why using graphics mode for a11y?

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com
Fri Dec 26 10:57:56 GMT 2008

On 26/12/08 10:36, Nuno Donato wrote:
> What is the advantage of using something so complicated as a graphical
> user interface, instead of using a text-only alternative?

I'd suggest the number one advantage, leaving aside any more theoretical 
differences, is the ability for blind people to use the same software as 
other users. Most popular programs are GUI programs. The pool of 
developers happy to work on software for everyone is much larger than 
the pool of developers interested in developing text-only software or 
developing software for people who are blind, and it's less effort to 
add in accessibility information for GUI programs than rebuild every 
program as text-only. Equally important is the social angle. Using the 
same programs as friends and colleagues means being able to share 
knowledge or play together more easily. Being able to use a GUI program 
can also make the difference between employability and 
non-employability. If Linux wants to be a genuine business alternative, 
then it needs a GUI office suite and that suite needs to be accessible.

Also, as software services increasingly move online and as the line 
between content-driven webpages and web applications is ever more 
blurred, the ability to use a JS-capable, ARIA-supporting browser like 
Firefox is paramount. There's nothing like this among the various text 

> The graphical interface is interesting and can speed the use of the
> computer. But in case of blind people I feel it slows down even more as
> we have to create a mental image of the interface.

I think the distinction can be exaggerated. Plenty of text-only programs 
have interfaces and rely on visual positioning, colors, and symbols to 
communicate rather than using simple input and output models. Most 
browsers and editors fall into that category for instance.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

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