Edgy Accessibility features

Luke Yelavich themuso at themuso.com
Sat Apr 22 13:26:57 BST 2006

On Sat, Apr 22, 2006 at 03:27:26AM EST, Henrik wrote:
> Hi all,
> The beta for 6.06 has just been released and the plans for the next 
> version 'Edgy Eft' were announced just a few days ago. Edgy will take 
> some risks, introducing new technologies like XGL rendering even if they 
> are not completely mature. I think we in the accessibility team should 
> think along the same lines and get to work on some exiting new assistive 
> technology opportunities.

Bring it on!!!!

> This is the time to start floating some ambitious new ideas. Let's do 
> some brainstorming on this and get some of the doable things on the wiki 
> as specifications. Let's think beyond what Windows or OS X has (each 
> with it's proprietary add-ons) and think about what users really need.
> So, some ideas:
> Orca User Interface -- I've been talking a bit with the Orca team about 
> working on the configuration UI. We in Ubuntu have a good community that 
> can provide valuable ideas and testing for this and Orca seems to run 
> quite happily on the Ubuntu platform. Orca has been put forward for 
> inclusion in gnome 2.16, which IMO is the right move, but for that to 
> happen it probably needs a config UI (be it GUI or not).

Agreed. I also don't like the idea of using a separate program, i.e 
orca-setup just to get orca configured for the user. IMO that should be 
done when orca first runs, and not in a terminal.

> General AT config UI -- I feel that the AT settings in gnome are handled 
> a bit awkwardly and could do with a rethink and some centralisation. 
> This should be seen in context with the point above. I'd like to see an 
> extensible config utility where different apps could plug in.

Yes, and standardize back-ends for things, such as speech-dispatcher 
rather than gnome-speech, etc.

> XGL-based screen magnifier -- The new desktop rendering technologies 
> using the 3D rendering hardware hold great promise for screen 
> magnification. We already see the zoom features demoed on XGL systems 
> magnifying faster and smoother and with better clarity than the existing 
> magnifiers like kmag or Gnopernicus. However, in order to be useful for 
> low vision users features like cursor tracking will be needed along with 
> general configuration tools.

Is there anything that can be played with at the moment along these 

> Speech dispatcher -- According to their website the SD gnome-speech 
> driver will soon be shipped with gnome-speech. How mature is this? 
> Should we standardise on SD for speech output in Ubuntu? What else is 
> needed, configuration interfaces? (as you can read I don't know very 
> much about this technology, so others please fill in the blanks.)

KDE are planning to use speech-dispatcher for their back-end. IMO Sun 
were stupid in creating gnome-speech, although I am pretty sure they did 
it at a time when there wasn't really anything else. There was a post on 
one of the GNOME lists recently about having two back-end systems, one 
chained to the other, being pointless. IMO we rip the gnome-speech 
support out of orca, and use speech-dispatcher directly. I am pretty 
sure SD has python bindings, and speech-dispatcher as far as I have seen 
is a ittle easier to program for.

> KDE -- What's cooking in KDE 4? We have seen talk about gnome and KDE 
> using the same AT infrastructure. What is the state of this and is there 
> anything ubuntu/ubuntu can do to help? The idea is that KDE4 apps will 
> use AT-SPI, right? So will they simply work with Orca and GOK or will 
> new KDE AT apps be written?

The GNOME and KDE accessibility teams are still trying to standardize 
the at-spi stuff, but I don't know when that is going to happen. I 
suggest those who are interested at least join the kde-accessibility 
mailing list to get an idea of what is happening. You can subscribe 
here: https://mail.kde.org/mailman/listinfo/kde-accessibility

I think there is also a FSG accsessibility mailing list, although I 
haven't looked for it yet. I will probably look into that sometime soon.

> On screen Keyboard -- My critical view of GOK is no secret [1]. I think 
> we can do much better, but it will probably require a new approach. 
> Perhaps it could be made more modular so that different use cases don't 
> get in each other's way. [1]: http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=12942

Can't really comment here.

> Mouse Tweaks - We have a large cursor set going into dapper now, but it 
> could IMO be sharper and more complete. There are also gains to be made 
> in tweaking the pointer motion, such as making it less sensitive to hand 
> tremors (with adjustable settings of course).

Again, no real comment here.

> Ubuntu will be participating in Google's Summer of Code project again 
> this year which is generally a good place to start small new development 
> projects. I've written up some basic abstracts for some possible 
> projects, but I would also like to make some progress on fleshing out 
> some specs. The more detail we can work out now, the quicker the 
> students can get cracking on the code. Please suggest areas I might have 
> overlooked where we should focus as well or instead. See: 
> https://wiki.ubuntu.com/GoogleSoC2006

Sounds cool. Now if only I was a better programmer... :)

There are some really good ideas mentioned above, and we can really 
start to flesh out some good accessibility ideas, and help push some 
standards on many fronts, standards which shouldn't really have to be 
changed for the long term. This is one of the best times for us to help 
Linux accessibility mature.

I say again. Bring it on!!!!
Luke Yelavich
GPG key: 0xD06320CE 
Email & MSN: themuso at themuso.com
ICQ: 18444344
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