[Accessibility] FSG102 Document Part 1 Section A working copy

Janina Sajka janina at rednote.net
Tue Jul 15 06:36:01 PDT 2003

 a. A general description of the current problem, from as many
    perspectives (user, developer, etc.) as a standard might help.

Without appropriate technological accommodations, persons with
disabilities are excluded from participating in the benefits that
technology provides. Yet appropriately designed technology has proven
capable of delivering unparalleled benefit to disabled users--benefits
for which these individuals usually have no other good alternatives:

*Whereas technology can provide the means for individuals who have not
the use of their arms and hands to write and correspond, it can also
prevent them from doing so if no alternative to using a mouse is

*	Whereas technology can enable those who have not the use of
their eyes to read online text, it can prevent or severely encumber their
ability to do so by supporting only iconic and mouse driven user

*	Whereas a device may give voice to the words of someone who
cannot speak, technology can also prevent that individual's
participation if no alternative to speech recognition based interfacing
is provided.

In the vast majority of circumstances the appropriate accommodations to
support users with disabilities are known and documented.

Providing the appropriate contextual information, both application and
system services via well-defined standards, and adherence to clearly
defined standards of practice will remove needless barriers to
entry.Standards will facilitate the creation and distribution of
assistive/adaptive technologies and user agents appropriate to a range
of end-user abilities. They will ensure that applications and system
services operate in cooperation with, rather than in conflict with, such

We propose to provide the standards and best practices guidance that
support the implementation of consistent and robust support for users
with disabilities across any and all platforms that implement free and
open standards.

As things stand on free and open source platforms today, many (if not
most) applications are inaccessible to users who are blind, have
severely impaired vision, or live with conditions that prevent them from
using their arms and hands as most persons do. Only a very few,
rudimentary assistive technologies exist for the GUI desktop
environment. Application developers, who cannot be expected to have
expertise concerning supporting users with disabilities, have no means
of meeting application accessibility requirements because there is no
standard toolkit for meeting these requirements. Assistive technology
developers, who are expected to have expertise in meeting these user
requirements, have no standard API level support suitable for obtaining
the information assistive technologies require concerning running
applications. The heterogeneous nature of toolkits, component inter
process communication models, libraries, and applications makes the
development of robust and effective assistive technologies difficult, at
best, without such standards and binary interface components:

*	Users with various disabilities can not effectively use the system;

*	systems do not meet legal requirements (which hampers marketers 
of free standards based systems);

*	developers cannot make their apps accessible in a consistent manner;

*	Comprehensive and consistent platform services to support
accessibility do not exist;

* Assistive technology developers cannot create assistive technologies
for free standards platforms.

* The lack of standardization prevents leveraging prior art, > sharing
of expertise, and reduces the value of individual contributions.

				Janina Sajka, Director
				Technology Research and Development
				Governmental Relations Group
				American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Email: janina at afb.net		Phone: (202) 408-8175

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