Web Browsers and Assistive Technology

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Accessibility on the web is something that people with disabilities and their advocates have fought long and hard for. The equal opportunity to do things that non-disabled people have the pleasure of doing on a daily basis is something that is and will be a continued fight. Something as simple as a web browser can be a topic of lengthy debate. While some web browsers claim to be compatible with different types of assistive technology, programs like screen readers or Refreshable Braille displays, very few actually are. Let’s take a look at the best web browsers to help those with disabilities access the web.

By far, the best web browser to customize for seeing and reading is Firefox. The web browser itself allows users to change the appearance of the text so that every website visited has the same font, font size, and color. Firefox also gives users the ability to download extensions for even more customization. Extensions are small software programs that can enhance the usability of a website browser. Firefox has thousands of these extensions that users can download for many types of tasks. For seeing and reading the Internet better, Firefox has extensions for changing the colors of a webpage so it is easier to read, decluttering website of ads to limit distractions, for changing text to speech, for making elements of Firefox, such as the bookmark bar icons, look larger, and more.

Chrome is also a good choice for a browser that will support assistive technology. Although, Chrome does not have any built in settings for changing the look of text. However, it does offer a wide range of extensions that individuals can use to customize their Chrome browser. It also has a few web browser looks that you can download to give the browser a different look or style. One thing that does come ready to use with your Chrome browser is a screen reader called TalkBack. Originally, TalkBack was only installed on Android devices, but has since been added to the Chrome browser. TalkBack is an accessibility service that helps blind and visually impaired users interact with their devices. TalkBack adds spoken, audible, and vibration feedback to your device. It is a system application that was pre-installed and is updated when the accessibility service is improved.

Internet Explorer has received some positive feedback for its accessibility and assistive technology. Although there are some built-in accessibility features for the browser, none of them really seem to make any major changes to the overall appearance of the browser or websites within the browser. As far as extensions go, Internet Explorer does have a few to download, but their selection is extremely limited and none seem to be related to the appearance of the browser. One thing to consider is that many people without disabilities find Internet Explorer difficult to use, so the same, or worse, could go for those with any sort of visual or hearing impairment.

Assistive technology in web browsers has been virtually overlooked for quite some time, but luckily that’s all changing. Developers are creating extensions for already existing browsers to enhance the usability of the browser for those with disabilities. Could it be possible that somewhere in the future there would be a browser developed completely for disabled users? We can only hope, but until then, these browsers and extensions are the best the web has to offer.