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Community: A Report from the Second Linux Accessibility Conference

Mar 29, 2002, 20:30 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by JP Schnapper-Casteras)

[ Thanks to JP Schnapper-Casteras for this link. ]

There was a flurry of activity in the Linux accessibility world at CSUN 2002, one of the most widely attended, well known, and longest running conferences on technology for the disabled. Accessibility, for those who do not know, is the practice of making software accessible or usable by the disabled (e.g., blind or low vision); under United States law, software, including Linux, must be accessible for it to be used by the government. Similar laws exist in other countries.

On Thursday, March 21st, Sun Microsystems presented the UNIX Accessibility sessions, which ranged in subject matter from panel discussions about the general importance and state of UNIX accessibility, to overviews of the structure of GNOME 2 and the GNOME Accessibility Architecture, to presentations about new Assistive Technology (AT) for the platform. Most notable were demonstrations of Gnopernicus, a GNOME screen reader, magnifier, and Braille outputer and GOK, the Gnome Onscreen Keyboard. Sun also announced that a team of engineers in China is working on making Mozilla accessible through the GNOME Accessibility Architecture and that several engineers are doing the same for Nautilis. Overall, Thursday's sessions were representative of the great progress made in the last year in the Linux and UNIX accessibility world, specifically in the GNOME, GTK+, and X Windows arenas.

The next day the 2nd Linux Accessibility Conference, also at CSUN 2002, served as the stage for more in-depth and technical material as well as group discussions about the community's direction. Presentations were given on subjects such accessibility checklists and guides for application developers, modifying the Linux kernel to speech-enable console applications, and Linux accessibility in the United States government. Among the most prominent parts of the conference was a roundtable on interoperability and collaboration, which lead to the formation of lengthy and detailed TODO list. As with the 1st Linux Accessibility Conference, this year's meeting allowed developers to share their work and plans for the coming months and hopefully better coordinate them.

Overall, in two days at CSUN, UNIX, Solaris, and Linux showed themselves to be increasingly capable platforms for disabled users. The Linux accessibility community continues to grow and is looking, now more than ever, for new developers and volunteers. E-mail JP Schnapper-Casteras and with your skills and experience (experience with accessibility not required) and he will put you in contact with the appropriate people and projects.

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