Re: [g-a-devel] GNOME Launches Campaign for Accessibility


On 01/ 6/12 07:24 PM, Bill Cox wrote:
I agree that the Gnome Foundation gives a11y high priority.  My main
issues in the past have been that the GTK+ team gives it zero
priority, at least when a bug is reported by the community.

Padraig O'Briain <Padraig Obriain oracle COM> was the fellow at Sun
who did a great deal of the work fixing a11y bugs at the GTK+ layer.
He tended to be very successful at getting his work upstream.
Padraig is a great guy and interestingly competes at international
bridge tournaments.  Padraig is not working so much on accessibility
these days, but if you need help, or want to discuss your issue(s) with
someone who can probably give you some pointers about making progress
with a11y and GTK+, then I would recommend contacting him.

Since Padraig stopped working on GTK+ (about 2 years ago), there really
has not been anyone who has stepped up to the plate to focus attention
in this area.  There have been a lot of other things to work on that
have seemed higher priority, such as getting a11y working in GNOME 3
and working with the KDE community.

though we had excellent programmers committed to a11y, we could not
move forward because they didn't have the authority to fix the code.
Joanmarie has said that Benjamen is very active in the GTK code base
committing a11y related patches.  If there is a committed individual
working on the hardest a11y issues, I'm willing to wait and see if
there is improvement.

The a11y team is working to build closer relationships with people in
the GTK+ team already, and people like Ben are getting more involved.
Things are improving, though perhaps too slowly.

In my opinion, the separation of responsibilities is the main reason
for lack of a11y progress in GTK.  If any of the wonderful people
working on a11y  that we are both fans of were able to commit patches
to GTK, the issues would have been resolved years ago.

Some patches frustratingly require discussion before they are accepted.
Sometimes people waste too much time debating the "right" way to fix
things.  It is good to discuss how we can work together to improve
relationships, and to better prioritize things.  However, I do think it
is unfair to suggest that the GTK+ team gives a11y zero priority.  Is
our relationship really so frosty?

Some of the frustration is caused by the anarchistic way that free
software communities work.  Free software, naturally, lacks strong
central leadership and tends to develop "meritocracies".  In general,
relationships amongst GNOME module maintainers tends to be pretty
good and productive, but there is sometimes friction.  For the a11y
team, it sometimes can be more work to get maintainers to understand
the importance of a11y, but they do tend to come around.  There is
room for improvement, and the GNOME Foundation is always trying to
help teams work better together.

Because several e-mails on this topic have attacked my emotional
response to my patch to pixmap objects being rejected, I want to
explain my philosophy about GUI objects and a11y.  If an object is
going to be displayed on the screen, I feel extremely strongly that
the programmer using that object should have the opportunity to attach
a text description to that object.  Not only does pixmap not allow
this, but GTK uses pixmap objects in all lists, tables, and tree
displays, which is why no icon in any list, table, or tree in any
single GTK program says anything other than "icon".  Any programmer
who takes the time to examine how GTK programs are typically written
can come to any conclusion other than pixmap objects are a fundamental
core object, used just about everywhere, and that the programmers
using them are not to blame for not making accessible descriptions.
GTK doesn't allow it.

That sounds reasonable to me.

This is why the icons on the Qt version of Unity talk.  They rock.  Is
there any way to get through to the GTK team that displayed objects
need an opportunity for accessible descriptions?

Clearly this patch requires some discussion.  It is probably good to
have this discussion here, while it seems we are still trying to tease
out the pros and cons of fixing this bugs using your patch, or perhaps
by solving the problem in some different manner.  However, it would
make more sense to move this discussion over to the gtk-devel mailing
list and discuss these issues and points with the GTK team.  Projecting
an "us versus them" attitude is, I think, counter productive.  Perhaps
the GTK+ team could be invited to attend an a11y IRC meeting or two
to discuss some of these longstanding issues.

Perhaps we have had discussions with the GTK+ team in the past, but
keeping good communication happening between teams requires ongoing
attention.  Relationships can go through phases where teams work better
or worse together.  I think the discussion would be most productive,
though, if emotions were used to more effectively help people
understand the value and importance of a11y features like these.

Also, I would like to discourage people from thinking that there is no
hope, or point working on a11y, just because there is sometimes
controversy.  I think this is natural in any free software development
community.  It is good to have discussions like these, because it helps
us to get a better understanding of where we need to focus attention
to make the experience less frustrating.


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