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Assistiv Labs August 2020 Product Updates

Here’s what’s new in assistive technologies, browsers, and Assistiv Labs this August.

Assistive technology updates

JAWS’s August 2020 update is out. Highlights include:

  • Fixed issue with table cell navigation for cells with colspan in Chrome
  • With IE11, JAWS now honors the lang attribute in ARIA live regions
  • Fixed issue with reading HTML controls starting with punctuation

Browser updates

Firefox 80.0 is here. Highlights include:

Chrome 85 is here. This is a big one with 15,490 commits.

  • content-visibility: auto is supported, but beware accessibility implementation bugs
  • It’s now possible to declare CSS custom properties (variables) in your CSS, which can make it even easier to code for display adjustments, like dark mode
  • On Android, fast page labelling gives users an idea of how long they might have to wait before they click a link
  • NVDA no longer announces “not checked” for <button aria-pressed="true">, fixing NVDA #11406. Note that there’s still an issue with role="switch" (commit d6626c)
  • When using an <input role="combobox"> with google.com style autocomplete, VoiceOver will now read the search suggests as they’re autocompleted into the input (#1106933)
  • Chrome’s suggested password UI is now exposed to ATs (#786147)
  • When navigating by paragraph in a screen reader, bulleted or numbered list items are now read correctly, along with their nesting level (#1090454)
  • Chrome's 3 dot menu works with VoiceOver and other ATs again (#1100230 and #1105917)
  • Chrome now emits detailed text change accessibility events for ATs, which, among benefits for NVDA, JAWS, etc, enables Orca announcements for misspelled words (#1062063)
  • Text selection changes no longer include text outside the selection in ATs (#1082814)
  • MacOS Catalina’s Hover Text accessibility feature now works with Chrome UI (#1090845)
  • Narrator can now trigger default action on an element in a single-selection container such as a tabitem (change 6bf9ea)
  • VoiceOver follows the mouse cursor in Chrome again (#1086819)
  • Orca no longer hangs while Chrome loads a large plain-text file (#1050718)
  • Narrator now reads the column header in tables (commit 0dacea)
  • If you use the chrome://accessibility event recorder and Chrome crashed on you, that should be fixed (#1081469)

Want to try a cool new Chrome feature? Launch Chrome with the --enable-features=AccessibilityFocusHighlight, then head to Chrome’s Settings > Appearance > Advanced > Accessibility > Show a quick highlight on the focused object.

Once enabled, Chrome will show a blue focus rectangle around the document.activeElement even if its focus styles have been removed! Commit da040f.

As a final note, chrome://flags/#enable-reader-mode has been seeing quite a few bug fixes. Hopefully it’ll come out from behind its flag soon.

Microsoft Edge 85 is also here. Remember Edge shares a codebase with Chrome, so most of the fixes above also apply here (in fact, some of those Chromium bugs were fixed by Microsoft employees!).

Assistiv Labs updates

Screenshot of Inspect.exe pinned to the Windows taskbar.

Inspect.exe is now pre-installed for all Assistiv Labs sessions. You can find it pinned to the Windows taskbar (hidden by default, mouse to the bottom of your window to reveal it). Both x86 and x64 versions are available (Chrome and Firefox are x64, Edge and IE11 are x86).

You can use Inspect.exe to view the accessibility tree that the browser exposes to the OS, as well as invoke actions through the accessibility API. This can be handy for determining why SPACE with NVDA doesn’t work with your custom control, for example.

Note that Chrome and Firefox do not create their accessibility trees until an assistive technology requests that they do, so if the tree looks empty, make sure an AT like NVDA has interacted with the browser.

Also, Assistiv Labs sessions now start with animations enabled for Windows. Previously they were disabled by default, which turned on @media (prefers-reduced-motion) in browsers, causing some confusion. You can still enable reduced motion through the Windows Settings app under Ease of Access > Display > Show animations in Windows.

Note: JAWS automatically turns on reduced motion when it boots and off again when it exits. There doesn’t seem to be a setting to change this behavior. NVDA and Narrator do not effect the setting.


That’s all for this month. If you have feedback, questions, or want to know more about specific bug fixes, I’m on the other side of this email — just hit reply.

Weston Thayer, Founder
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