Turn Firefox into a screen reader with Fire Vox

I’ve sen Fire Vox mentioned plenty of times but have never had any luck getting it to work on my Mac. Until now, that is. Not sure what I’ve been doing wrong the other times I have tried it, but the other day I gave it another shot and it worked without any problems.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Fire Vox, it is a free, open source screen reader extension for Firefox that works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Among other things it has support for WAI-ARIA and the CSS3 Speech Module, and is a good alternative to VoiceOver if you’re on a Mac and need a screen reader for web browsing (or testing).

One thing that had me a little bit confused at first is that, at least as far as I can tell, you need to tab into a freshly loaded page before the “Auto Read” option (Ctrl + Shift + a) will work. Read Next (Ctrl + Shift + f) and Read Previous (Ctrl + Shift + d) work even if the focus is still in the location bar. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but if you load up a site and nothing happens when you press Ctrl + Shift + a to have Fire Vox read the entire page, try using tab or (Ctrl + Shift + f) to move keyboard focus to the loaded page first.

For developers Fire Vox makes it easy to check how their sites work in a screen reader. Sure, it’s just one of several available screen readers, but this one is free and cross-platform. In other words there is no reason for you not to have it installed, so grab a copy right now.

Posted on September 23, 2008 in Accessibility, Browsers