[g-a-devel] Extending GtkMenuItemAccessible to allow applications to set alternative accessible names for menu items.

Hi all,
One feature request that the Ubuntu accessibility team receives from users, is the ability to find out the signal strength and security of a wireless network that appears in the network list. In the case of network-manager, the icon is used to convey network signal strength and security to the user. After looking through the code of GtkMenuItem, and GtkMenuItemAccessible, I've determined that there is currently no way to set an alternative accessible name for a menu item, in the case where the icon is conveying extra information to the user. Yes, one could put sed information in the label, but that would bloat the menu item visually, which is not desired.

I was talking to a few GTK developers on IRC earlier today about GtkMenuItem, GtkMenuItemAccessible, and somehow allowing applications to set alternative accessible names for menu items, whether it be via an extension to the GtkMenuItem API, or extending the GtkMenuItemAccessible object to allow applications to set a different accessible name using the atk_object_set_name method call. Benjamin did suggest that the icon could possibly be exposed via another atk object which is a child of the menu item, with a description set in the icon atk object to describe the icon, however this gets messy when submenus are put into the picture.

I'll let Benjamin et al reply as to what their thoughts are about this proposal, but I'd be interested in hearing from the GNOME accessibility development community WRT this proposal. Not all applications display icons in menus, and when they do, not all applications dynamically change the icons in menu items to convey different information, as the icons are usually used as visual queues for different tasks, like save, open, etc.

If there is a better approach to solving this problem, I'd also be interested to hear it, but whatever route we take, I hoep we can come to a concensus soon, as I would like to have something in place for users for the Ubuntu 12.04 release. It also gives the GNOME desktop just that little bit more pollish. from a screen reader user point of view.

Thoughts, suggestions, comments welcome.


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