Re: Every FOSS project needs an accessibility coordinator role

From: Omer Zak <omerz_at_nonexisting.hamakor.org.il>
Date: Sun 19 Mar 2006 - 18:17:15 IST

In a private E-mail message to me, Tzafrir Cohen raised several
questions, which need to be answered. With his permission, I am
answering his questions in public.

On Sun, 2006-03-19 at 07:26 -0500, Tzafrir Cohen wrote:
> Hi
>
> I'm afraid your post wasn't quite useful at delivering its message. See
> below.
>
> On Sun, Mar 19, 2006 at 12:28:21PM +0200, Omer Zak wrote:
> > http://developers.slashdot.org/developers/06/03/19/0726241.shtml (FOSS
> > and Disabled Communities Out of Touch)
> >
> > http://software.newsforge.com/software/06/03/13/1628249.shtml?tid=150
> > (FOSS community, disabled users must learn to communicate)
>
> Right. The "ODF is not accessible" claims again. As if that format was
> not used for more than a year before its certification process has
> begun. As if that format has not gone through a certification process of
> a year or two. Where were those comments then? They magically turned out
> once MS has threatened not to supoprt it.

If Microsoft agreed to support ODF, then switching Masscusetts to ODF
would have required no re-training of people with disabilities. It
would have required no accelerated development of special software to
support their special hardware needs. It would have been possible for
people with disabilities to continue working with their MS-Windows
computers and with MS-Office. The only change would have been to save
their documents in ODF.

However, since Microsoft refused to support ODF, it is necessary to
retrain people, and to develop and deploy any special software needed by
their accessibility hardware. This is a problem, which needs to be
solved, not swept under the rug. Since there are not enough FOSS
developers in the disability groups themselves to take care of
themselves, some money and time need to be budgetted to take care of
this problem.

Currently, the FOSS and the disability groups are not in contact (with
the exception of Hamakor and O. Zak). So they do not know how to work
together. Therefore, the disability groups made the mistake of choosing
the confrontational route rather than enlisting the help of LUGs in
their areas for finding volunteers willing to work on any missing
software pieces.

The training requirements are not more onerous than the training needed
several years ago when switching to MS-DOS to MS-Windows 3.1.

> > This E-mail
> > message is being BCC'ed also to the managers of such training centers.
> > Several months ago I was in contact with them and asked them about FOSS
> > related training. They told me that they are doing no such training,
> > due to absence of demand for those skills.
>
> Lack of demand? So all's well and nobody needs them, right?
>
> What am I missing?

This is a chicken-and-egg problem (temporarily neglecting the current
avian flu situation).

Those vocational rehabilitation and training centers, which train people
with disabilities to work with word processors and other software
required in modern offices, are now betraying the long-range good of the
trainees. But they are not fully conscious of this fact, and they do
not get the proper guidance from today's market.

Businesses are not telling them that they (the businesses) need
secretaries and accountants, who know to use OpenOffice. So they (the
vocational rehabilitation and training centers) train people in using
MS-Office.

This is why I'd like to have Free Software businesses inform those
training centers about jobs for people who learned to use Free Software.

> > What can we do in Israel to address the difficulties of people with
> > disabilities and people from low socioeconomic classes?
>
> And how is that question related to Hamakor?

Hamakor is in the business of furthering the cause of Free Software in
Israel. Switching to FOSS is a long-term trend, and we can either be
proactive or leave people with special training needs (due to disability
or low socioeconomic class) behind.

Switching people with special needs to FOSS involves both training and
development/adaptation of software to work with assistive equipment.

> > 1. Lobby OpenOffice and AbiWord developers to add a no-BiDi setting to
> > their software (to support Hebrew+Arabic blind users of word
> > processing).
>
> Hmmm.... disable bidi support? why?

This is needed by the way blind people interact with computers. They
use text-to-speech and Braille equipment. Both kinds of equipment
expect strictly logical order of text. So if text is re-ordered using
the BiDi algorithm, this presents a big problem to them.

This is an easy modification to make, but would make a big difference to
Hebrew and Arabic speaking blind people needing to do word processing in
their native languages.

See also: http://www.haifux.org/lectures/112/ and
http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/telux/advanced.html (lecture 28).

Enhancement request in AbiWord bugzilla:
http://bugzilla.abisource.com/show_bug.cgi?id=8397

> Is kword any better?

I never used it. Can someone please check it?

> > 2. Israeli FOSS businesses should be in contact with vocational training
> > centers to encourage them to train people to work with FOSS and inform
> > them about existence of demand for such a training (for example by
> > customers of those FOSS businesses). Please contact me in private if
> > you need help in matchmaking.
>
> What business can those business get there? Is this charity work?

If you are a FOSS business developing and deploying a FOSS solution for
a big client company of yours, and you know that they'll need to hire 10
office workers who know to work with KDE desktop, why not suggest to the
vocational rehabilitation center near the big client company to train
some people to work with KDE desktop, and then they'll be employed by
the client company.

The FOSS business wins because there will be employees able to work with
its FOSS-based solution.
The vocational rehabilitation center wins because it can quickly find
jobs for people with disabilities (a big problem).
The client company does not lose, because they are more certain about
the quality of the employees (instead of having to interview 100 people
from the street, they get 10 people referred to them by the
rehabilitation center).

[While sometimes, the client company needs to spend some money making
the workspace accessible to people with disabilities (ramps, for
example), 80% of this cost is borne by Bituach Leumi.]

> > 3. Developers of Israeli Linux distributions (such as Ahad) - please
> > check not only for seamless Hebrew support but also for seamless blind
> > support.
>
> Any checklist availble? Any contacts?

To two blind computer users, who are being BCC'ed on this message:
Can you please answer those questions?

Basically, it is necessary to enable Braille displays (and/or text to
speech systems) very early in the boot process. Also, provide audible
cues for anything which requires a decision from the blind computer
user.

> > 4. Webmasters - follow Shlomi Fish's example, ask about and ensure that
> > your Web site is accessible to blind persons.
>
> Again: How?

See at end of this E-mail message.
The first thing is to add the appropriate alt text to img tags.

> > Avoid putting files of lecture audio recordings without also ensuring
> > that a textual transcript is available as well (for deaf people).
>
> Bah. There aren't so many on-line lectures out there. And now you add
> the extra burden for people to provide the (possibly non-existing) text?

Yes. This is the same kind of burden imposed upon organizations, which
add elevators and ramps to make their buildings accessible to
wheelchaired people. The same kind of burden imposed upon taxpayers in
socialist countries to ensure that no one dies due to being unable to
support himself. The same kind of burden imposed upon payers of
insurance premiums so that they'll get money to rehabilitate themselves
if they got disabled by an accident.

Consider the expectation to add textual transcripts to audio lecture
requirements as insurance premium, which will help you (or a family
member) get easier rehabilitation if you ever lose your hearing due to
any reason. Currently 40% of people aged 80 and above have very poor
hearing.

> > Design your Web site to be standards-compliant (to support browsers
> > adapted to the needs of blind persons).
>
> The good thing about standards is that there are so many of them. Many
> sites nowadays boast being "w3c compatible" (HTML 4.0.1 transitional or
> slightly better). But I figure you refered to some other standards.

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): http://www.w3.org/WAI/
See also: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/
Checklist: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/full-checklist.html (The
very first item is to provide text equivalent for any non-textual
element, including audio files).

                                                    --- Omer

-- 
Delay is the deadliest form of denial.    C. Northcote Parkinson
My own blog is at http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/
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Received on Sun, 19 Mar 2006 18:17:15 +0200

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