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.
Accessibility Strategy and Architecture
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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:
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 and LSR 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]
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The HTML working group has been working on building accessibility into XHTML 2 from the ground up. Of these, there are two cross-cutting technologies which will improve the accessibility of a number of existing W3C standards efforts through the use of modularization:
The Role attribute is now being used to assist in the enablement of Dynamic Web Applications. The W3C WAI Protocols and Formats working group is developing a new role taxonomy to be used as common roles designed to support platform accessibility APIs across the Windows and Gnome desktops.
Today's HTML access key is designed to be an attribute on an HTML element whereby the author specifies a key on a keyboard to either give the element focus or to activate the element. Access key has the following serious deficiencies:
The access element in XHTML 2 is like "semantic sugar" around XML events in that it provides a higher level semantic binding layer that is in-fact deterministic. It has the following advantages and features:
I hope to see these move into the XHTML 1.X namespace so that we can incorporate these features in today's markup without using a separate namespace. They are also applicable to other markup like SVG and thus solve a number of problems facing today's web content.