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Can a Different Browser Really Change Website Accessibility?

Jun 1, 2017

Although on a surface level all browsers are in competition, the major companies have a secret incentive to work together when it comes to website accessibility. Because of government regulations and commercial standards, developers make products for browsers that pay close attention to website accessibility and provide the backdrop and the tools necessary for web developers to easily make their digital products accessible.

In general, all of the major desktop and mobile browsers have similar features pertaining to website accessibility. These features include a simple way to magnify text, increase volume, and customize the keyboard and other input devices for staggered input. As long as the hardware is running the latest version of the browser, all of these features should be intact and easily employed for any program running on top of the browser.

To this end, the major browsers adhere to a set of standards, including providing base code for the following features:

  • Alt text for images that describes the image meaningfully.
  • Content structured to help in page navigation — headings, subheadings, bold, and italicized text.
  • Links vetted for viability and language that fully details the final destination of the link.
  • Transcripts provided for all audio.
  • Captions provided for all video.
  • Color not used as a primary way to confer meaning.

None of the features above would be able to be implemented easily without streamlined and vetted code from browsers.

Major companies take the power of browsers to new levels by coding add-ons, such as sign language programs for webcams and split screen magnifiers for people with visual impairments. The three major accessibility features include screen reading, keyboard controls, and visual enhancement.

Some of the well-known first-party browser functions for website accessibility include the following:

  • ChromeVox — Users with vision impairment can magnify any text and change the color of that text within Google Chrome. Users can magnify text with the mouse for directed magnification or with the keyboard to magnify the entire page at once.
  • VoiceOver — Visually impaired web users have the advantage of a multilayered accessibility platform on Safari. They can focus the page on certain parts, use keyboard shortcuts to move to predetermined locations, magnify text easily, and take advantage of closed captioned viewing for all HTML5 videos.
  • Internet Explorer Pinning — Users can pin websites within Explorer to keep from losing them. They can also zoom in on text, take advantage of easy keyboard shortcuts, and use Explorer Accelerators to speed up browsing in a number of ways.

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