IAccessible2 is in or being implemented in these products today:
- Notes 8 Symphony Office Suite (today)
- Firefox 3 (being added as we speak)
- Open Office (IBM is just beginning the contribution effort)
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.