[Accessibility] PROPOSAL: Accessible Document

Catherine Laws claws at us.ibm.com
Wed Apr 20 13:46:25 PDT 2005

Using today's accessibility APIs, developers of assistive technologies face
difficult challenges trying to implement logical navigation of the content
and structures of complex documents for users with vision, learning,
physical, and cognitive impairments.  Some of the challenges include:

- Lack of rich semantic information to identify different document object
types (text, dynamic, embedded, enabled, etc) and document structure
- Performance issues when navigating large documents and structures and
when running out of process
- Missing dynamic document changes
- Different cross-platform APIs (MSAA on Windows versus AT-SPI on
Linux/Gnome) and application APIs (COM and DOM interfaces in Windows) for
accessing similar documents (word processing, Web pages and applications,
spreadsheets, PDF, presentation, etc) and similar applications (Microsoft
Office, OpenOffice, Adobe Reader, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, etc)
- Extensibility and scriptability of the APIs

To address these challenges, I propose the formation of a new FSG
Accessibility sub-workgroup, named the Accessible Document Workgroup, which
would initially adopt the following goals:

-  Create and propose a standard cross-platform, cross-document
accessibility API extension for navigating all content and structure and
for handling events and changes in complex documents.
- Include new techniques for handling performance issues
- Provide for extensibility and scriptability

An initial activity will be to create a "gap analysis" chart that
categorizes and compares all the different accessibility APIs and other
APIs used by assistive technologies on different platforms today to access
document content and structure information (including AT-SPI and ATK,
Microsoft's MSAA and UI Automation, various Document Object Models, IBM
Home Page Reader Web Access Technology (WAT), and others). Then the group
will start drafting an API recommendation for extending accessibility APIs
(AT-SPI and potentially MSAA/UI Automation and others) to provide a richer
accessible document interface that addresses performance and semantic
information issues when navigating today's complex documents. Also, the
workgroup will draft a style guide which will recommend navigation key
sequences, shortcut keys, user interface components, and highlighting that
assistive technologies should provide for navigating and obtaining
information about complex documents.

If we were a subgroup, then we could have an FSG mailing list, post
recommendations and documents to share on the freestandards.org site, and
hold regular teleconferences to openly discuss accessible document
proposals.  Any architects and developers involved in creating,
implementing, or accessing accessible interfaces for documents who want to
participate in this working group should contact Cathy Laws
(claws at us.ibm.com).

Cathy Laws

IBM Accessibility Center, WW Strategic Platform Enablement
11501 Burnet Road,  Bldg 904 Office 5F017, Austin, Texas 78758
Phone: (512) 838-4595, FAX: (512) 838-9367, E-mail: claws at us.ibm.com, Web:

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