Students Pitch New Accessibility Features for Firefox

In early October, the Test Pilot team helped kick off an undergraduate product design course at design and media school Ravensbourne in London. The partnership with Ravensbourne was spearheaded by Mozilla’s Open Innovation team with the goal of generating ideas for Mozilla’s innovation pipeline. With Test Pilot as the “client” for the course, students working in seven small teams have been iterating on design concepts to advance accessibility in Firefox. Test Pilot team members John Gruen and I were back in London last month to evaluate the student’s final product pitches. We ultimately chose two winning teams.

First Place: Team Spectrum

The winning team set out to improve the browser experience for individuals with phonological dyslexia. After conducting both secondary and primary research, the team identified an opportunity to help alleviate the tired eyes and general cognitive overhead that individuals with dyslexia experience when reading text on the web. Team Spectrum’s solution is an add-on that allows people to enlarge and embolden text and apply color filters to increase contrast — all from the browser toolbar.

Screenshot from Team Spectrum’s prototype showing a large cursor intended to make it easier to enlarge and embolden text for more comfortable reading

The team conducted some initial usability testing and found that their solution increased reported ease of reading and reading speed.

Honorable Mention: Team Elderline

The second place team was interested in helping older adults use the browser more easily by creating an add-on to surface customization options. Through their research, Team Elderline determined that among the biggest opportunities were to support adults over 75-years-old in: reading online more comfortably, reducing confusing ads on webpages, and understanding icons representing valuable browser controls. The team’s solution is a control panel that lets people easily manipulate the current webpage to make content more accessible and manageable.

Screenshot from Team Elderline’s prototype showing control panel options tailored to the current webpage

Based on what they learned from initial usability testing of their concept, Team Elderline’s final concept emphasized plain language and clearer selection indicators.

In addition to the pitches by Teams Spectrum and Elderline, the other student teams presented a range of intriguing concepts to support challenges encountered by older adults, students with dyslexia, and individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the browser.

Next Steps

We will be sharing the winning concepts with the broader Test Pilot team and investigating the feasibility of turning the concepts into future experiments. Thanks to all of the Ravensbourne students for your fresh thinking on improving Firefox through accessibility! Read more about our collaboration with Ravensbourne on their blog.