Re: An Open Letter to Oracle on the Topic Of Accessibility

Steve Lee <steve fullmeasure co uk> wrote:
> On 22 February 2010 05:27, Jason White <jason jasonjgw net> wrote:
> > If user interfaces, including the free software/open-source community, are
> > headed toward an era in which a descendant of what we today call a "Web
> > browser" becomes the desktop, then what would make most sense is a
> > Javascript-based "assistive technology" (for want of a better term, that
> > can process user interfaces built on Web technologies, and which is fully
> > integrated into the extensible browsing environment.
> I think this is worth closely watching. W3C widgets may also play an
> important role. It gives us a chance to ensure accessibility is built into
> the next incumbent platform and 'the apps' that run on it. 

Exactly. Of course, whether this will become the next platform remains to be
determined. In 1998, the future platform was supposed to be provided,
according to statements issued by certain corporate interests, by thin Java
clients. As we know, it never happened. It could be argued, though, that Web
technologies have a better chance of supplanting the conventional desktop
environment, given that millions of functional (though not necessarily good)
clients are already in the hands of users, and the deployment model of Web
applications is undeniably attractive to developers (particularly with the
emergence of persistent client-side databases and mechanisms for hosting
Javascript applications on the client).

I also think there is scope for more sophisticated client-side automated
enhancement software to improve the accessibility of content, as exemplified
by the AxsJax Firefox extension, which is also included in FireVox. One could
also imagine a sort of "off-screen model" for web applications, which,
undesirable though it is, might turn out to be a necessary investment if the
information required to construct accessible interfaces isn't provided by the

Returning to the subject of Gnome accessibility, while I think there is
considerable merit in the decision by the original Mercator project, and later
by Java and Gnome, not to interrogate the X protocol or other low-level
sources so as to build an off-screen model, but instead to focus on
accessibility APIs, I sometimes wonder in more pessimistic moments whether the
former might become, or indeed already be, a necessary fall-back, which at
present doesn't exist in the X11 world, though I wouldn't be surprised if
proprietary Microsoft-based assistive technologies are still using off-screen
models to some extent. (Note that I'm not a Windows user and I have no
evidence either way; but I would be somewhat surprised if the proprietary
vendors, who all had developed such models by the mid 90s, weren't still using
them in an attempt to work around the limitations of applications that don't
follow accessibility standards.)

Some of the above strays from the topic of the list, for which I apologize; I
will gladly take replies off-list if anyone objects on the ground of a breach
of posting guidelines.

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