[RCD] Roundcube and accessibility

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu May 8 22:39:40 CEST 2014

On Thursday 8. May 2014 08.57.40 Thomas Bruederli wrote:
> On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 8:49 AM, Cor Bosman <cor at xs4all.nl> wrote:
> > European law also defines some web accessibility standards, which all
> > government procurements have to abide by.
> > 
> > It certainly wouldnt hurt to make roundcube more accessible, andif a lot
> > of work is being done to investigate and solve accessibility, please
> > document this work and write a plugin guide so plugin authors can
> > follow.
> That's the intention of the wiki page:
> http://trac.roundcube.net/wiki/Dev_AccessibilityGuidelines

For reference, my previous message on the topic can be found here:


I did try out various Roundcube features (mostly concerning the Kolab calendar 
plugin, however) in conjunction with the Fangs "screen reader emulator" [1]. 
Various other tools were recommended to me and these are already mentioned on 
the wiki page (Orca, NVDA), but I don't run a system that can use them 
effectively (or at all, given the Windows-only nature of NVDA).

From what I found, JavaScript Web applications should still be accessible, 
contrary to the established beliefs in the wider Web development community. 
Screen readers can be aware of the DOM and are able to notice changes in it. 
Even Fangs, which is supposedly very simple, is able to obtain a lot of 
information straight from the DOM. Whether screen readers need to be actually 
aware of JavaScript itself is debatable, but there's useful advice on such 
matters out there:


(Unfortunate that the charts are broken on that page, though!)

Fangs doesn't seem to be aware of ARIA annotations and isn't able to notice 
the significance of the controls in Roundcube, or at least this was the case 
last year. However, the jQuery output produced by Roundcube does seem to be 
usable by screen readers in principle. I did aim to evaluate other 
accessibility tools, but I ran out of time.

One weird and rather specific thing I encountered was the use of "CSS 
sprites", at least in the calendar plugin. Some people are skeptical about 
this technique [2], and I think its use might need reconsidering for properly 
accessible functionality. On other issues of recommended practices, it looks 
like the wiki page summarises the pertinent WCAG guidelines quite well. I know 
that I went and changed some of my own Web applications after reading some of 


[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fangs-screen-reader-
[2] http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2010/03/26/css-sprites-useful-

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