[users] General accessibility of Gemini browsers

Devin Prater r.d.t.prater at gmail.com
Wed Mar 10 17:27:49 GMT 2021

Hi all. A few weeks ago, I launched a discussion about the accessibility
of Gemini browsers, particularly of preformatted blocks. Now, I have
begun exploring the general accessibility of browsers as a whole. Things
I look at:

* If the browser UI can be navigated and used: like the address bar,
back/forward/tab buttons, and menu bar or menu popout button.

* If the browser text can be read.

* If the browser text exposes element types, like headings, links, block
quotes, ETC. mainly headings and links are important, everything else I
just assume to be paragraphs.

* If using a "normal" screen reader, like NVDA (Windows), Orca (Linux),
VoiceOver (iOS), or TalkBack and similar (Android), whether or not
navigation keys, like "h" for heading, "k" for link ETC. works to
quickly move throughout the page.

* If preformatted blocks can be folded/hidden or made into one element
to reduce noise.

I don't know if there's anything else I should be looking at or testing,
but Gemini browsers seem pretty simple thank goodness, so really that
seems to be all I need to look for.

# Testing so far

So far, I've used Elpher, Elaho, and Ariane a bit. Until Ariane stopped
and needed to be closed. I've also used Dragon Stone, Crystalle, and a
few other Linux apps. Mainly, I'll discuss the things I've seen done
right, and things that should be improved in browsers for accessibility.

## Elpher

Elpher is the Emacs Gopher and Gemini client. It works well with
Emacspeak, except headings aren't announced or spoken as such.
Everything else works fine: I can use the URL Entry command, move "up" a
page, add bookmarks, and so on. I can move by links with Tab, although
the link name isn't automatically spoken, like in EWW. However, since
links are all one on each line, I can have Emacspeak read the current
line to get the link name, and press Enter to open it. Emacspeak works
with packages using the Advise Emacs system of "scripting" functions.
That's how EWW works so well with Emacspeak. The problems I have with
Elpher are small, and I can live with them. The link symbol of pointing
arrows can be removed using Customize, leaving the link itself the only
thing on the line.

## Elaho

Elaho, I think, is one of the best clients for accessibility right now.
Not only does it expose all element types, has textual labels for all
browse_r UI elements, and gives the ability for VoiceOver to move
through item types, it compacts preformatted blocks into an "image"
label and only shows the Alt-text, if available._


_## Ariane_


Ariane is pretty new to me, but it works well. I can read the UI, and
the browser text. It even has the ability to hide preformatted blocks.
But, it lacks one important part, labels for non-paragraph elements,
like links and headings. I did turn on item type labels in its settings,
but that didn't seem to work. That may be a bug or something, but it
does help to know if something is a link or not. I'll have to keep
working with this one and see how far I can get with it. As I said, it
crashed on me last night, so I didn't get too far into it.

## gemiNaut

GemiNaut is really great too. I can use the UI, headings and links are
labeled, I can read the text of a site just like a website, so screen
reader navigation keys work. But, preformatted blocks aren't hidden, and
I've not found a setting to do this in the browser. I'll have to look
and see if there have been any updates to it in the last few weeks,
though. Otherwise, it works great!

## Others

Chrystalle, as I remember from the last time I've tried it, was not
usable at all. With DragonStone, I could read the text, but couldn't
tell what is a link or heading and what was plain text. I have yet to
mess with many terminal clients, but this is just a spark to start
discussion, I'll add more findings later on.

# Notes that may be helpful to programmers

For programmers, if your framework has a browser system, like GTK web
view or the Android web view, or iOS Safari thing you can embed in the
app, try that. Otherwise, you may have to just have a static text view
with a toggle in the app settings to show ingo like "heading" or "link"
and such. Also, don't be afraid to try your browser out with the screen
reader built into your OS. For Linux, there's Orca, or gnome-orca as it
may be packaged. For Windows, there's Narrator already built into
Windows. And if you have Windows 10, it works well enough for testing
real applications. For Android, there's TalkBack, which is included in
the Android Accessibility Suite. For iOS, there's VoiceOver, included in
every iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch since the iPhone 3Gs, so you're sure
to have it. Hopefully. :) And for MacOS, VoiceOver is built in there, too.

I hope this helps. :)

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