Tabfocus: Access Firefox text fields etc. with Dragon

While Firefox is not seamless, the Mozilla developers have indeed at least been meeting us halfway, though perhaps unintentionally as many programmers are still woefully ignorant of speech recognition requirements. I just didn’t know it, because they don’t describe their accessibility options well at all. Bah.

While Dragon and Firefox have approached a level of semi-civility when it comes to clicking links (provided the website is compliant), one of Firefox’s main obstacles to navigation remains the inability to use commands like “click checkbox/radio button/text field.” I don’t know if that will change anytime soon, because Firefox’s user interface is written in JavaScript, which is a difficult language for some assistive technologies to play with. This is why so many people have been using the Mouseless Browsing add-on — it provides a way for us to vocally access the link, checkbox, field, or button by telling Dragon to press the corresponding numeral. However, a lot of people dislike using Mouseless Browsing because for them, the numbers clutter up the page. If you’re one of these people, Firefox has a few options built in that should make it a lot easier on you.

Unfortunately, these are not obvious unless you’re comfortable with about:config, which is Firefox’s skeleton key in terms of customizing its default behavior. Go to the address bar and enter about:config, and go there. If you get a message about voiding your warranty, ignore it.

You’ll see a bunch of entries that begin with “accessibility.” The one that pertains to accessing fields and boxes is called accessibility.tabfocus. Contrary to what I first thought, this has nothing to do with the number of tabs you can have open at once. You’ll see that it contains an integer value, probably 7. Highlight it and tell Dragon to press Shift-F10, which will give you the context menu for that option. Choose Modify, because you need to decrease the number.

Anywhere from 1 to 3 is a good number — nothing above that. These numbers restrict where your cursor focus goes when you press the tab key — it limits the tab key to finding lists, text fields, and buttons/checkboxes, in the order in which they appear. If you set it to 1, saying “tab” will put you into text fields only, and you say the tab key until you get to the text field that you want. Usually this is only a couple of times. If you set it to 3, you can access any field, list, box or (compliant) button, repeating until you get to the one you want. Again, the repetition isn’t usually excessive.

I know this method isn’t perfect compared to just zeroing in on whatever you want, but I think it’s a pretty decent workaround. Next up is a way to access links without mouseless browsing enabled.

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One Response to Tabfocus: Access Firefox text fields etc. with Dragon

  1. Carrie says:

    thank you thank you! I used to use an older version of dragon, when you could say click checkboxes, which is how my yahoo mail is configured. I’m going to try mouseless browsing now.

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