Browsing the web with firefox and talkback


Beginning about 10 years ago, mozilla foundation took on accessibility of it's internet tools on all platforms. It as largely done a better than adaquit job of accessibility and now works well on most platforms. Google has taken what Mozilla believes, and I'm forced to agree, to be far too long establishing API's and features that integrate webviews into accessibility. As a result, Mozilla built it's own web interface and accessibility features for android from scratch. This article deals with talkback features in Firefox, but my guess is that other articles will surface on other aspects of firefox accessibility.

Mozilla Firefox

Talkback Compatibility with Firefox was first introduced in 2013. The system is far more robust than google web accessibility features, but at a significant reduction in performance. Firefox accessibility is completely separate from system webviews. It requires instalation of a third party browser. It's a definite compromise each android user inevitably has to make based on personal preference. Jump ahead to 2015. Accessible Firefox is now available direct from the play store. If you are feeling adventurous you can choose to download a nightly build. Nightly builds have the latest features in development which may include accessibility features; however, they may be unstable and they automatically report back to mozilla for development purposes. These are things to consider when choosing the nightly build.

Talkback gestures

Firefox supports three finger swiping gestures for element navigation. A three finger swipe up, or a three finger swipe down cycle between:

  • List items, (not to be confused with lists)
  • lings,
  • Headings,
  • Form Elements, (edit boxes, checkboxes, buttons...)
  • and landmarks.
  • A three finger swipe left or right moves up or down the page by the selected element.

    Try this example. Open firefox and visit the inclusive android website. Swipe up or down with three fingers until you get to headings. Swipe right with three fingers to move down the page by heading until you reach the "Recent apps or games" heading. Swipe right with one finger to flick through the list of recently added apps. You can see that this is quite a bit more elegant in firefox than it is on Chrome. There is a lot less switching to accomplish the task in firefox.

    Keyboard navigation

    Firefox supports built-in, bluetooth, and virtual keyboards for navigating by element. There are far more elements available on the keyboard than in the gesture system as you can see.

    As far as kitkat is concerned, the google keyboard is only available for typing and can only be activated by entering a text area; However, several keyboards have this feature:

    Here is a list of quick navigation keys for accessible Firefox for Android. Note that adding shift to any key moves to the previous element. DescriptionMoves to next named anchor

    b Moves to next button
    c Moves to next combobox or listbox
    d Moves to next landmark
    e Moves to next text entry or password field
    f Moves to next form field (button, combobox, text entry, radio button, slider, checkbox)
    g Moves to next graphic
    h Moves to next heading of any level
    i Moves to next item in an unordered, ordered or definition list
    k Moves to next hyperlink
    l Moves to next unordered, ordered or definition list
    p Moves to next page tab (in ARIA-enabled web apps)
    r Moves to next radio button
    s Moves to next separator
    t Moves to next data table
    x Moves to next checkbox


    Firefox supports brailleback in it's webviews. That's all the information I have about braille, and all I could find in several google searches. According to the general information I read, it is possible to move around a page from a braille display, activate links and controls, and enter text. I did not find any command lists though, and my braille display is not supported. So, I can't try the system and would appreciate it if some one filled in the specifics.

    Article Reader

    Firefox has the article reader feature. This is not an accessibility feature, or if it is, it's an incredibly cool new paradigm accessibility feature. To see how it works Click this article on inclusive android. When the article comes up, find the show reader button to the right of the awsome bar and double tap it. Firefox will strip all headers and unnecessary content from the page, leaving only the article. You can have talkback start reading and thus listen to the article hassel free. When done, double tap the hide reader button and the page returns to normal so you can go read something else.

    2016 - Update

    The latest versions of firefox have become somewhat inaccessible and the 3 finger gesture systems seems to have been removed.  The latest version that supports this is v42.x which can be downloaded and manually installed from