IBM Gives Accessibility Tech to Firefox

IBM on Monday announced that it was donating software to the Mozilla Foundation in order to make the next version of Firefox handicap accessible. The software would add the capabilities for Web pages to be automatically narrated or magnified, and allow navigation through keystrokes.

IBM would also donate technology to enhance the DHTML capabilities of the browser. Big Blue said its moves are to support its work for the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, as well as strengthen its commitment to standards and open source.

"IBM's commitment to further Firefox’s capabilities and reach people who have disabilities marks an important technical advancement for Firefox," Mitchell Baker, president of the Mozilla Corporation, said. "On a larger scale it is necessary to make the Web and all of its content accessible to everyone."

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 750 million to 1 billion people worldwide suffer from some type of speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive disability.

Both Mozilla and IBM see some of the enhancements especially helpful for seniors using the Internet. For some, computer text is hard to read without magnification, and the enhancements would allow them to read Web pages without the need for additional third-party software.

A beta of Firefox 1.5 is widely expected to arrive in September; however, it is not initially clear if the new accessibility technologies will make it in time for the first beta release.

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