Re: Proposal: enable accessibility by default for GNOME

> Hi All:
> I recently had a nice discussion with the release team about the 
> viability of enabling accessibility (i.e., the AT-SPI infrastructure) by 
> default for GNOME.  As a result of that discussion, I'm approaching the 
> broader GNOME community with a proposal to do this.  :-)
> Accessibility has currently enabled by default for development builds 
> since 2.17 (, so there 
> has hopefully been a fair amount of testing-in-the-large with it 
> already.  We also recently got rid of one of the last obviously nasty 
> things it was doing -- gnome-session no longer pops up that annoying 
> "the at-spi infrastructure didn't start" window.

Even in the event that this proposal does not happen, I think GNOME's
arrangement for enabling accessibility lacks courtesy at the moment. For
example, try (without a11y turned on) to open Mouse Preferences and
enable one of the mouse accessiblity features. Boom! Horrible error

"Mousetweaks requires Assistive Technologies."

I used this as the first example in a little post I made regarding
courteous software.

Let's pretend for a moment I am a disabled person who has trouble with
mouse buttons. I am trying to turn on a critical accessibility feature,
and I think I see light at the end of the tunnel.
Nope, never mind. Instead, this program decides to tease me! It throws a
cryptic error message, telling me that it requires "assistive
technologies". It essentially orders me to give it these technologies,
and it refuses to do anything until I satisfy its demands. I can feel
the confused phone calls starting already!
In the layman's thoughts: Of course it "needs assistive technologies";
it /is/ an assistive technology! This error message is lazy, cruel and
unusual. It does not offer to enable assistive technologies, and it does
not elaborate on what the heck it means to begin with. It simply refuses
to work, leaving people to give up or phone their relatives. There is no
reason for this evil, either; the software here has complete access to
the necessary controls such that it should be able to transparently
enable "Assistive Technologies" without the end user needing to think
about it. At the least, it could have a button leading to the "Assistive
Technologies" preferences or a kind explanation of what "assistive
tecnologies" are if not the technology the user is trying to enable.

Of course, GNOME normally does better than this. This project is
characterized for never having unnecessary popups, always presenting the
user with answers instead of pounding him with problems. Polishing loose
ends like that one could solve a lot of accessibility problems

As for enabling accessibility by default, my personal thought is that
distribution installers should offer that option in there, perhaps just
"install in accessibility mode" at the boot menu for the live CD
ones. If someone desperately needs assistive technologies, he is still
going to have trouble enabling the components all himself after already
struggling through an installer. The distributors should have mercy
early on. Perhaps there is something GNOME can do to encourage such
Come to think of it... if you'll excuse the ignorance here, can't we
just have another session choice alongside the regular GNOME one in GDM
for Accessible GNOME, or is there something extra extra magical

Whichever way, the user should not have to think "enable Assistive
Technologies" before doing anything, and I too would love to see a
movement towards that. I have always thought it central to GNOME to
avoid hounding the user with unnecessary choices. Therefore, he should
find the particular assistive technology he wants and enable that
without needing to think about the underlying systems. I don't think
logging out and logging in is a big issue, particularly when first
setting up. Besides, doesn't session saving work here? ...Maybe, with
that in mind, there could be a magic "refresh this session" button that
saves the session, logs out and logs back in really quickly, but that is
way off topic.

-Dylan McCall

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