Rough Guide: browsers, operating systems and screen reader support

Posted on Monday, 6 February 2012 by Steve Faulkner

Practical screen reader support by browser and OS (11/07/2013)

When testing aspects of support for new HTML5,  WAI-ARIA features and HTML features in general, I often test browsers that do not have practical support for screen readers on a particular operating system. I find they have support for feature X, but lack support for feature Y that is required to enable practical support to web content for screen reader users. While it is useful to test and find successful implementations of discrete features, it needs to be viewed in the broader context of which browsers can be considered usable with popular OS level screen readers.

I found it difficult to get a complete understanding from the resources available on the web, but have put together a high level support table based on information I could glean. If you have any further information or find any inaccuracies please comment.

Practical support

Practical support for screen readers means that a browser can be successfully used to browse and interact with commonly encountered web content, using current versions of OS level screen readers such as, on Windows; JAWS, NVDA, Window Eyes. On Mac OSX and iOS; VoiceOver. On Linux; Orca and on Chrome OS; ChromeVox.

table legend

  • supported “supported” means that the browser is usable in practice with a screen reader on the operating system (OS).
    Note: in the case of Internet Explorer it lacks support for some important features, but due to its market share screen readers hack around its lack of support.
  • “partial support” lacks support for some important features. For example, Chrome on Windows supports browsing using JAWS, but does not fully support accessible name calculation.
  • not applicable “not applicable” means the browser does not run on the OS
  • not supported “not supported” means the browser does not have practical support for screen readers on the OS.
  • not known “not known” means that accessibility support information is not publicly available.
  • supported, but limited support data.browsers recently added to OS’s, Early data indicates usable accessibility support.

Note: The table refers to the current (11/07/2013) versions of browsers and current versions of operating systems.

Practical screen reader support by browser and OS (11/07/2013)
Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer Opera Safari
Windows partial support supported supported note partial support not supported
OSX partial support partial support not applicable partial support supported
Linux not supported supported not applicable not supported not applicable
IOS supported, but limited support data not applicable not applicable partial support supported
Android supported supported not applicable not supported supported(webkit)
Chrome OS supported not applicable not applicable not applicable not applicable
Firefox OS not applicable supported, but limited support data not applicable not applicable not applicable

References:


About Steve Faulkner

Steven is the Senior Web Accessibility Consultant and Technical Director, TPG Europe. He joined The Paciello Group in 2006 and was previously a Senior Web Accessibility Consultant at Vision Australia. He is the creator and lead developer of the Web Accessibility Toolbar accessibility testing tool. Steve is a member of several groups, including the W3C HTML Working Group and the W3C Protocols and Formats Working Group. He is an editor of several specifications at the W3C including HTML 5.1, Using WAI-ARIA in HTML and HTML5: Techniques for providing useful text alternatives. He also develops and maintains HTML5accessibility

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