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Re: How accessible is Netscape?

From: Aaron Leventhal <aaronl@chorus.net>
Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2001 21:16:42 -0700
Message-ID: <3B4298AA.8090600@chorus.net>
To: David Poehlman <poehlman1@home.com>
CC: Martha Wilkes <Martha.Wilkes@sas.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
As the new accessibility lead for Netscape, I'm very glad to see some 
discussion of Netscape accessibility.

First, let me make sure everone understands that the Netscape 6.x 
product line is a completely new code base - it has little or nothing to 
do with Netscape 4.x, it's like comparing apples and oranges. Whatever 
accessibility Netscape 4.x had or didn't have, is completely irrelevant 
to new versions of Netscape being developed today.

I will admit to some problems. Netscape 6.0 was probably pushed out the 
door a bit early -- there were too many bugs, and there was little 
thought put toward accessibility, whether with the keyboard or with 3rd 
party accessibility software. That said, I think a lot of usesr will be 
quite pleased by Netscape 6.1. It's support for standards is truly 
second to none, because it was built from scratch for the standards. 
It's user interface is beautiful and fun to use. If you wish to try it, 
you can download a Netscape 6.1 preview release at 

Accessibility is now an important push at Netscape. Many of the 
accessibility features have not been fully implemented. For example, we 
do not yet support the MSAA API, needed by screen readers, for the 
entire user interface. If you're interested in our development efforts, 
see http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ui/accessibility. There are articles 
about our work there, and you can find pointers to our accessibility 
mailing list in the Keyboard UI Design FAQ.

We have been working on several fronts, especially:
- Keyboard accessibility - this benefits everyone
- MSAA support, so that we can work with screen readers, voice dictation 
packages and other 3rd party accessibility solutions in Windows
- Appearances preferences, such as font size, zooming and colors

Because we're an open source project, we're always interested in 
whatever feedback or input people want to give us, especially in the 
area of accessibility. If Netscape accessibility is important to you, 
don't be shy. There are many volunteers working on the code base, filing 
and triaging bugs, testing and writing documentation. At some point, we 
need volunteers to help test Netscape with all the accessibility aids 
availbable on the market. Don't worry, we're not relying on volunteers, 
but the nature of open source means that we do not turn away qualified 
individuals who wish to make their mark on our product. If you don't 
like something about the way other browsers solve the problems of 
accessibility, here is your chance to help make a browser that does what 
you like.

While I would not currently recommend Netscape to any of my friends with 
disabilities, I would tell them to look forward to full accessibility in 
some upcoming version, and that accessibility is being escalated as a 
high priority item. I would ask web designers merely to adhere to the 
W3C standards - that alone will keep their pages from being unusable in 
Netscape, and I guarantee they will always have visitors that prefer 

Thank you,
Aaron Leventhal
Netscape Accessibilty

David Poehlman wrote:

>Hello Martha and all,
>I've used Netscape in the past and in its day before ie became
>accessible and the assistive technologies became a better fit for it and
>vice versa, due in part at least, to the introduction of and
>improvements in Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA).
>I would hope but cannot provide an official response on this that the
>most accessible choice would rule the roost and that choices where
>possible are allowed whatever that choice needs to be at any given time.
>As netscape continues to move in its current direction, it seems to be
>more and more difficult for assistive technologies to support.  I
>stopped using it when 6 came out.  I also found that for me at least
>that even though I could stick with an older version, more and more
>pages were making a better fit with ie but that is another matter.
>Lastly, to make matters more complicated, I understand that it is not
>always just a matter of subbing one browser for another but that there
>network infrastructure considerations that may make this not possible or
>practical so as someone asked me and I now ask here, How much resource
>is too much.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Martha Wilkes" <Martha.Wilkes@sas.com>
>To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 1:57 PM
>Subject: How accessible is Netscape?
>The task of getting any web page to behave consistently across browsers
>is incredibly difficult already, as all the web designers and developers
>on the list are well aware. What does accessibility add to the equation?
>This issue came up in terms of testing for 508 compliance. How much
>should we focus on Netscape?
>Many of our customers use Netscape exclusively, and we were wondering if
>those customers (many of which are government agencies, universities,
>etc.) will be able to meet accessibility guidelines if they use only
>Netscape. The greater question: will their users be able to choose the
>technology that best suits them (which just might be IE for certain
>users, correct?), regardless of the agency's purchasing agreements?
>I have not had much luck finding out any information on Netscape's web
>site. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.
>martha.wilkes@sas.com | 919.531.1416
Received on Wednesday, 4 July 2001 00:16:03 UTC

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