[RCD] Roundcube and Accessibility

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu Jun 27 16:56:16 CEST 2013


Hello,

I have recently had reason to look at Roundcube's accessibility support, 
particularly for blind and visually impaired users who might consider using 
Roundcube with a screen reader. I am not in this audience, but I have been 
attempting to make myself more aware of projects, initiatives and 
specifications particularly related to Web development and accessibility.

It has not escaped my attention that Roundcube is often deployed alongside 
other solutions, typically to offer users the choice of webmail client where 
Roundcube is perhaps regarded as the most "desktop-like", and other clients 
such as Horde and SquirrelMail are regarded as being less fancy. Some 
examples:

https://calmail.berkeley.edu/
http://www.cms.hu-berlin.de/dl/kommunikation/email/webmail

It did make me wonder whether the less "fancy" alternatives are being used 
because they offer a more accessible experience to screen reader users.

As part of an evaluation of Kolab and Roundcube, I have been taking a look at 
the Roundcube interface in conjunction with accessibility tools such as Fangs 
[1], Orca [2] and Read2Me [3], also looking at the consensus around 
accessible Web application design. I also searched the mailing lists for 
discussion around accessibility issues with Roundcube, but found only the 
following things:

http://trac.roundcube.net/ticket/1484257
http://trac.roundcube.net/ticket/1487041

It has been difficult to find much discussion in the last five years on the 
topic, and so I'm hoping to get some opinions on this matter now to see if 
anything needs doing and could be done fairly easily to improve Roundcube in 
this respect.

To get started, I have been looking at what Fangs produces for the Roundcube 
calendar plugin provided with a full Kolab installation, trying to identify 
basic properties of the interface that could be enhanced to offer a 
potentially more navigable and accessible experience. According to various 
Web accessibility guides, exposing headings, page structure and links are all 
things that help people with screen readers. Roundcube uses headings quite 
successfully already, for example, although I haven't yet been able to assess 
how this translates to an improved screen reader experience. (My intention is 
to evaluate the experience with Orca and to try and devise concrete 
suggestions for improvements.)

Another topic that has become prominent in recent times is that of the 
WAI-ARIA specifications/technologies. It appears that jQuery annotates 
elements in the DOM with ARIA attributes, but I haven't really investigated 
the specific Roundcube support for ARIA. It would be interesting to hear 
perspectives on such technologies from members of this list.

At the moment, I'm really just testing the waters for the potential to improve 
Roundcube in this way. I'm not a major PHP/JavaScript developer, and the 
realm of Web accessibility is also rather new to me (in depth), but I'd like 
to know if developers on this list perceive any shortcomings of Roundcube in 
this regard and whether there might be convenient ways to make it better.

Regards,

Paul

[1] 
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fangs-screen-reader-emulator/
[2] https://projects.gnome.org/orca/
[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/read2me-speechify-the-web/


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