Day 37: How Well Do Browsers Play with Assistive Technologies?

This week I’m moving into the WAS Body of Knowledge section “choose accessibility techniques that are well-supported”. Most of these topics I’ve had some experience with and even preached about myself. For instance, adhering to coding standards and building with progressive enhancement in mind are two concepts I firmly believe can eliminate a lot of problems. I also understand that testing across platforms, browsers, and assistive technologies is important in order to discover what unanticipated barriers might occur, despite coding to standard.

That being said, today I focused on learning about what combinations of browsers and assistive technologies have been tested to work the best together. I know a bit about screen reader and browser combinations, but I’m certain there is more to learn than the base knowledge I have.

Things I accomplished

What I learned today

Here’s what I learned:

  • VoiceOver (VO) on macOS works mostly well with Firefox, but VO used with Chrome has limited support. Naturally, VO works best with Safari.
  • On that note, only Talkback works the best with Chrome. Other screen readers experience limited support or some support with exceptions. Oddly enough, even ChromeVox has some exceptions.
  • Edge does not support Dragon or ZoomText, and yet Internet Explorer (IE) does. As a matter of fact, IE is recommended for use with these two technologies.
  • Edge has the most support (with exceptions) for Narrator.
  • JAWS has been recommended for a while to be used with IE, but Firefox is a second close as of recently.
  • NVDA still plays best with Firefox.
  • Firefox and IE differ in visual focus, so both should be tested for this.
  • Likewise, video and audio elements differ across browsers, so those should be tested across browsers, too.
  • IE and Firefox are the only browsers that support Flash and Java accessibility.
  • ChromeVox uses to DOM to access content for the listener, rather than other screen readers that access an accessibility API or combination of API and DOM.
  • Level Access has a wiki on iOS Accessibility Issues.
  • SAToGo is another screen reader that works on Windows.

One of my favorite resources is canisue.com when checking for support across browsers. Choice of elements can really matter in cases where IE doesn’t support all HTML5 elements, including dialog. This resource alone has taught me so much about browser support for standards as I’ve worked through projects. In this vein, HTML5 Accessibility is another useful site.

One thing to remember is that following standards (like WCAG) are your best bet. Aiming for specific AT or browser support is not a good approach since updates can be made and support between the two can change.

Note: when reading through the Level Access wiki about AT support by browsers, these were for most popular browsers. Other browsers like Opera were not mentioned.