Google Chrome is Working on Accessibility
By Paul L. Oberholtzer
01 Oct 2011
I have spent most of the day looking into Web Browsers that are accessible, or at least trying to be accessible. Google chrome seems to have come a long way with its recent so called Stable release and its Beta versions. At the time of this article, I am using a Beta 15 version. Chrome is constantly being updated, and it can do this automatically if you let it. Just yesterday I couldnít make heads or tail of the browser, but today I have been able to do some surfing with only a few issues.
When I first tested it yesterday, I was using JAWS 11 on a computer that I had not yet upgraded to JAWS 12. I went ahead and upgraded my JAWS, and behold, Chrome started working! I am still a little puzzled about why Chrome should work on JAWS 12 and not JAWS 11.† I tried to look at the JAWS script by hitting Insert + F2 and starting the Script Manager. To my surprise, the Script Manager loaded the FireFox.JSS file! There is something fishy going on here. Normally JAWS uses a .JSS file with the same name of the application, so I thought I would be looking at ďchrome.JSSĒ but there was the FireFox script file, and when reading it, I couldnít find any mention of Chrome when I did a search.
I fired off an email to Freedom-Scientific, but since itís a weekend, I donít expect a response until Monday at the soonest. In the mean time, I went to the Chromium Project website to read about their accessibility policy. They had a great deal of good things to say about making Chrome accessible. It got pretty technical, but there was something about the way they improved accessibility by mimicking FireFox, which is what I expected. That still doesnít explain why JAWS 12 is using a FireFox script file. This seems like a quick fix that could cause problems down the road. I tried a little investigation. I went back to JAWS 11, copied the FireFox script files, edited them so they would include the new named files rather than the FireFox files. I started Chrome, brought up the Script Manager and compiled the new ďchrome.JSSĒ and got the familiar ding sound that is supposed to tell you that the script passed the compile without problems. I thought I might have found a trick to get Chrome working on JAWS 11, but it didnít work. I could bring up a webpage, but could only tab through links rather than arrow up and down through the text.
When I reinstalled JAWS 12, lo and behold, Script Manager loaded the FireFox.JSS file, rather than the Chrome script that I had created. The problem here is that if you want to create custom Chrome scripts, you canít unless you also modify the behavior of FireFox. For most people, that might not be a problem, but for me, I like to test web pages on different browsers to see if they work the same in each. Some browsers are more forgiving of style errors while others can do unpredictable things if you get your punctuation wrong. Chrome still has some quirks about it, and I wanted to tinker with the scripts, but my FireFox is working fine and I donít want to change it. I donít know if Freedom-Scientific has this on their priority list, but they really should let Chrome use its own scripts and not borrow the ones from FireFox. Even if the scripts work the same and use the same code, they should be separated.
In the Mean time, JAWS users have alternatives to Internet Explorer, if they have issues with the way Microsoft does things. There are good things and bad things in all three browsers, but it is nice to have a choice. I am gradually getting use to Firefox, and even starting to like it. Chrome can be annoying at times. It doesnít handle combo boxes very well. When I try to change a selection in a combo box, I have to tab out and back to read what it is that I am trying to select. I have noticed this sort of behavior on some web sites using Internet Explorer, but Chrome does this on combo boxes that work fine in both Internet Explorer and FireFox. I also donít like the default Flash Player in Chrome. You donít have a choice of which player you want to use when you try to download multimedia content. I couldnít get Chrome to hand off my m3u files to WinAmp like Internet Explorer and FireFox do. I could only set it to do nothing or to ask if I wanted to download the file to a folder. When I clicked on a link that pointed to an MP3 file, it immediately launched the Flash Player. This seems backwards to me. The m3u should have launched the player and the MP3 file should have given me a choice of downloading or opening the file. I donít like Flash Files that start without warning, but there are a great deal of sites that do this to you when browsing. The Flash Player pops up with unlabeled buttons, and for blind users, it is confusing as to which button stops the multimedia file. Last but not least, Chrome does not handle RSS Feeds. There does seem to be a plug in that can be added, but Internet Explorer and FireFox handle these without having to download and install another program. Chrome has come a long way in its attempts to match the accessibility of Internet Explorer and FireFox, but it still has a long way to go.† I read that Chrome is growing in popularity while FireFox is waning. Perhaps those who are not blind, see things differently than me.