[Accessibility] NSF Draft 1 -- For today's call

Doug Beattie dbb at linkexplorer.com
Wed Dec 3 11:11:09 PST 2003

Attached is the draft with some initial paragraph changes by myself followed
by some from Bill.

Doug Beattie
dbb at linkexplorer.com
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The Accessibility Workgroup of the Free Standards Group (FSG) requests
funding of [$xx,xxx] from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to convene
an international conference to develop an engineering agenda, leading to
the research on improved methods, development, and finally adoption of
standards that will support comprehensive access to information and user
interfaces for persons with disabilities on computing platforms which
adopt FSG standards (such as Linux and Solaris).

{This is from Bill as a change to the above:
  ...(NSF) to convene a face-to-face meeting of the internationally-based
  Workgroup in support of the creation of a verifiable and open
  standards for computing platform accessibility.  During this meeting,
  FSG members and interested parties will advance our ongoing engineering
  agenda for the development and adoption of standards that will support
  comprehensive access to information and user interfaces for persons
  with disabilities on computing platforms which adopt FSG standards
  (such as Linux and Solaris).

Best known today for the industry supported Linux Standards Base (LSB),
the mission of the FSG, a standards body recognized by JTC1, is:

  "The Free Standards Group develops and makes freely available
   standards, tools and compliance testing, which allows open source
   developers to concentrate on adding value to Linux, rather than
   spending time dealing with verification and porting issues.

   As the umbrella group for several open source standards efforts, the
   Free Standards Group acts as a key facilitator between the needs of
   the free and open source development community from which it came and
   the IT industry that increasingly relies on Linux as a solutions

The Accessibility WG was approved by the FSG Boarde of Directors in
September 2003 with a mission to

"develop and promote free and open accessibility standards to enable
comprehensive universal access to computer systems, applications,
and services."

"accelerating the use and acceptance of open source technologies through
the development, application and promotion of standards.

"have common behavioral specifications, tools and APIs, making development
across Linux distributions easier."

The Accessibility WG is to provide written specifications, as well as
references to current specifications and standards, as discussed in its
Charter (available at
It will also develop and provide test suites to be used in a certification

The heterogeneous nature of toolkits, component inter process
communication models, libraries, and applications on free and open source
platforms has made the development of robust and effective assistive
technologies difficult, at best. Without standards and binary interface

 * Users with various disabilities can not effectively use the system.
 * systems do not meet legal requirements (which hampers marketing of
   free standards based systems).
 * developers cannot consistently write accessible applications.
 * comprehensive and consistent platform services that support
   accessibility do not exist.
 * assistive technology developers cannot create assistive technologies
   for free standards platforms.
 * the lack of standardization prevents leveraging the existing work,
   sharing of expertise, and reduces the value of individual contributions.
Of course achieving standardization for accessibility support in the
free and open source environment will require substantial consensus among
developer communities, marketers of free and open source technologies, and
user communities. The purpose of the proposed international conference,
therefore, is to achieve this substantial consensus regarding the
Workgroup's Year One identified standardization activities, and to devise
an engineering consensus regarding Year Two and Three tasks, including
particularly those requiring additional research and development before
standardization may properly occur.

The identified Year One tasks which require substantial international
consensus are:

1.) AT-SPI

 The Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI) was
   developed for the GNOME2 desktop and its approach to providing
   accessibility is in the process of being adopted by KDE.
 AT-SPI is toolkit-neutral. It is already compatible with and supported by
   GTK+2, Java/Swing, the Mozilla suite, and StarOffice/OpenOffice. Support
   via reuse of the related ATK interface in version 4 of the Qt toolkit
   (on which KDE is based) has been announced by TrollTech.
 AT-SPI enables assistive technology tools, e.g. screen readers,
   magnifiers, and even scripting interfaces to query and interact with
   graphical user interface (GUI) controls." As such it facilitates access
   for individuals who cannot use the standard GUI. It enables developers
   (or a third party) to build applications that are, or can be made
 The AT-SPI enables developers and distributions to meet the accessibility
   requirements of many individual and corporate customers.

2.) AT Device Shared I/O

 AT device shared I/O would make it possible for devices that are
   commonly used by persons with disabilities to operate smoothly with
   several client applications simultaneously.
 In some circumstances it is necessary to support simultaneous access for
   different client applications. For example, allowing a software-based
   speech synthesizer to speak while a multi-media stream is playing,
   rather than queueing its messages to play after the stream concludes. In
   addition, it may also be necessary to have messages queue or supress
   until a particular window or console has focus. This activity supports
   a seamless user experience from bootup, in the console and desktop
   environments, and through shutdown.
 We will support/coordinate the development of libraries that allow client
   applications to share these I/O devices. Shared access to accessibility
   related devices, such as Braille displays, reduces the cost of ownership
   and improves the user experience.  These libraries should offer
   a generic high-level abstraction of the underlying device to allow
   client applications, to use those libraries independent of the actual
   hardware in use. This simplifies the development of accessibility
   related software by sharing commonly used code such as low-level
   driver implementations in these libraries.

3.) Keyboard Accessibility

 Persons unable to use a keyboard and mouse sometimes use
   alternative devices. However, many users can be accomodated
   programatically through software that causes a standard keyboard
   to behave differently. Many of these features and behaviors
   have long been available in the XKB specification available at
 "Sticky Keys" is one keyboard accessibility feature provided
   in the XKB specification. It supports users who cannot press key
   combinations. For example, the user is unable to press the Ctrl-Alt-TAB
   keys simultaneously, Sticky keys allows them to achieve the same result
   by pressing the keys sequentially.
 Individuals with mobility impairments will benefit by having such
   features built-in and available through standard activation strategies,
   such as tapping the Shift key five times to activate Sticky Keys. The
   routines provided by the API will also benefit assistive technologies
   such as on screen keyboard and screen reader applications.
 We propose to identify and adopt a subset of the XKB specification in
   order to provide standard keyboard features and behaviors required by
   persons with mobility impairments.
Future standardization activities already identified within the WG include
improving support for magnification in console and Xwindow environments,
and providing a standard mechanism supporting numerous Text To Speech
(TTS) voices in numumerous languages, yet providing a single, consistant
interface to applications

The beneficiaries of these standards will be numerous, cutting across
all sectors engaged with either providing or using technology.

Implementations of free standards such as GNOME, KDE, and GNU software
 * Vendors of Unix and Linux such as Red Hat Inc., Sun Micro Systems,
   United Linux, among others.
 * Vendors of hand-held devices, consumer and business products using
   embedded technologies, as well as those providing large industrial
   systems such as Hewlett-Packard Corporation, IBM Corporation, and
   Motorola Corporation, among others.

Both individual consumers and institutional ones such as governmental
agencies and educational institutions, many of which are now legally
required to support accessibility.

The principle beneficiaries of FSG Accessibility Standards will, of
course, be persons with disabilities worldwide. They are the reason
for these standards. It is also important to note that these benefits
will be available world-wide in developing and developed nations alike
because cost will never be a barrier to anyone's participation, either
as an end user or as a technical contributor.

In order to achieve the substantial consensus needed by such a standard we
expect to invite between 20 and 30 individuals from industry, developer
communities, and persons with disabilities. We need to insure broad
participation across all sectors of these groups worldwide, and we neded
to engage participants who would otherwise not become involved in this
process. We request, therefore, funds to cover:

1.)	Travel and accomodation support for between 12-18 individuals;
2.)	Converence room, equipment, support staff, and meals
3.)	Organizational and advance expenses

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