As you can tell from my blog I have been deeply involved with the ODF
accessibility effort at OASIS
and IBM. There have been a number of questions asked me about the accessibility of OOXML. This is no small request given that the documents are over 6000 pages long. That said, the University of Toronto Adaptive Technology Resource Centre recently published a white paper called Accessibility Issues with Office Open XML.
ATRC has been asked to review accessibility around OOXML in the ISO standardization review process in Canada. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of the calls as an invited expert.
While this is a lengthy document, and a good read for the accessibility community, the main point of contention I have with OOXML is it needs an accessibility review by industry as we have done with ODF 1.0. That review resulted in a new ODF 1.1 specification that not only addresses accessibility but also raises the bar over other standards. After all, access to office documents is what we call a "high impact" use case for people with disabilities. It is almost as important as web and email access. A look at the ATRC white paper shows what always happens when you do an accessibility assessment - you drum up numerous problems with the technology or specification in question. Why? - because people with disabilities need to have access to all the features of subject in question. So, how does this apply to this document?
As ATRC highlights, there are numerous parts of the specification that are ill-defined and refer to proprietary behaviors as in section 3.4. What is autoSpaceLikeWord95 and useWord97LineBreakRules mean? Imagine yourself being a non-Microsoft office application, on Windows, MacOSX, or Linux, and you wanted to support accessible access to text through the platform accessibility API. How would you do it? This is no different than an office application needing to render the content. I would also contend that an accessibility review could not be completed until these holes in the specification were filled.
OOXML is now a published specification (ECMA-376) submitted to the International Standard Organization's JTC-1 committee for fast-track (get it out fast no matter what state it is in apparently) consideration of its adoption as an international standard. If this gets approved by ISO you have to question the ISO standards acceptance procedures, given that only one company can implement the standard, and its commitment to accessibility - which in the past has been exemplary. I do hope that ISO lives up to its reputation and demands an international accessibility review and that Microsoft be required to address the findings. If not, the creation of an open standard will have had no impact on the status quo and people with disabilities will continue to be left out in access to other office applications and operating system platforms - and accessibility gaps will still exist in Microsoft Office. To the best of my knowledge blind users still don't have access to MS Office on the Mac.[Read More]
Over the last few months, we have been working with customers on their open client initiatives, and have come to better understand their requirements in this space. It is clear to us that enterprise focus is on applications that leverage cross-platform capabilities such as Mozilla, AJAX, and Eclipse, rather than on native applications for Linux. We have been working in the W3C on ARIA as well as working with the Eclipse community on all aspects of the client from open standards to implementations. Our approach has always been one of shared contribution and investment with the open communities that we participate in. Our decision to focus our accessibility efforts above the Linux operating system itself should in no way be construed as lack of support for Linux as a client operating system or accessibility as an important characteristic. We have full faith that our efforts, combined with those of the broader Linux community and the projects that support it, will continue to strengthen the arsenal of accessible solutions based on open client infrastructure.[Read More
I recently had the great opportunity of presenting the IBM software accessibility strategy at the annual China Accessibility Information Forum in Beijing this November. The event was co-hosted by the Information Industry of PRC(MII), China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), China Foundation for Disabled Persons (CFPD), and Internet Society of China (ISC), and cosponsored by IBM. This annual event is the most important event in China focusing on IT accessibility. This annual event, for which IBM has been a key cosponsor for the past 3 years, is the most important event in China focusing on IT accessibiliity.
The forum's theme was to "Promote Innovative Science and Technology, Establish an Accessible Information Environment." More than 300 attendees discussed the status of accessibility standards and regulations in China, as well as accessibility trends in technology innovation and business transformation.
My impression is that China is going through a major transformation on how they address accessibility. In the last 3 years, accessibility has gone from back to center stage. China is moving very rapidly, however their initial focus is one of eduacation. In the United States, the EU, and many other countries there are services and infrastructure for persons with disabilities (PWDs). In particular, our school systems have already made the transition to provide special education for PWDs. To me, it was apparent that China put this as a top priority and services organization and special education is stepping up to meet the challenge. Also, accessibility legislation is beginning to develop.
IBM, over the past 2 years, has been educating China on the improtance of accessibility legislation harmonization and it appears to be gaining traction. Recent indications are that China is looking to adopt the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 which has applicability beyond your basic web content. China realizes it can learn from our successes and mistakes and are eager to work with us, in industry, to accelerate their accessibility efforts. A webcast, in Chinese, of an interview with Frances West, the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center director is availablee at http://webcast.china.com.cn/webcast/created/973/44_1_0101_desc.htm and a live web cast of the 2-day forum is available at http://www.china.com.cn/tech/zhuanti/3wzalt/node_7005320.htm.
With the growth of accessibility comes business opportunity for assistive technology vendors. Chris Park (GW Micro), Jim Halliday (HumanWare), as well as Caroline Van Howe and David Dikter (ATIA) were present at the conference,
I applaud China's accessibility efforts and at the rate with which they are moving forward I expect to see great progress at next years forum. In our own way, IBM is helping develop accessibility competency in China at our own China Software Development Lab where enablement of our Productivity Editors (office applications supporting the Open Document Format) is being performed.
Well, I just got back from SCUBA diving in Fiji where my wife and I went diving on the Fiji Agressor II. Here is the captain's log
. The vis. was great at 125 feet. We had a great shark dive at Nagali Pass where I saw the biggest green moray. Initially I thought the reef moved but it turned out to be a moray with a diameter of about 18 inches and 8-10 feet long. It felt like flashbacks of The Deep
On Tuesday this week I was interviewed on the the Computer America Talk Show and spoke on DHTML accessibility. For those that are interested here is the link:
Craig Crossman was a great host.
Last week I attended CSUN's 20th Annual International Conference "Technology and Persons with Disabilities."
The demonstration was rendered in a nightly build of Firefox while being spoken by the Window-Eyes screen reader
, from GW Micro and while being magnified by the Windows Magnifier.
When entering the menu, Window-Eyes announced "menu activated." It was able to read each of the menu items as well as the state of those that were disabled.
Spread sheet navigation announced changing row and column header inforamtion as well as whether the user were on a row header, column header, or spreadsheet cell. When an enter key was performed on a cell, Window-Eyes would announce the column header followed by the editable cell and its contents. It would echo text being entered. When cell editing was complete it announced the new contents.
The Window magnifer followed user focus as the spreadsheet cells and menu items were navigated.
This paradigm shift showed that it is now possible to deliver the kind of usability and accessibility that we can expect from an accessible GUI today in a web page. This allows for the delivery of accessible dynamic applications on multiple operating systems without the weight of a GUI.
The industry response was fantastic. We have seen interest from SAP, Google, AOL, Sun and others. Roundtable discussions included the construction of reusable open source DHTML widgets which could be incorporated into tooling for reuse by the industry.
It shows what you can do through open standards and industry cooperation.[Read More
I just completed a very hectic week at the California State University, Northridge Center on Disabilities' 21st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference
. For those not in the accessibility community this is the largest technical conference on accessibility in the United States.
The major theme at the conference seemed to be around the use of open standards and open source to advance accessible computing for persons with disabilities. Firefox
, recently endorsed by the National Federation of the Blind
, was probably the hottest topic at CSUN. Firefox sessions were overflowing and the Mozilla Foundation
had their own booth at the conference. Handouts at the Firefox booth evaporated withiin the first couple of days. What was most interesting is the accessibility ecosystem building around Firefox. Aside from the IBM announcement of its accessibility contribution to Firefox last year
, a plethora of young talent was showing their Firerfox extensions. One such person, Charles Chen, is working on Fire Vox, a self-voicing browser
The clear message being that through open source accessibility can be advanced without waiting for proprietary solutions.
An Open Document Format
Panel, led by Sun Micrososystems
, was held on Thursday which included myself, Peter Korn, Sun's Accessibility Architect; Janina Sajka, principal of Capital Accessibility and chair of the Free Standards Group
Accessibility Working Group; Myra Berloff, Director of the Massachusetts Office on Disability; Accessibility Architect & Strategist at IBM; Malte Timmermann, Technical Architect for OpenOffice.org
. TV Worldwide
and their AT 508 channel
videotaped thes ODF Panel Session
. The discussion covered:
- the definitions of open standards and open source
- Who uses ODF
- Who is working on its accessibility and the timeline
- Accessibility of ODF
- The history and future of ODF in the State of Mass.
Audience participation was excellent with a lot of very inciteful questions. What was clearly conveyed was that the events surrounding Massachussetts and ODF have been a positive transformation for both the commonwealth and the industry. Through a rapidly emerging open standard we are having very visible transformation around the awareness of the need for accessibility and the opportunity to "raise the bar" on accessibility through an open standard.
Becky Gibson led a presentation on AJAX
accessibility which made use of the Dynamic Web Accessibility
standards work in progress at the W3C. It showed how IBM's leadership helped is helping to drive new opens standards which will drive not only the accessibility of applications like AJAX but also improve the overall accessibility and usability of the web. While IBM initiated the work early adopters showed other early adopters, like Victor Tsaran at Yahoo
, who is developing new web componentry that will improve the overall usable access to the Yahoo site. Like the Firefox session, lead by Aaron Leventhal and Glen Gordon (Freedom Scientific
), the Yahoo
DHTML session was overflowing. Linux
accessibility was gaining momentum as well. Both Sun and IBM demonstrated early versions of their screen readers (Orca
on Linux. George Kraft (IBM) demonstrated IBM's pre-alpha open source screen magnifier
, called gScope. Myself and George Kraft gave a presentation on the IBM Linux Accessibility Project which covered how IBM was contributing code to the open source community to fill gaps in the Gnome Accessibility Project
; API extensions to the Free Standards Group; and enablement to Firefox. Sun continues to lead the Gnome Accessibility Project effort and IBM is joining the effort to accelerate its readiness for end user adoption.This would not be possible without open standards and open source contributions.
While the theme of "open" stole the show I was very pleased at some of the advancements on Windows Vista
. It appeared that many of the key AT vendors were running on Vista. Screen Reader access to Vista used, primarily, a combination of MSAA
and screen scraping to read the desktop. What was most impressive about Vista was its voice recognition support. It was the best demonstration I have ever seen on Windows
of voice recogniation navigation and dictation. Although this is a demo, if it is good as they showed, my hat is off to Microsoft
for doing a superb job of helping users with mobility impairments through quality voice recognition.[Read More
The net of the 2008 CSUN Conference
for me was that all of our hard work on Web 2.0 and IAccessible2
has resulted in widespread and growing adoption across the board. WAI-ARIA
was being implemented everywhere but many of the implementations have yet to be fully fleshed out. Our next step will be to help ATs revamp their UIs to better help developers and end users. As a result, I believe a more accessible and usable web and desktop experience will be had by all.
Web 2.0 Accessibility
WAI-ARIA: WAI-ARIA presence grew dramatically at CSUN this week. Until the Microsoft announcement on IE 8 for WAI-ARIA a number of companies had been working on supporting WAI-ARIA but not releasing it. That changed. Google Web Toolkit 1.5 supports WAI-ARIA as does Google Reader. GWT 1.5 should come out in a formal download within the next 2 weeks. Adobe indicated that Adobe's Spry framework for AJAX was adding WAI-ARIA support which will give us tooling support in Dreamweaver. The Apollo SuperNova screen reader/screen magnifier is adding support for it with IAccessible2 support targeted for later this year. WebAIM is adding support for WAI-ARIA as well. Also, the University of Illinois Firefox accessibility plug-in is starting to mature and there are a number of nice features that will help us in WCAG 2.0 support. Google had 2 sessions on WAI-ARIA this week and I saw Microsoft engineers attend at least 2-3 sessions I sat in where they announced to the room that they had support for WAI-ARIA in the IE latest beta. WAI-ARIA is a home run!
On the negative side, aside from Dojo I did not see any demos of any Google or software. I suspect they are not fully debugged. Yahoo and the Paciello Group gave a presentation on their WAI-ARIA implementation in Yahoo Mail and highlighted some of the challenges retrofitting an existing rich internet application. Also, developers are having problems with Window-Eyes and JAWS as they don't automatically switch in and out of application mode. Also, if you turn off browse mode in Window-Eyes a minor refresh can cause it to fall back into browse mode. I discovered Microsoft has a minor problem with the IE 8 beta where you have to turn on WAI-ARIA support in the registry. This is a beta so I suspect this will be corrected in subsequent drops.
- Mashup Session: My mashup session was full with some people standing. Unfortunately, CSUN instituted something new this week which required you to sign up ahead of time and many people were turned away. Many attendees commented that the need for personalization will be very important going forward to address this problem. For most, the mashup problem is new. Here is the mashup presentation.
- Fluid Session: Again, this was a full session. People are very interested in Fluid in that it has created a social network for collaboration of UX designers, accessibility engineers, and application developers. Matt King and I will be discussing how we might use some of its principles into usable access. A number of attendees stated that they wanted to join and participate in Fluid.
- Dojo Session: Becky Gibson's session was very well attended, especially given session given the lateness in the day on Friday. A lot of questions were generated.
- Browsers: In the mind of end users, Firefox was "top dog" at this conference with respect to their accessibility efforts. That said, application developers are looking to IE fully supporting of WAI-ARIA. Microsoft received a lot of well deserved, positive press for their announcement to support WAI-ARIA in IE. There was no word on Safari from Apple on WAI-ARIA support at the conference.
The IAccessible2 panel was packed! All major screen readers were implementing IAccessible2 support: NVDA, JAWS, SuperNova, and Window-Eyes. Additionally AccProbe and Freedom Scientific's Magic support it as well. There were a lot of great comments from the panel. Adobe would like us to address extensibility and assistive technology vendors and developers on how to implement support for IAccessible2. Also, Adobe had asked that there be performance enhancements for AT handling of large documents.
There was a strong emphasis by ATVs, like Freedom Scientific, that the fact that they were involved with the development of IAccessible2 that is something that they know will work. Representatives from GW Micro and Freedom Scientific stated that IAccessible2 is only one tool in their arsenal to provide access. Probably, most
Virtual World Accessibility and a look at 3D Internet
IBM gave a wonderful presentation on their research efforts to make virtual worlds, like Second Life, accessible to blind. They are creating an accessible Web 2.0 navigation panel, using Dojo, to Second Life and they discussed a number of tools they are using to make the environment accessible: leveraging social collaboration to add semantic tagging, assistive avatars, and a "virtual" cane to reach out and find objects to move to. ... Another packed session.[Read More]
Recently, IBM lost one of its accessibility heroes - Cynthia Ice
. It has taken me a very long time to formulate the words that would come close to conveying the impact Cynthia Ice has had on IBM and the type of person she was to me.
Working in the accessibility field is extremely difficult. It requires very specialized skills - including incredible persistence. Accessibility is often viewed as additional work that is not always planned for. It requires a person who is tough, committed, patient, and caring to deliver an accessible solution that is usable to our customers. To do this you must have tremendous passion for your job as there is always someone or something to trip you up. Furthermore, the quality of access must be even higher when you have such high end-user impact products as Lotus.
Cynthia has worked tirelessly to deliver Lotus products that are accessible and usable to our customers and employees. She has been a beacon of leadership in an area few are willing to venture. We owe Cynthia our deepest thanks and prayers.
Cynthia, Thank you for all you have done. You have made the world a better place.[Read More]
DHTML Accessibility Accessibility is rapidly becoming a reality. A Technology Preview
may now be seen on the Mozilla site. The demonstrations should be viewed with the latest nightly build of Firefox. These examples will work with the latest version of the Window-Eyes beta.
CSUN has posted the HTML version of our CSUN pitch
. Which describes the technologies and implementation techniques. This presentation introduces the developer to the taxonomies being created which describe GUI componentry for DHTML accessibility. The taxonomies and their corresponding schemas will provide the framework for creating custom components and providing a mechanism for self-description. The plan will be to use these taxonomies to drive browser adaptation to support native platform accessibility APIs and tool validation in the future.
What is most exciting about this work is a fundamental paradigm shift whereby web pages can behave like a GUI while being fully accessible. The user agent can then map the meta data provided to the accessibility api on each platform without additional heavy lifting on the developer's behalf.
IBM is driving this effort through the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative with the plan that this be an open standard for all to use. Firefox is the leading implementation mechanism for this standard.[Read More
A part of the problem is that semantics are limited to the tag elements names. For example, a table when read to a screen reader must always be a table. In some instances it may be used for layout.
To address Dynamic HTML accessibility, we have a roadmap in place in the W3C to fix the problem. The intent is to allow the author a way to provide accessibility information into a web page to support the Accessibility API on the platform. I will be presenting information on this effort at the annual CSUN "Technology and Persons with Disabilities" March 14-19, 2005 for those who are interested.
Her is a link to the discussion overview: http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf/2005/proceedings/2524.htm
alpha. We were able to achieve the usability and accessibility of Windows desktop applications:
- keyboard access just like their GUI counterparts
- contextual information in line with their GUI counterparts. (Number of tabs in notebook announced. Tree depth of a focused tree element, etc.)
- Role and state information announced as you would find in a GUI
We showed this to technical leads at Yahoo and AOL and the opportunity for creating accessible, Rich Internet Applications and delivering desktop solutions on par with a rich desktop applicaions was apparent.
Completion of this project will accelerate the standards effort. As we speak a cross-cutting, self describing role taxonomy and accessibility property specficationa are getting close to working draft based on proven implementations. Industry involvement to the standards effort is now growing with the addition of Adobe. The work being developed is cross-cutting in that it has applicability to:
In the current Deer Park Alpha
of Firefox, XUL makes use of the same accessibility extensions for XHTML to enable some of the custom GUI widgets found in the chrome.
Another side-benefit of this work is the creation of a new role called "presentation." The use of the presentation role tells the browser that there should be no accessibility API support for a particular document element. This can be applied to table elements to indicate that the content is only presentational and for assistive technologies not to process the table elements as a table. This eliminates the need for authors to use a special style sheet to reproduce table formatting. DHTML often uses tables to produce the visible formatting needed for rich GUI-like elements. Indicating to the user agent and assistive technology that an element is only presentational removes the burden of guessing when to treat markup as presentational vs markup containing significant semantics which might impact the user experience.[Read More
Due to a large investment by IBM and the Mozilla community. Firefox is becoming as assessible as IE on Windows. The latest GW Micro private beta for Window-Eyes has support for Firefox, including support for the up-and-coming W3C accessibility effort to support scripted web content.
To find out more about Firefox accessibility check out the Accessible DHTML Preview
. Aaron Leventhal
is leading the Firefox enablement effort in Mozilla comunity.
Window-Eyes screen reader beta testers have indicated that they have faster access to the Web than IE.[Read More
I wanted to take a minute and point people to Frank's blog regarding Mozilla's presence at CSUN
. This is an indication of the accessibility ecosystem building around an open source project. Frank's enthusiasm is contagious.
I was pleased to see IBM's contribution, as part of the open source community, foster a new grassroots effort around accessibility and the Firefox browser. Students are getting involved with accessibility in college by simply being able to contribute to the open source effort. The result is innovation through being "open."
Like any good open source project, IBM is no longer the only contributor. Others can share the load while increasing the innovation by a lot of very energetic people.
I remember the first time I was able to make Screen Reader/2 speak the GUI and see people with disabilities be able to use it for gainful employment. The experience is adictive.
I want to thank Frank, Aaron Leventhal, and the Mozilla Foundation for pulling this energetic team together at CSUN.
I received an email the other day from a very respected leader in a major accessibility advocacy group. He wanted to know, after their endorsement in 2006, whether IAccessible2
has gone anywhere. Also, there has been a lot of discussion on TEITAC
with respect to how we get AT vendors engaged. So, I thought I would respond publicly for those companies I can talk about.
IAccessible2 is in or being implemented in these products today:
Two other major application vendors are adding it to their products as well. It also appears that KDE's QT library may be adding support for it on Windows as it is similar to the UNIX accessibility API. Even more encouraging is the size of these applications. These are not small apps.
Assistive Technologies adopters:
It is being added to the NVDA screen reader. ZoomText has added support for a lot of IAccessible2. We, and the Open Accessibility IAccessible2 working group continue to work with other AT vendors. Open Office and Firefox are a big driver for ATVs. These are high impact consumer products to which developers can have access to the source and see how it is implemented.
We are creating a new accessibility test tool that will be open source. It will be part of a new open source accessibility tools framework we are initiating. This tool will support Java, IAccessible2, MSAA, and Web 2.0 ARIA-enabled applications running in Firefox. It was designed with input directly from companies like Freedom Scientific. So, it will work with screen reader vendors products, and is designed to assist vision impaired as well non-vision impaired users. For example, a screen reader requirement was to process events in-process with applications to give the same response the AT would expect to receive from the application.
So, why is IAccessible2 so successful?
- We and the Mozilla Foundation provided assistance to ATVs to do the work
- A solid design with a gradual migration path to the new API. - Think why DOS users migrated to Windows over OS/2
- Regular architecture meetings with ATVs held separately with a strong focus in protecting their intellectual property
- Open standards
- Support by key, significant in terms of size, significant with respect to the needs of the consumer, open source products.
- Community building
- No hidden agendas
- Open source projects which generate business for the accessibility community (consultants, ISVs, ATvs, etc.)
- Corporate leadership
- No IP barriers to entry
- Support by major accessibility advocate groups
- Open Collaboration
- Interplay between standards and implementation - ODF standards, IA2 standards, AT implementation, app implementation - all done in parallel (an open coummunity effort)
Lack of these things is why it has taken other accessibility API efforts so long to take off or stumble. I also believe the availability of open source tooling will help dramatically. We modified the MSAA inspect tool internally to test Symphony support for IAccessible2 but then we had to throw the code away because MSAA inspect tool licensing prohibited our releasing derivative works. This set us back a good 6 to 7 months to create a new open source tool we will be releasing in the next quarter.
Since I have taken over accessibility strategy for IBM software I have pushed for one that is open and barrier free. In 5 years I doubt people will remember that IBM started all this (open accessibility on Windows) but I do hope we have a more barrier free, interoperable, accessible environment for which people with disabilities don't have to wait years to access. A look back at early accessibility API work on Windows showed it took years for adoption of that work by ISVs and ATs. IAccessible2 has been able to achieve stellar results in a very short period of time.
I just finished reading Brian Bergstein's fine article, "Designers Work to make the Web Accessible," Aaron Leventhal, Cynthia Ice, and Becky Gibson gave a great interview. The article was heavily screen reader centric when in actual fact IAccessible2 has extensive mobility access features that well voice recognition and dictation systems as well as onscreen keyboards. IAccessible2 supports features that allow voice recognition systems to edit text in a document without having to simulate expensive system keyboard and mouse input functions. Furthermore, IAccessible2 support collections of named actions, and/or hypertext links, which may be exported by an application for enumeration in an onscreen keyboard.
Here are just a few of the recent articles that went out in latin america:
Here are a few of the many launched in China:
Again, many of these articles have been blind centric. I expect that is because our early demonstrations have been around screen reading. As IAccessible2 continues to grow we will see much broader assistive technology support.
Application vendors and toolkit providers are already jumping on board. Trolltech was one of the first as seen by their reference on the Qt blog. So, who uses Qt? ... Google Earth and Skype for starters. It would be nice to be able to improve access for mobility impaired uses for both products. Google Earth would be a great use of IAccessible2's IAccessibleAction interface.
I had not reported on IAccessible2 adoption
recently. I was pleased to see Stephen Partridge's blog posting of Adobe Acrobat investigating support for IAccessible2
. This is sure to improve the accessibility of Adobe Acrobat. This is exciting news given the recent IAccessible2 Request for Comment
. IAccessible2 is an enhancement to the Windows Accessibility API Microsoft Active Accessibility. It bring the Windows platform capability in line with Linux. IAccessible2 is a proven technology with strong implementations in the recently released Firefox 3
and Lotus Symphony
A new, free, open source accessibility test tool is also in development called accprobe. I encourage developers to try it out and provide feedback to the Eclipse ACTF team.
Some of you may have seen the announcement announcement about the Accessibility Tools Framework (ACTF) donation
. As many of you know, IBM promotes an open accessibility strategy in an effort to reduce the time that new technologies become accessible. In the past we have done this by initiating and leading: the Accessibility for Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA)
; donating code to Firefox
to support WAI-ARIA; creating IAccessible2
and donating it to the Free Standards Group, now the Linux Foundation
; and contributing to Linux accessibility.
Part of the strategy was to address a growing need to have an open source accessibility tools framework. One reasoning was that propriety test tools on Windows prevented us from distributing a modified version of the Windows accessibility test tools of IAccessible2 to developers. Another reason was that creating test tools from scratch was a time consuming process. Why not take the ones we were creating, internally, and donate them to the industry to build upon, free of encumbrances. Also, due to the overwhelming success of Eclipse, we felt it was an excellent place to build a community around a reusable and extensible tools framework that provide developers, consultants, and new technology providers with a starting point. The result is ACTF.
In ACTF we will be donating new tools like "AccProbe" which will allow you to do IAccessible2, MSAA, and WAI-ARIA testing. We will have new browsers and validation tools as well. The best thing about it is that you can participate, or borrow what is there as you see fit ... and you don't have to sign a license agreement![Read More]
Today, IBM released a full screen magnifier to IBM's emerging technology alphaWorks site called gScope
. gScope is the first full screen magnifier solution on Linux to use of the new composite extension
to X. Composite allows for redirecting of drawing commands to an off-screen buffer and then uses a compositing manager to decide how the windows will be arranged on the screen. While this facility can be used to create things like translucent windows it also may be used to allow for fast magnification.
Screen magnifiers on Windows have used drivers to redirect drawing calls into free memory on the card and then perform direct transfers to the screen using memory transfers on the card. This makes screen magnification fast. gScope uses composite to capture drawing calls redirected the desktop to create a managed off-screen buffer of it. gScope then works with the composite manage to copy the end result to the desktop in a magnification operation using the video hardware.
Before composite, magnification was peformed using system memory and the results provided were slower. The new magnifier will allow for magnification levels from 2 to 16. It can operate in full-sceen, line, lens, or docked window modes. In the spirit of open source this will come with source code and documentation. While this is an alpha release it is robust enough to allow distros to pick up the work. Strategically, the best place for this is in the Window manager as there can only be one composite manager running at a time. By providing an open source solution, KDE
and other UNIX desktop providers may get magnification for low vision users sooner rather than later. This fills a critical gap in an accessible Linux desktop offering.[Read More
IBM posted an insightful video
highlighting the need to address access to the Web by the growing senior population and an IBM solution called the EasyWeb browser. While IBM is very involved in accessibility standards and infrastructure this video shows IBM's efforts to create assistive technology when the need presents itself.
Taking a step back, a feature of the "EasyWeb" solution is its personalization capabilties. The end user is allowed to specify how the web experience is delivered to them without any special assistive technologies. Personalized access is a key component of a long term strategy industry must take to deliver a workable solution for all users. For the growing 65+ senior population, this is a transformational solution allowing them to participate in the "digital generation."
When asked why I work in accessibility - this is why.[Read More]
Recently, IBM announced its participation in the Open Office development effort
. One of the benefits to the Open Office community is that they will be able to benefit from our accessibility implementation in the Notes 8 Productivity Editors. In the Notes 8 Productivity editors we implemented a new open accessibility API called IAccessible2. IAccessible2 was contributed to the Free Standards Group, now the Linux Foundation
, in 2006. IBM is a big supporter of open accessibility standards and we are pleased to see Open Office benefit from the work.
I recently read an article about the donation, "IBM beats Microsoft over the head with its own code" which took a kernel of a fact -- that IA2 is an extension of Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), a Microsoft-developed technology -- and in the interest of simplifying it for his readership, made a few mistaken conclusions about it.
Let me clarify by saying IAccessible2 is an accessibility API, which you can add to your MSAA enabled Windows application, to provide additional accessibility features needed to handle rich internet applications, rich text, and documents - in this case ODF. IAccessible2 in no way modifies MSAA. Microsoft has made MSAA available to industry as as a standard accessibility API for Windows and modifying it would break interoperability with assistive technology. Furthermore, Microsoft made MSAA available for all to use on Windows. IAccessible2 is derived from work we did on Java Accessibility and the UNO Accessibility API (which I discuss in an earlier blog entry). It is in no way derived from Microsoft work.
IAccessible2 does not just support screen reading. Accessibility features of IAccessible2 also assist alternate input solutions for people with mobility impairments. IAccessible2 also provides support for screen magnification solutions. AI Squared, developer of the industry leading ZoomText screen magnifier, provided valuable feedback in IAccessible2's design as well for this reason.
One of my functions is to co-chair the ODF Accessibility Subcommitee in OASIS. The accessibility subcommittee is pleased to see the article recognize our accomplishment in making ODF accessible and our recent work called “Accessibility Guidelines for Implementations of Open Document Format v1.1.”