Web browsers

There is now a variety of web browsers available for accessing the internet (and mobile phones). In the early days of internet 'surfing' the most well known were probably Internet Explorer and Netscape. The 'new kids on the block', relatively speaking, were Firefox, Safari and Opera, although other browsers are undoubtably in development. They all have their plus points and minus points - at the end of the day, it's all down to personal preference. Without wishing to favour any particular name, here is a brief overview of browsers and their 'add-ons'.

  • eSSENTIAL Accessibility

    The provider of a software-based service that makes online environments fully accessible to individuals with physical disabilities.

    The software includes many assistive technology features which gives users with physical limitations the tools they require to access a website.

    eSSENTIAL website (and free download)

    Fully compatible with external tracking devices like Quick Glance, SmartNav, Tracker One, Head Master, joysticks or switches and already includes built-in tools like:

    1. Onscreen Keyboard and Layout Designer
    2. WebCam Mouse
    3. Auto Click
    4. Auto Scan
    5. Manual Scan
    6. XY Mouse
    7. Radar Mouse
    8. Direction Mouse
    screenshot of essential website
    Includes a Page-Reader system which allows any user with a vision limitation to:

    1. Read the content of any web page out loud
    2. Read the title of the frames out loud
    3. Read the content of a selected frame out loud
    4. Read the links on an open web page out loud
    Fully compatible with the following Voice Recognition systems:

    Scansoft Dragon Naturally Speaking 8.0 and above Microsoft Speech recognition 6.1 or greater

  • Firefox
    Firefox runs on various versions of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Version 3 released July 2008. (Information source: Wikipedia). It provides many built in accessibility features for both users and web developers and the large collection of add-ons includes a growing number aimed at accessibility users.

    LowBrowse is an add-on to Firefox , and enables people with moderate or severe low vision to view web pages as the original web author intended, as well as read the text on those pages in a format that is tailored to their own visual needs. Requires Firefox 3.0 or higher. More information about LowBrowse . . .


    LowBrowse for the visually impaired

    ClickSpeak (Firefox Add-On)
    An open source, freely available extension for the Firefox web browser. It is part of the CLC-4-TTS Suite of products, it features a mouse driven interface, and it reads web pages - hence its name.
    Unlike Fire Vox which is designed for visually impaired users, CLiCk, Speak is designed for sighted users who want text-to-speech functionality.

    It doesn't identify elements or announce events - two features that are very important for visually impaired users but very annoying for sighted users. It also has a simplified, mouse driven interface that is designed to be easy for users familiar with point-and-click graphical user interfaces. Like Fire Vox, CLiCk, Speak works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux; and Fire Vox has multilingual support, making it great for users who are trying to learn a foreign language and need to hear foreign language web sites read out to them for practice.
    Information source: ClickSpeak

  • Internet Explorer
    The current Version 7 was released in 2006 and included 'tabbed' browsing, first seen in Firefox. Version 8 was released in beta in March 2008. Find out more about version 6 >

  • Safari
    First released 2003 and included with the Mac OS X v10.3. Version 2.0 released in 2005 and runs only on Mac OS X 10.4.x (Tiger) or later
    Version 3.1 is now available for the Mac OS X and PC. (Information source: Wikipedia).


    Safari browser on the iPhone

  • Opera 9.51 and OperaMini for mobile phones.

    Voice recognition in the Opera browser

  • Konqueror. Open source web browser. Supports Java applets, JavaScript, CSS 1, CSS 2.1, as well as Netscape plugins. Uses the HTML rendering engine called KHTML, which is used by Safari.

  • Communicate: Webwide. A symbols-supported web browser. Designed for people who find web pages too complex to deal with in their standard format. View web pages in symbols or plain text. View them as text in a pre-set size and colour. Change the background colour – ideal for those with a visual impairment. Sort the page layout into a clear, single column. Hear the pages read with speech synthesis.

    Screenshot of how 'Communicate' alters the web page format:
    Screenshot of Communicate

    Screenshot source: Widget software

  • WebbIE. A web browser for blind and visually-impaired people, especially those using screen readers. It comes with the Accessible programs, letting you access news and audio on the Internet in a simple and accessible way, allowing you to use podcasts, listen to the radio and read RSS and news with your screen reader or other access solution. Together they provide a way to access websites and other things online.

    It re-presents web pages as text with a caret, allowing users to use their existing screen reader or assistive technology to read it, but is not self-voicing

    Download a copy of WebbIE . . .

    Watch a video of WebIE in action . . .
    WebbIE Screenshot

    Webbie screenshot

    More screenshots. Source: WebbIE.org

  • Google Chrome. A new browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier (according to Google). A beta version for Microsoft Windows was released on 2nd September 2008. Read more about it . . .

    10 Features of Google Chrome

    Google Chrome Screenshot

    Google chrome screenshot

    Google Chrome - Hands-On Reviews:

    TechRadar / Tech Herald / TechZilo / Geeks Are Sexy

Browser Comparisons

Opera 9 versus Firefox 3

Firefox 3 versus Safari 3

Linux - KDE versus Gnome

Tuning your particular web browser

Making text larger in browsers for:

Changing text colours in browsers for: