caret offset in  the text accessible. Previously the algorithm to find an accessible containing the caret failed on some cases. The idea of that approach was that a screen reader should crawl down the hierarchy asking for caret position until it reaches a deepest text accessible having the caret. It failed if you meet non text accessible on the way. As a workaround the screen readers navigated children. While the workaround worked well but it was really slow (see Mozilla bug).

### Text attributes

The change is similar to object attributes. A light alternative to the method used to get all text attributes was added.  Now you can specify a string filter and get attributes you need (see Mozilla bug).

Usually AT needs all hyperlinks at once. Getting them one by one is unperformant (especially for out of process AT) and requires a cache implementation on the browser side. So a new method to get all hyperlinks has been introduced (see Mozilla bug).

## Wednesday, May 15, 2013

### Accessible Mozilla: Tech overview of Firefox 22

Firefox 22 reached beta status (it will be released June 24). It's time to list accessibility improvements we made for this version.

### ARIA

ARIA role="note" doesn't allow name from subtree (bug) anymore. The bug caused JAWS, for example, to announce role="note" content twice.

### HTML

* HTML radio group position doesn't count hidden radio elements (bug). So if the page contains hidden input@type="radio" then a screen reader doesn't take them into account announcing the number of radios.

* HTML input@type="file" changed its hierachy. Now it contains a push button and a label. Be careful if you have dependences on this hierarchy (see bug).

* HTML5 header and footer has changed their mapping according to HTML spec:
footer element that is not a descendant of an article or section element. contentinfo role;

header element that is not a descendant of an article or section element.  banner role.

### XUL

XUL label@value element now implements text interface (partially). You can obtain a text between offsets but you can't get it by words for example (refer to bug). XUL label is used wide in Firefox user interface (for example, in Options dialog). Let us know if you have problems with new implementation.

### ATK

RELATION_NODE_PARENT_OF has been implemented. It's exposed for aria-owns markup and XUL trees (used in Thunderbird and Firefox bookmarks).

### Text interface

As I wrote before we started text interface reimplementation. Firefox 22 got improved getTextAt and getTextBefore offsets at word boundaries. Note, in case of getTextAt we had to mimic WebKit behavior rather than follow the ATK spec to keep Orca working.

### Attention. It might be important

* Document load event may be fired a bit later than we used to do that, it will be fired right after all events contained in the queue at the time when document got loaded (see bug).

* IServiceProvider interface is implemented as a tear off (bug).