[RCD] Roundcube and accessibility

Thomas Bruederli thomas at roundcube.net
Wed May 7 20:24:24 CEST 2014

Hello devs

I recently started to seriously work on accessibility improvements of
the Roundcube UI which has been a long standing issue. As a start, I
read through the W3C WCAG 2.0 and WAI-ARIA recommendations. From
there, I picked the points that seemed relevant and important for
Roundcube. I'm trying to collect all references in our wiki, from
which I then want to define some guidelines and best practices for
Roundcube developers. See the
work-in-progress wiki page here:

I found it particularly hard to apply the recommendations from WCAG to
Roundcube because it's more an application than a website providing
contents. But I assume that's where ARIA is meant to jump in. And
here's my first question: are there tools available that actually
implement these standards and actually make sense of all these aria-*

In a first attempt I started to make keyboard navigation work in the
main email view. While not completely finished yet, you should at
least be able to tab through all the button elements, operate the
message list and the popup menus. Once the message list gains focus
(that's not very visible yet but you can see a gray vertical bar on
the left of the first row), the arrow keys move the cursor while
<space> selects the row and <enter> opens the message. A descriptive
block explaining the list navigation shall be added to the page. If
that'll be sufficient for screen readers, I'm not very sure about but
maybe you guys can give me some guidance here. Or should we finally
add checkboxes to be on the safe side?

The plan is to finish the mail view first with all the necessary
changes and then apply them to other parts of the application once the
recommendations are complete.

The current state of development takes place in a separate branch of
our github repository (dev-accessibility) and a copy is available for
testing at:
http://demo.roundcube.net/accessibility/ (user credentials are listed
on demo.roundcube.net).

A major hurdle for me is also the lack of the right tools to verify
whether the improvements I added really make sense and will work with
the assistive tools out there. I'm currently using the Accessibility
Evaluation Toolbar for Firefox but feedback seems rather limited.

I'd much appreciate feedback and review from the experts out there on
both, the wiki page and the ongoing development as well as general
suggestions or lessons one already learned regarding this topic. This
is all pretty new to me but hopefully you can share your expertise and
experience with us. So feel free to respond here or to extend the wiki
page with recommendations and best practices.

Many thanks!


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