Mozilla this week released Firefox 73, a minor upgrade whose most notable addition was a new default setting for page zooming.
Software engineers working on the open-source browser also patched six vulnerabilities, half of them labeled “High,” Mozilla’s second-most-serious threat rating. As usual, some of the flaws might be used by criminals.
“We presume that with enough effort some of these could have been exploited to run arbitrary code,” the firm wrote of two of the bugs.
Firefox 73 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.
Mozilla last upgraded the browser on Jan. 7, or five weeks ago.
From this point forward, Mozilla will refresh the browser every four weeks. Firefox 74 will end a gradual reduction to the intervals between upgrades: Mozilla announced the release speed-up in September, when it said the original six-week span would be shortened to five weeks, then to four.
Firefox’s faster release tempo comes at a price: the distinct possibility that each upgrade will boast fewer new features, fewer improvements and enhancements. Firefox 73 is proof, as Mozilla was able to highlight just two changes evident to end users.
The first was a new user-set global default for the page zoom level. Rather than monkey with zoom for each site individually – to, for instance, zoom in to make text more readable for older eyes – users can set a default level higher or lower than 100% as the new baseline.
To change the default zoom (which remains at 100% if the user declines to modify it), users must open Preferences (on macOS) or Options (Windows), then under the “General” tab locate “Language and Appearance.” Select the desired default zoom from the box under “Zoom.”
That number – 110%, for instance – becomes the new baseline for all sites. Users can still manually increase or decrease zoom with keystroke combinations or from the menu.
The other addition trumpeted by Mozilla in Firefox 73’s release notes was labeled “readability backplate” and designed to collaborate with Windows’ high contrast mode. The latter is a setting that replaces the original colors of, say, a website’s text and background, with high contrast combinations for easier reading by people with vision issues.
Previously, Firefox has simply disabled background images when the user enabled high contrast mode. In Firefox 73, the readability backplate “places a block of background color between the text and background image,” Mozilla said. “Now, websites in High Contrast Mode are more readable without disabling background images.”
Days are numbered for TSL 1.0 and TSL 1.1
Mozilla, like other browser makers, is knee-deep in putting an end to the outdated encryption protocols of TLS (Transport Layer Security) 1.0 and 1.1.
More than a year ago, in October 2018, Mozilla announced that the two standards, TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1, would lose Firefox support in March 2020. That’s next to now.
In a Feb. 6 post, Thyla van der Merwe, the cryptography engineering manager at Mozilla, promised that the upcoming Firefox 74 would give the boot to the pair. “Expect Firefox 74 to offer TLS 1.2 as its minimum version for secure connections when it ships on 10 March 2020,” she wrote.
Although van der Merwe said that Firefox would retain an override button (which has been appearing on warnings when users try to reach a website encrypted by TSL 1.0 or TSL 1.1), she noted that with telemetry trends being what they were, “It’s unlikely that the button will stick around for long.”
The next version, Firefox 74, will release on March 10.
Smartphones can often pose a usability challenge for people with disabilities. But thanks to the efforts of Google and third-party developers, Android is now a lot more approachable and easy to operate for all users.
You can turn your Android phone into a sound amplifier, your personal transcriber, or control it with your face. Here are the best accessibility apps to set up an Android phone to work perfectly for your needs.
on your phone, such as “turn on Bluetooth.” But Google’s Voice Access app takes voice control to the next level and allows you to navigate all around your device by voice.
Once you’ve set up the app, it launches an always-on module. This proactively listens for your commands and assigns a number to every action available on the screen.
Instead of touching an app icon or menu element, for instance, you just have to call out the assigned digit. Voice Access links fixed phrases to fundamental actions, like “scroll down” for moving around pages and “go back” to return to the previous screen.
Voice Access’s speech recognition capabilities feature the same technology behind Google Assistant. Therefore, it’s fairly accurate—in our testing, we rarely had to repeat our commands.
EVA Facial Mouse is another app to assist those who have issues with touch interactions. It provides people with amputations, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries another way to operate their phones.
EVA Facial Mouse adds a cursor on your phone which you can manipulate through facial movements. To move the pointer, you simply have to move your head in the appropriate direction. When the cursor is over the element you want to select, wait for a moment or two to input a single tap.
You also have the option to switch on a dock for quickly accessing a handful of essential actions including home and multitasking. While EVA Facial Mouse can take a few attempts to learn, it is surprisingly responsive and works as advertised. Plus, you can edit the cursor’s sensitivity and speed to your liking.
Sound Amplifier is an Android accessibility app for users that suffer from hearing loss. As its name suggests, the app can amplify the sounds around you. However, it doesn’t do this for every kind of sound.
Sound Amplifier helps you hear conversations better. It sifts through whatever your microphone is picking up, boosts the speech-related frequencies, and curtails the rest.
The app comes with a handy interface from which you can precisely adjust its sound enhancement and noise reduction intensities. In addition, you can apply the volume and fine-tuning settings independently for each ear.
When you install Sound Amplifier, it will be available inside Settings > Accessibility instead of the app drawer. At the time of writing, Sound Amplifier only works with wired earphones and devices running Android 6.0 or above.
For people who are deaf or otherwise find Sound Amplifier inadequate, Google offers Live Transcribe. This app can perform a real-time transcription of speech in over 70 languages and dialects.
When you’re about to enter a conversation, simply fire up the Live Transcribe app and place your phone close to the other person. The app will actively transcribe the speaker’s voice. You can either talk to reply or type in your response on the app itself.
What’s more, Live Transcribe has bilingual support. Thus, if the speaker converses in a different language, the app will automatically translate their and your replies and display them on-screen.
On top of that, you can enable haptic feedback to know when somebody starts or resumes speaking. Live Transcribe can also detect a handful of other types of sounds. For example, if there’s a dog barking near you, the app will prompt a “dog sound” alert.
Lookout is the perfect digital companion for the visually impaired. Powered by the same underlying technology as Google Lens, Lookout can recognize all sorts of objects and dictate their descriptions as well as direction.
For instance, say you’re at a store and the clerk hands you some change. To verify it’s the right amount, you can direct your phone’s camera at the bills and Lookout will tell you their denominations.
Lookout can remain always-on. Hence, Google suggests you wear your Android phone on a lanyard around your neck or put in the front pocket of your shirt. You can even invoke it by knocking on the rear of your phone when it’s on a lanyard. Lookout has a couple of modes for various scenarios, like Shopping for reading barcodes and Quick Read to scan signs or labels.
For now, Google Lookout only supports Google, Samsung, and LG phones, and works in the United States.
If you have trouble reading text, seeing specific colors, or making out things on the screen, Chrome OS has accessibility features bursting at the seams designed to help you. You can manage them individually from the system menu or the Settings app to use on everyday tasks.
The easiest way to enable/disable each accessibility feature without having to open up the Settings app each time is directly from the system menu. This is off by default, so you’ll need to toggle it on first.
First, click on the clock to open the system menu and notification tray; then click on the Settings icon.
Scroll to the bottom and click “Advanced.”
Scroll a little bit further until you see the Accessibility section, and then toggle “Always show accessibility option in the system menu” to the On position.
The next time you open the system menu, the Accessibility button will be available. Click on it to open the expanded view.
You can click on any of the features available in this menu to enable them. If you’re unsure of what a particular feature does, however, we have you covered—read on to get the full details of what each of these does.
Both features under this section focus on using Google’s text-to-speech (TTS) engine to take content from the active window, then read it back to you. Chromebooks come equipped with a free built-in screen reader that allows you to hear what’s on your display.
ChromeVox: Chrome OS’ Screen Reader
You can turn on ChromeVox at any time by pressing Ctrl + Alt + z to hear a voice read aloud content from your cursor’s current position. If you’re using a tablet running Chrome OS, press and hold the Volume Up + Volume Down buttons for five seconds. You’ll hear a chime sound and a ChromeVox bar will appear at the top of your screen, notifying you it is enabled.
Some common shortcuts include:
Tab: Next focusable item
Shift+Tab: Previous focusable item
Search+H: Next heading
Search+Shift+H: Previous heading
Search+Down Arrow: Next line
Search+Up Arrow: Previous line
Search+L: Next link
Search+Shift+L: Previous link
Search+Ctrl+Shift+Right Arrow: Next word
Search+Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow: Previous word
Search+Ctrl+Left Arrow: Go to the top of the page
Search+Ctrl+Right Arrow: Go to the bottom of the page
To disable ChromeVox, repeat the hardware shortcut, and a chime will sound, notifying you it is now off.
Choose Text to Have Read Aloud with Select-to-Speak
Select-to-Speak works similarly to ChromeVox, but instead of reading full pages, it only reads text that you select. When enabled in System Menu > Accessibility > Select-to-Speak, an icon appears next to the system tray.
Once enabled, Select-to-Speak offers a few ways to select which text you want to hear:
Press and hold the Search key + select a line of text.
Press and hold the Search key + drag the pointer over an area of the screen.
Highlight the text and press Search+S.
Select the Select-to-speak icon from the taskbar, then select a line of text or drag the pointer over an area of the screen.
On a touchscreen: Tap Select-to-speak. Then tap a line of text or drag your finger over an area of the screen.
Select-to-Speak surrounds the selected text in a pink border and highlights the word currently being read so that you can follow along easily with the voice.
You can stop Select-to-Speak at any time while it’s reading by pressing either the Search key or Ctrl.
Change the Language or Voice Settings
If you don’t like the way TTS is speaking to you, it’s easy to change. You can alter its voice, pitch, or language without hurting its feelings. Head back to Settings > Manage Accessibility Features and click “Text-to-Speech voice settings” under the Text-to-Speech section.
Inside you’ll find a plethora of voice altering options to give the TTS a personal touch for your ear. You can even change the speech engine used for playback.
For anyone with trouble seeing what’s on the screen, Google has you covered with a set of tools built to help make your screen more viewable. Whether you need to use high contrast mode to make text easier to read or an on-screen magnifier to increase the size of everything, your Chromebook comes equipped with it all.
Make Text Easier to Read With High Contrast Mode
High contrast mode lets you use your Chromebook with inverted colors, designed to make it easier to read text on your screen. When enabled, white becomes black, black becomes white, blue becomes orange, orange becomes blue, etc.
You can enable high contrast mode in the System Menu > Accessibility > High Contrast Mode, or by pressing Ctrl+Search+H on the keyboard, followed by “Continue.”
Increase the Size of Everything With a Screen Magnifier
The screen magnifier for Chrome OS has two options to choose from: fullscreen or a docked magnifier. Fullscreen is a static magnification that increases the size of everything on the screen, while the docked version only magnifies the area around the mouse cursor. Either mode can magnify from 2X up to 20X. You can enable either option the System Menu > Accessibility.
Here’s a look at the docked magnifier at 2X zoom:
Warning: 20X magnification is no joke. If you do select it by accident, you can decrease the magnifier with Ctrl+Alt+brightness down button (F6) or Ctrl+Alt+scroll down with two fingers on the touchpad.
Adjust Additional Display Settings
There are additional display options available in the Accessibility menu that allow you to adjust your screen resolution—to make everything on your screen appear larger and more comfortable to see—and adjust the harsh glow of blue light on your eyes at night with a few additional display device settings.
Head into the Accessibility settings by clicking into the System Menu > Accessibility > then the Settings Cog. From there, click on “Manage Accessibility Features.”
Under the Display section, click on “Open display device settings.”
Inside, you can set the display’s resolution, orientation, or set up a night light—to remove blue light and make the screen easier on your eyes at night.
If the on-screen text is difficult to read or it strains your eyes, you can change the size and style of font in Chrome OS. Just head into the Accessibility settings and under the Display section, click on “Open appearance settings.”
It redirects you to the Appearance section in the Settings app. At the bottom of the section, choose the font size, customize the font, or increase the page zoom to make everything easier to see.
Keyboard and Text Input
Keyboard and text input include sticky keys— a feature that enables sequential keyboard shortcuts—an on-screen keyboard, and text dictation (speak-to-type). If you use your keyboard to navigate Chrome OS and browse the web, then you can make use of highlight features that show navigational focus on-screen.
Use Sequential Typing for Keyboard Shortcuts
The Sticky Keys feature is ideal for people who have trouble pressing more than one key at a time. It remembers each key you push, allowing you to take your finger off to press additional keys in a command. It frees up your fingers from having to press multiple keys all at the same time and instead take your time to push them in sequence with one finger. So, for example, if you want to take a screenshot, instead of pressing the Ctrl + ]] keys simultaneously, you can press them in tandem—first Ctrl, then ]].
When activated, a box appears in the upper left corner with the current ‘stuck’ key and a list of other keys available to press. Pressing the key a second time locks it, which lets you key in multiple commands without the need to press them again, indicated by an underline. Press the key a third time to cancel a stuck key.
Ditch the Physical Keyboard for an On-Screen Keyboard
When enabled, a keyboard icon appears next to the notification area and clock, click it to bring up the keyboard or click inside any text field to bring up the keyboard.
A few neat features that come along with the on-screen keyboard include handwritten text input, windowed mode—a feature that allows you to undock the keyboard from the bottom of the screen—and speak-to-text.
If you don’t see these options, click the arrow icon on the left-hand side of the keyboard and they should appear in the bar next to it.
Dictate Your Thoughts Into Any Text Field With Speak-to-Text
If you don’t want to enable the on-screen keyboard to use speak-to-text, your Chrome OS also has a standalone accessibility feature specifically for dictation. After you enable speak-to-text from the Accessibility section in the system tray, a microphone icon appears on the shelf, next to the clock.
Click the icon to turn on dictation and anything you say gets input into a text field.
Note: Anything you say while dictation is listening is sent to Google to work correctly. If you don’t want Google having a record of everything you say, don’t use dictation.
Highlight Objects When Using Keyboard Navigation
When you use a keyboard to navigate Chrome OS or to browse the internet, it can be challenging to see exactly where the focus lays, missing the small dotted line that surrounds each element. For that, enable “Highlight the object with keyboard focus when it changes” to display an orange perimeter around your intended focus. Now, any time you hit Tab to jump between links on-page, you don’t need to scan the whole page to locate the focus.
Highlight the Text Cursor When Its Position Changes
This feature works similarly to the one above but instead of keyboard focus. It highlights the text caret—the blinking vertical line that appears when you click in a text box—when it appears or moves position. Anytime you click or start to type in a text field, a blue aura surrounds the caret.
Change Keyboard Device Settings
Under the Keyboard and Text Input section in Accessibility settings, there’s a sub-menu that lets you change the behavior of pressing keys on the keyboard and functionality of the top-row keys.
Under Settings > Manage Accessibility Features, click on “Open keyboard device settings” to see a list of available features.
Here you can change the top row of keys into Windows-style “Function Keys” and enable whether you want keys to repeat if you continue to hold it down. You can also set the delay and repeat rate between the output of each character on screen.
Mouse and Touchpad
Mouse and touchpad accessibility focus on visibility of the cursor and how you interact with a mouse/touchpad. These features help you make the pointer easier to see, reduce the need to click your mouse physically, and highlight the cursor when it moves.
Reduce Physical Mouse Presses With Automatic Clicks
This feature eliminates the need actually to click the mouse/touchpad. Whenever you stop the cursor, a timer starts and will initiate the click for you if it remains unmoved. You can set the timer to different intervals that range from “Extremely Short (0.6s)” to “Very Long (4s).”
Easily Find Your Mouse Pointer With Increased Mouse Cursor Size
Chrome OS’s default mouse cursor is by far one of the most challenging things to locate on-screen, even for someone with perfect 20/20 vision. Luckily, with this accessibility feature, you can change the size of the pointer up to an almost comical foam-finger size.
Highlight the Mouse Cursor When Its Position Changes
How many times have you frantically wiggled the mouse, squinting at the screen in a desperate attempt to find your cursor? We’re all guilty of it, and with this feature, all you have to do is move the pointer, and a red circle surrounds it, which makes it way easier to spot on the screen.
Additional Mouse and Touchpad Device Settings
There are a few other mouse and touchpad settings you can access from a sub-menu that lets you customize them even further.
From Settings > Manage Accessibility Features and under the Mouse and Touchpad section, click “Open mouse and touchpad device settings” to open the settings.
Inside you can find swap mouse button, reverse scroll direction, change mouse speed, for the mouse. Then for the touchpad, you can change touchpad speed, enable tap-to-click or tap dragging—double-tap, then drag windows around—and scrolling orientation.
Chrome OS offers a couple of audio related accessibility features to round things out. You can enable mono mode to have all speakers play the same audio or have Chrome OS play a sound when it starts up.
Play the Same Audio Through All Speakers
A majority of devices use “Stereo” mode to play audio from your speakers/headphones with more than one channel (left and right). If you’re hard of hearing in one ear or only listen to audio using one earbud/speaker, you can easily switch your Chromebook to “mono” mode, so the same audio comes out of all speakers.
Just as the title suggests. When you start up Chrome OS, a sound plays to signal it’s ready for you to sign in. You can only enable this feature through Settings > Accessibility > Manage Accessibility Features.
Chrome OS does a great job to include everyone, regardless of their ability to use a standard computer or not. With this comprehensive list of accessibility features, it’s easy to add any number to your laptop that tailors it to your unique needs.
If you have trouble reading text on websites, seeing specific colors, or have dyslexia, Google Chrome has accessibility features that can help. You manage them individually through various Chrome extensions available in the Web Store.
Official Google Accessibility Extensions
Google offers four official accessibility extensions that you can add to your browser from the Chrome Web Store:
Color Enhancer: A customizable color filter applied to webpages that improve the perception of colors for people with partial colorblindness.
Caret Browsing: An extension that lets you browse the text of a webpage using the arrow keys of your keyboard.
High Contrast: Change or invert the color scheme of webpages to make it easier to read the text with the press of a button.
Long Description in Context Menu: Add an item to your right-click context menu that opens an image’s long description link—a special HTML attribute used by some assistive technologies to provide more information than an image’s alt-text.
To install one of these extensions, click the “Add to Chrome” button to the right of its name.
Read the extension’s permissions and then click “Add Extension.”
After a few seconds, the extension will be installed and ready to use.
Third-Party Accessibility Extensions
If you find that the few options from Google aren’t doing it for you, the Chrome Web Store has a bunch of third-party extensions to choose from as well. Installation is the same as for official Google extensions, but they’re sorted under a different category.
Head to the Chrome Web Store and then select “Accessibility” from the drop-down menu under Categories.
To view the full list of accessibility extensions, click on “View All.”
There are quite a few here to choose from, but here are a few that we think are pretty useful to get you started:
An extension that reads text for you: Read Aloud is a text-to-speech extension that converts a web page’s text into audio, letting you choose between a variety of voices in 40+ languages. Connect your Google Wavenet or Amazon Polly to enable even more life-like synthetic speech. The perfect tool for anyone who has dyslexia, low visibility, or if you prefer to listen to content rather than read it.
An extension that types what you say: VoiceIn Voice Typing is capable of using speech recognition into any textbox for almost any website. Based off of Google’s speech recognition engine, VoiceIn is one of the best Speech-to-text extensions available on the Chrome Web Store. With support for over 120 languages, you’ll never have to type anything ever again.
An extension to browse with your keyboard: Vimium provides people who are unable to use a mouse—or if you prefer the power user approach—keyboard shortcuts for navigation and control on all webpages. Vimium is completely customizable and has an in-page help dialog in case you forget your shortcuts.
An extension that helps you read: OpenDyslexic Font for Chrome uses the open source font designed to increase text readability for people with dyslexia. The extension overrides all text to the OpenDyslexic font style and formats pages, making them easier to read.
An extension to help you see more colors: Vision gives people suffering from color vision deficiencies, Tritanopia (blue deficiency), Deuteranopia (green deficiency), and Protanopia (red deficiency), the ability to see more colors on the internet.
With these accessibility features added to your browser, you can start to enjoy a customized experience tailored to your needs, making it easier for you to navigate the web.