IE7 and Various Screen Readers and Screen Enlargers


Since we announced the release of IE7, we’ve noticed many questions and discussion about how well the program works with various screen readers and screen enlargers on the net. We wanted to provide the latest information we have from the various manufacturers of these products and answer some concerns around automatic updates.

IE7 and Automatic Updates

As we announced earlier, IE7 is now being distributed via automatic updates.That said, no matter what setting a user has for automatic updates, IE7 will not be installed without the user making an explicit choice to install IE7. Users will be given a notification screen that has choices to install, get a reminder to install later or to skip the install. IE7 will not be installed unless the user gives consent to have IE updated and users do not need to make changes to their automatic update settings.

Will IE7 Work With My Assistive Technology?

It is our suggestion that users of any assistive technology check with the manufacturer of their product about compatibility with any product and specific version. That said, we believe there are several shipping products or public betas that support IE7 today and those users should install IE7. For products that do not have an official version that supports IE7, we’ve tried to detail what issues the user will encounter. A user should assess the known issues with his or her comfort at working around the issues when installing IE7.

IE7 and Various Screen Readers and Screen Enlargers

To some extent the experience a user will have with IE7 is dependent on the particular screen reader or magnifier version a user is running. There are several instances where a user can install IE7 today and be working with little or no problem. We believe that by the end of November, sooner in several cases, products that require an official IE7 version will have shipped. Below are details on some of the products we know people use with IE7 today.

JAWS – Freedom Scientific

JAWS8, due out in November, adds enhanced support for IE such as announcement of RSS feeds on web pages and improved navigation of web pages with dynamically updating content. JAWS 7.1, the current shipping version, works well with IE7 with the exception of drop downs on web pages that are expanded or that the user expands. JAWS 7.1 does not read the item with focus in these cases. Freedom Scientific plans to release a free update to JAWS 7.1 that fixes this issue in approximately a week. JAWS 7.0 and earlier have several problems including missing content from frames on web pages, characters occasionally lost when typing in edit boxes, the previously described issues around web drop downs and the fact that JAWS configuration files which add specific enhancements for IE do not load. Updating to JAWS 7.1 from JAWS 7.0 or the 7.1 patch is a free update. Please watch the Freedom Scientific home page for more details.

Window-Eyes – GW Micro

Window-Eyes 6.0, presently in public beta, will be the official version of the software to support IE7. We expect it to ship before the end of November. The biggest difference between 6.0 and 5.5 is that 6.0 automatically announces some of the newer security notifications for anti-phishing, secure and IDN web pages. Window-Eyes 6.0 also has better performance when loading web pages into the product’s browse mode with IE7.

Window-Eyes 5.5, the current shipping version, works without any blocking issues with IE7. Users will find that the program’s browse mode does not come on automatically if a web page sets focus to an edit box. In addition, browse mode can not be enabled when in an edit box on a web page. In both cases tabbing to another item on the web page makes browse mode available.

ZoomText – AI Squared

ZoomText 9.04 Magnifier and MagReader, is the official version to support IE7. Users running any ZoomText 9.X version can obtain a free update to version 9.04 using ZoomText’s update feature or via a download from the company’s web site. More details are available on the AI Squared update page.

ZoomText 9.03 Magnifier, works with IE7 today if the user makes a one-time change to IE’s Use Clear Type setting. The user must turn this off from the Internet Options dialog. This is found in Internet Options:Advanced Tab:Multimedia:Always Use Clear Type. ZoomText 9.03 MagReader App and Doc readers do not work correctly with IE7. The issues have been resolved in ZoomText 9.04.

Hal, Lunar and SuperNova – Dolphin

Dolphin recently released updated map files to support IE7 with their 6.5 and 7.01 product versions. There is the possibility that users of the Dolphin products will experience a crash with IE7 but the fix is a one time rename of a file detailed in a Dolphin KB article.

There is a wide range of assistive technology for Windows and IE7 and this list covers only a few products. We welcome your feedback on your experiences with IE7 with the technology you are using. We’ll continue to work with the assistive technology industry on support for IE7 and future versions of the product.

Kelly Ford
IE Accessibility Team

Comments (27)

  1. Kelly Ford from Microsoft chimes in on the IE Blog all about the current state of screen readers with

  2. David says:

    When will the Dutch version of Internet Explorer 7 be released?

  3. Kelly Ford, a tester for the IE team, is blind and has posted some great information about IE7 and the

  4. Nektar says:

    I have found 2 bugs with IE7 when it is used with the keyboard.

    1. Ordinarily when you press the alt key the application’s main menu (File Edit etc) should be hilighted. However, the alt key has another role. When such an application menu is open or when a shortcut (right-click) menu is being displayed, then the alt key should close the current menu and not bring up the application’s main menu.

    This does not happen in IE7. When you right-click on a page or when you press the application key on an item, eg. an item in the list Favorites, and when you get the shortcut menu to that item, the alt key does not close the shortcut menu as it should but it also drops down the main IE7 menu. This is annoying and completely against what happens in all other Windows applications. The alt key should close a menu when it is active and not also drop down the main application menu at the same time.

    2. The tab key does not cycle through all the items on the IE7 toolbar. As a result, a user has to use the tab key in conjunction with the arrow keys. However, in the case of the new split buttons, the down arrow key can also drop down an additional menu that is associate with a specific toolbar button. Thus, navigating the IE7 toolbars with the keyboard has become confusing and not easy.

    For example, open the History list. Then press tab to reach the area where the buttons for choosing between the history, the favorites and the Feeds lists  is found. The tab key does not cycle between the 3 options (history, favorites and feeds). So, one has to use the arros. Well, press the down arrow to reach the Favorites list and thus change from the previously selected History list. This will never happen, since the down arrow key opens the History List’s shortcut menu instead. Thus, using the tab key does not cycle through all the options and using the arrow keys creates even more confusion since the down arrow can also open an associate shortcut menu.

    3. Why are there double shortcut keys for the History, Favorites, etc. CTRL+H and CTRL+SHIFT+H for example?

  5. stephencunliffegta@hotmail.com says:

    Speaking of keyboard issues, once again, the quick tabs is messed up, with its "Lets just hide on the user when they least desire it" features.

    If you press CTRL+Q to get quick tabs, you can’t tab from one thumbnail to another.

    If you do, you will lose quick tabs, and set focus on the address bar of the last used tab.

    Fine, so you use the arrow keys instead… try going to the right, through all the thumbnails… you get blocked at the end of the row, and it doesn’t drop you down to the next one (annoying).

    Can’t tab to the add favorite toolbar icon… requires arrow key navigation… except… tada if you go "right" after the end of the row, it cycles back to the first one… hmmm, kinda conflicts with the behavior of the quick tabs doesn’t it?

    CTRL+H will open the history… but CTRL+H won’t close it, after you open it!

    CTRL+F4, will close it, oh, and the current tab you are viewing goes bye bye too!

    ALT+C, opens the fav center… but ALT+C won’t close it once open…

    now, if you do…

    CTRL + SHIFT + H… this will open and close, the "embedded" History view

    CTRL + SHIFT + J…. (ditto for Feeds…)

    but…

    CTRL + SHIFT + I… *Should* work for Favorites, but tada!… nope, doesn’t work to open or close!

    Now if I do CTRL + I, this will open the "hovering" favorites center… and *IF* I switch it to history or feeds, with CTRL+SHIFT+[H or J], then, I can use the same sequence again, to hide it.

    If I press CTRL + I, in the favorites, pressing TAB, seems to be very effective at doing nothing more than highlight (via an under-shadow) the favorites "button"… although pressing [ESC] does seem to get rid of the panel, as long as it is not pinned.

    Oh, and one last item… the help, on the print preview window, shows help for Windows Vista.  Now I know what Vista is all about, but I’m betting Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, and anyone non-techy won’t have a clue.

  6. When I get around to posting a bio, you’ll find out that I have a background in making technology accessibility

  7. Kelly Ford [MSFT] says:

    @Nektar,

    The alt key behavior you’ve described is indeed a bug.  Thanks for alerting us to this.

    We have two sets of hotkeys to open the Favorites Center to the various views so the user can choose to opened in pinned or unpinned modes.  Ctrl and the associated hotkey opens in unpinned mode.  Ctrl+shift and the associated hotkey opens the Favorites Center in pinned mode.

    @steve_web,

    When you open any of the Favorites Center views in pinned mode with ctrl and the appropriate hotkey, escape is the key to close.

    Alt+c is another way to open the Favorites Center directly to your favorites list.  Because you are then in unpinned mode, it is again escape to close.

    Do you have any toolbar that might be taking over ctrl+shift+i?  This does open the Favorites Center to favorites in pinned mode.

    When the Favorites Center is opened in unpinned mode, focus starts on the list of items for that view.  Tab then cycles to the button to pin the Favorites Center, the group of buttons for changing views and back to the list of items in that view.

    When in Quick Tabs use the down arrow to move from row to row.

    @David

    We talked about the release schedule for international versions at http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/10/18/ie7-for-the-world.aspx a bit ago.

    Thanks,

    Kelly

  8. cooperpx says:

    Speaking of keyboard bugs:

    Two boxes at work do not have page up / page down working in IE7, yet fine in every other application (including IE6 just prior to upgrade). Wish I had more to go on, but they were straight upgrades from IE6 to IE7 from the release download page.

  9. Freedom Box System Access also supports IE 7.

  10. Andrew H says:

    steve_web,

    You press CTRL-Q and then use the arrow keys (up, down, left, right) to navigate the thumbnails.  How hard is that?  Annoying? I think not.

    Steve_web and Nektar, this tabbing behaviour is STANDARD IN WINDOWS APPS.  The tab tabs between controls, arrow keys move between items within a control.  For example, bring up your desktop, tab to a file, then use your arrow keys to move arround.

    THESE ARE NOT BUGS!!!

    Argh i shouldn’t read these things anymore.

    oh, and I find it strange that someone would use the alt key to close a context menu rather than <esc>, but maybe that’s just me.

  11. goose says:

    IE7 is out; everyone should update, including those who make assistive applications for assisting the unassistable!

  12. Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis says:

    Has anyone properly tested Baum’s Virgo 4 and WebFormator with IE7? How about Thunder and WebbIE? Is Flash content "accessibility" affected by IE7 at all?

  13. Nektar says:

    The alt key bug also exists in Windows Media Player 11. Could you please inform the team if possible?

    You should also find a solution with the split buttons problem and decide at last if tab will be used to cycle through the options or if the arrow key willl be. In this case, opening the shortcut menu attached to a split button should be done with another hotkey.

  14. Bob Sangster says:

    Thank you. As the person with the remit for training within the ITCanHelp Management Group, this is exactly the information we required.

    ITCanHelp is a voluntry organisation which helps the disabled with any computer problems, so the information ‘posted’ is very important for our clients.

    Thank you.

  15. Aedrin says:

    "Is Flash content "accessibility" affected"

    LOL

  16. @Benjamin: the fine folks at Baum have published a public beta 1 of WebFormator 2.2 that should do the job with Virgo4.x. See http://webformator.de/

  17. Mike says:

    I think what steve was getting at was that pressing the right arrow key when the right-most quick tab is selected should move to first item on the next row.

  18. Davve says:

    I am desperately trying to ensure that the web pages I build are accessible but still do things like ajax. However, this is tough to do without knowing how a screen reader or other assistive technology will behave when it sees the page. Sorry, but I am not going to buy a copy of $900 dongle-protected software to make sure my page works with it. Is there some other way to go? Can I somehow detect the use of assistive technologies on a page, for example?

  19. @Benjamin: the fine folks at Baum have published a public beta 1 of WebFormator 2.2 that should do the job with Virgo4.x. See http://webformator.de/

  20. Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis says:

    (In order to slip past the ferocious ieblog anti-spam dog, I’ve stripped the http:// from the beginning of my links. Apologies for the inconvenience, but at least this way you get to read this message today not in a few days time.)

    @ Tomas Caspers

    That’s great news! Thanks for the info.

    @ Davve:

    I’ll get to the technical stuff in a moment, but the number one problem in web accessibility is a failure of imagination. Not just a failure to imagine ways to create accessible interfaces, but a failure to imagine what people with disabilities are interested in. For example, web designers often tell me that while accessibility is (of course) important it just doesn’t matter for the site they’re building because it’s about photography and (of course) blind people aren’t interested in photography. Which might be a passable argument, if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that actually blind people /are/ interested in photography:

    tinyurl.com/ygozdo

    At its worst, this failure of imagination extends to questioning the basic idea of web accessibility, even in the national media:

    tinyurl.com/y9on4j

    Anyways, back to the technobabble. In general, you should try to separate content (HTML/microformat structure and semantics), from presentation styles (CSS), and behaviour (JS). Your HTML and CSS should validate. Hacks to support IE, for example by pulling in a targeted stylesheet or adding superfluous quotation punctuation for Q, should be relegated to conditional comments. JavaScript should be added unobtrusively:

    http://www.sitepoint.com/print/javascript-from-scratch

    In general, follow W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0:

    http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/

    If you’re creating a CMS, you might want to look at W3C’s Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 too:

    http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-AUTOOLS/

    For a controversial take on WCAG, see Joe Clark’s free online book Building Accessible Websites:

    joeclark.org/book/

    (Be warned that in Clark’s own words, "[t]he 2002-era advice is left intact for historical accuracy … [and some] … of the methods espoused in the book are now outdated".)

    For other approaches, see:

    1) Mark Pilgrim’s famous

    diveintoaccessibility.org/

    2) the (UK) Royal National Institute for the Blind’s Web Access Centre:

    tinyurl.com/7psxk

    3) the (US) National Cancer Institute’s usability research and advice:

    http://www.usability.gov/

    For tools, see:

    1) accessify.com/tools-and-wizards/

    2) http://www.visionaustralia.org.au/ais/toolbar/

    Combining Ajax and accessibility is tricky to say the least. See the links I collected at:

    tinyurl.com/ybsu28

    To try and summarize best practice as I see it: where appropriate, Ajax should improve existing user interfaces, but not entirely replace them. Learn how to help those assistive technologies that do support Ajax to report and interact with dynamic content correctly. Provide a help page which explains how to configure assistive technology to work with the site. Crucially, ensure that all users can use the first page and help page of your site regardless of their current configuration.

    Finally, test with as broad a range of technologies and as many new and old users of those technologies as you can budget. I’m afraid you can’t test in JAWS without forking out serious cash ($895 minimum). But there are cheaper, even free, alternatives to JAWS:

    tinyurl.com/y7hxbs

    Fire Vox, a cross-platform, free, open-source extension to Firefox, GW-Micro Window-Eyes developers’ time-limited demo, and the pioneering "audio desktop" Emacspeak are all stand-out options. There’s nothing stopping you using all three!

    Alternatively, if you’d prefer to outsource testing, how about:

    http://www.usabilityexchange.com/

    Much discussion about web accessibility is focused on the fully blind but don’t forget all the other disabilities: colorblindness (don’t rely on color alone), poor eyesight (make sure users can zoom content), deafness (don’t just subtitle your video content, caption it), motor disabilities (make sure users can navigate efficiently with the keyboard), fatigue (don’t distract users with superfluous junk), cognitive disabilities (use pictures as well as text, keep language simple or be willing to explain it carefully if you have a general audience), and so on.

    Other than improving how you design, code, and test your own websites, how else can we make the web more accessible? Here’s two possible ways:

    1) Increase the pressure on commercial companies to improve their accessibility support. Encourage assistive technology makers to take a greater interest in web standards and Ajax. Encourage the IE Team to expose more detailed information about the HTML DOM to MSAA (perhaps like Gecko already does), so that assistive technology can more easily determine, for example, when text is inside a Q element. Encourage Adobe to expose information from their "accessible" Flash Player to assistive technology users of browsers other than Internet Explorer:

    tinyurl.com/y68flt

    2) You might choose to help develop and spread free and open-source assistive technology that does not depend on the mercy of such companies:

    http://www.oatsoft.org

    Depending on your assessment of the pros and cons, you might also wish to encourage public, charitable, and educational bodies to spend monies on open-source bounties to fix specific accessibility problems rather than just subsidizing the latest crop of closed-source software:

    launchpad.net/bounties/

    For further help and discussion, may I recommend http://www.accessifyforum.com , and the #accessibility and #web channels on irc.freenode.org.

    Hope that all offers food for thought, if nothing else.

  21. Check out this post on the IE Blog about what the screenreader vendors are doing to catch up with IE7

  22. Paul Topping says:

    Just wanted to mention that we are going to release a new version (2.1) of MathPlayer, our free IE plugin that displays MathML within web pages. It works with screen readers to enable them to speak the math.

    Math speech and screen reader compatibility is a feature of the current version of MathPlayer available on our website but the new version fixes a few small bugs with IE7.

    Paul Topping

    Design Science

    http://www.dessci.com/mathplayer

  23. Chris says:

    Mike: Next row of what exactly?

    Nektar you are mad

  24. Ryan says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if you guys actually made any changes in IE7.  All those weird css quirks i’ve grown to hate in ie6 are still in ie7… You guys would be better off using the mozilla engine with your own skin (like Flock). I can’t wait til Firefox and OSX tip the scales.

  25. Ricky Onsman says:

    @Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

    That’s a well-structured overview. About the only resource I would add is Derek Featherstone at http://www.boxofchocolates.ca/ (I’m following your lead on omitting the hypertext protocol prefix).

    His approach to accessible web design is grounded in the practical and applicable. "It’s not about checklists, it’s personal."

  26. Charles Bocock says:

    IE7 still doesn’t work with Microsoft’s own Fingerprint reader hardware, which was fantastic on IE6.

    It just brings IE7 to a complete halt whenever you browse to a page that was previously handled by the Fingerprint reader, and it jumps to 100% CPU for about 1-2 minutes.

    It’s a total disgrace that Microsoft can’t make hardware it brands with its name work with its own software.

  27. Kelly Ford [MSFT] says:

    I wanted to let readers following this topic know that the updates to JAWS 7.1 and the full JAWS 8.0 release mentioned have been released.  The Freedom Scientific home page at http://www.freedomscientific.com has more details.