Re: [orca-list] An Open Letter to Oracle on the Topic Of Accessibility

Hash: RIPEMD160

This is an excellent open letter.  I could have never written anything
as elegant as this.  I've been away from my system since last night so
have a bit of catching up to do.  I have a blog that has been pretty
much dormant til now so this will give me some ideas to post about:).

On Sun, Feb 07, 2010 at 03:05:25PM -0500, Joanmarie Diggs wrote:
Hey again.

I wanted to thank those of you who left comments on my blog on this
topic, and I'd encourage those of you who have not but who care about
the future of GNOME accessibility in general, and Orca in particular, do
the same. After all, I guarantee you that Oracle could care less about
me; it is my sincerest hope that they care about you, the user.

Also, for those of you with your own blogs who have written similar
entries on this topic, please do not be shy about "shameless self
promotion" in the form of adding a link to your entry in the comments of
my blog. Alternatively, send me a link to what you've written so that I
can point to it within my entry.

My hope is that what remains of this weekend continues to see voices of
concern, in writing, in blogs and in comments. The next step would be to
ensure that our collective voices get noticed by those who need to
notice them. :-)

Thanks again guys. Hopefully soon we'll be able to get back to the
business of actually working on accessibility, rather than trying to
prevent its demise.


On Sun, 2010-02-07 at 11:14 -0500, Joanmarie Diggs wrote:
Hey guys.

For what it's worth, I just wrote a blog entry on Oracle's decision. "An
Open Letter to Oracle on the Topic Of Accessibility" can be found at:

For the sake of convenience, here is the text of that entry:

Dear Oracle:

You don't know me, so please permit me a brief introduction: I'm Joanie.
By day, I'm an assistive technology specialist working with individuals
who are blind or visually impaired. By night, weekend, and holiday for
almost four years now, I've been a GNOME community contributor working
primarily on the Orca screen reader, a project led by Sun's
Accessibility Program Office.

Working with the engineers at Sun, both inside and outside of the APO,
has been an honor for a variety of reasons, not least of which is our
shared common belief: Access isn't a privilege; it's a right. Towards
that end, Sun Microsystems strived to ensure that ALL users have access
to software and information. 

Does Oracle plan to do the same?

Sun Microsystems believed that these things shouldn't be denied to those
who aren't employed, or who don't live in the "right" country, or who
don't speak the "right" language, or who cannot afford to purchase
thousands of dollars' worth of access technology. 

What does Oracle believe?

Through its significant, ongoing contributions to the GNOME desktop, Sun
Microsystems has made computer access possible for many individuals with
disabilities, from all walks of life, all over the world.

Will Oracle embrace the opportunity to continue this important work?

My assumption was yes. In fact, I was feeling quite hopeful. After all,
the past few years have been hard on Sun. But with Larry Ellison's
promise of increased investment in the Sun brand, and Oracle's strong
commitment to accessibility, things would finally be turning around: If
one under-funded APO could accomplish everything that it has, what could
the two combined and properly-funded APOs achieve? At the very least
we'd be able to finally get a handle on all of the accessibility
challenges facing GNOME 3.

I was wrong. :-(

Last week, Oracle laid off two more members of Sun's already-decimated
APO. One of those let go happened to be both the Orca project lead and
the GNOME Accessibility project lead, Willie Walker. I truly hope this
was an oversight on Oracle's part, and one that will be rectified very
soon. Because if it is not, and if no other company steps forward to
continue this work, the accessibility of the GNOME desktop will become
the open source equivalent of an unfunded mandate, doomed ultimately to

Oracle's decision threatens to leave many individuals with disabilities
around the world without access to a modern desktop environment. I find
that tragic.

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