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Thu Jul 12 12:37:13 PDT 2007

Without appropriate technological accomodations, persons with
disabilities are excluded from participating in the benefits that
technology provides. Yet technology has proven capable of delivering
unparalleled benefit to disabled users--benefits for which these
individuals usually have no other good alternatives. 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. 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 supported. Whereas technology can
enable those who have not the use of their eyes to read online text, it
can prevent or severly encumber their ability to do so by supporting
only iconic and mouse driven user interfaces. In the vast majority of
circumstances the appropriate accomodations are known and quantifiable.
It is our proposal to codify this knowledge into binary componants that
implementation across any and all platforms that implement free and open

As things stand on free and open source platforms today, many (if not
most) applications are inaccessible to users who are blind, have severly
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
    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,
componant 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 componants.

    platform built-in features not available/accessible.  Multi-modal
is the direction of the future, which could be used to extend/broaden
    access but if not properly managed could pose limitations.

In addition new legal requirements emerging around the globe (such as
the Sec. 508 law in the U.S.) will require technology to support
effective usability for persons with disabilities. Marketers and
developers of free standards based technologies will need robust and
readily implementable solutions to be competitive under these
strictures. The trend toward multi-modal interfaces will help--but only
if we manage them properly. Making content creation, manipulation, and
consumption accessible will require certain visible user features as
well as API and ABI level support for developers.


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