Open Source accessibility: FOSDEM 2017

FOSDEM is a free event for developers of free and open software, held in Brussels each year. With 30 tracks to choose from, it’s an intense two days of ideas, knowledge and collaboration.

I gave a short talk in the Open Source Design Room (hosted by the Open Source Design project), looking at four open projects that together represent the different layers of the accessibility stack: the screen reader (NVDA), the code (HTML), the browser (Firefox), and the accessibility API (Accessibility Object Model(AOM)).

There was time for a couple of questions at the end:

What is the difference in capability between NVDA and the propriatary screen readers?
All screen readers are slightly different in their capabilities, but NVDA is as fully featured and capable as those developed by closed software teams.
We’re trying to make our products accessible, but where do we go for help?
There is a Slack channel called A11y Slackers where many accessibility specialists gather (and can answer your questions), and two email-based forums where you can post questions: WebAIM and WAI-IG.
What extensions and tools are available for testing accessibility?

ChromeVox is a browser-based screen reader, and there are integrated screen readers available on all platforms (Narrator on Windows 10, VoiceOver on Mac OS and iOS, TalkBack on Android and Orca on Linux).

There are also developer tools like Chrome Accessibility dev tools, Tenon API and aViewer.

Categories: Development


Hi, Léonie,

thanks for your talk. I attended it and had the chance to ask a “question” respectively highlight some other extensions concerning accessibility on the web.

First, there is ChromeVox (, which could help get a screenreader voice running. This may be a valid tool for a sighted developer, who wants to check out, whether her markup is recognised at all (you pointed out, that blind users still need a screenreader to use the operation system and start Firefox, which is absolutely correct).

Second, there are Accessibility Developer Tools for Chrome: which adds a new pane to the element tab. You can inspect what would be spoken out there, plus ARIA-attributes and colour contrast. Could be improved, but it is a beginning.

I’d welcome if you could update the post. Thanks.

Léonie Watson says:

Thanks André. I’ve updated the post.