[orca-list] VINUX-SUPPORT: RE: Ubuntu Unity Desktop to go to Mir and QT

Christopher Chaltain chaltain at gmail.com
Wed Jul 24 17:21:26 UTC 2013

I agree accessibility should be baked in from the beginning. It's 
cheaper than bolting it on later, opens up more revenue streams, 
provides positive PR and so on. It's the law here in the US, and just 
the right thing to do. I wasn't speaking from my own opinion, but just 
echoing where I think these companies are coming from and why I think 
their making the investments they are. I can't think of a single smart 
phone company that introduced an accessible smart phone with they're 
first offering and that includes Apple, Google, Microsoft and Nokia. I 
don't like it, but I don't think many companies place accessibility very 
high on their priority lists as compared to getting a new product into 
the market place and getting it to a point where it's competitive and 

I've heard that Apple had to develop it's own screen reader when Berkley 
Systems went out of business and no other 3rd party screen reader would 
develop a screen reader for the Mac. Apple was in danger of losing 
government contracts because MS had an accessible story while Apple did 
not. I don't know this first hand, but I would say I have it from 
reliable sources. Of course, Apple has gone far beyond this in making 
all of it's products accessible out of the box.

I'm not aware of any company losing a government contract because they 
didn't have an accessible smart phone story, but I suspect this is 
possible as smart phones become more and more a ubiquitous part of the 
business world. This is why I suspect MS will address accessibility on 
their Windows Phone platform at some point. I think they need to get the 
Windows Phone platform to a point where government agencies start 
considering asking their employees to use a Windows Phone. Right now, I 
suspect Windows Phone doesn't have the apps or the market penetration 
for businesses or government agencies to even consider it as an option. 
I've heard good things about the Windows Phone platform though, and I do 
know it's becoming a viable third option behind Apple and Android.

The real point of my email though was to be careful making analogies 
between Canonical and Apple/Google. If we assume Canonical has 500 
employees with one person working on accessibility (I know I'm being 
optimistic.) then how does this compare to Apple and it's ratio of total 
employees to those working on accessibility? Also, don't forget that 
Apple's first smart phone was not accessible. It wasn't until this was 
successful in the market place and competing with Nokia and Blackberry 
before they added accessibility. Ditto for Google.

On 07/24/2013 11:57 AM, Al Sten-Clanton wrote:
> It strikes me that, from the perspective you're describing, a "viable
> product" apparently does not include accessibility as a matter of
> course.  (I'm not saying that's your own view, but only that this is the
> view you describe--all too well and concisely.) Until our access needs
> are deemed equal to the access needs of those who use the standard
> monitor and other tools, the attitude in the business will be wrong.
> Tell me if I'm mistaken, but I think I heard recently that Apple's
> recent foray into accessibility resulted from a law suit.  (I say
> "recent foray" because there was a period during the 1980s when it
> provided some speech output at least.) Does anybody know for sure
> whether this is right or wrong?
> Al
> On 07/23/2013 11:38 PM, Christopher J Chaltain wrote:
>> I agree it's unfortunate that Luke is the only one working on Unity
>> accessibility, but there is a big difference between Canonical and Apple
>> or Google. Apple is the wealthiest company in the world. Google is also
>> a large company and is also quite profitable. Apple and Google are
>> already well established players in the mobile space. Neither the iPhone
>> nor Android were accessible when they were first released. Canonical is
>> a tiny company, less than 600 employees, and is still not profitable
>> after being around for about eight years or so. It's still trying to
>> break into the mobile market.
>> I'm not defending Canonical here. I too wish that they would invest more
>> in accessibility development. I'm just pointing out that circumstances
>> right now between Canonical and Apple/Google are quite a bit different.
>> I think Canonical focus right now is to just get a viable product out
>> into the market place. I'm sure that once that happens and it becomes
>> successful, they'll invest more in accessibility, just as Apple and
>> Google have. In some ways, this is analogous to Microsoft and Windows
>> Phone. MS's priority right now is to become relevant in the mobile
>> space. Once that happens then I think accessibility will move up higher
>> on their priority queue.
>> On 07/24/2013 08:41 AM, Alex Midence wrote:
>>> Hi, Luke,
>>> Just to be clear, I don't think and have never thought you were part
>>> of the
>>> problem.  What I do think is that it sucks that you are the only one
>>> having
>>> to do all this work.  They really should hire you some help.  There is
>>> only
>>> so much one person can do and a11y is a big job.  Apple has a full on
>>> team
>>> working on Voiceover.  Google has Dr. Raman and his assistant and
>>> probably
>>> others I don't know about working on Android accessibility.  If
>>> canonical is
>>> going to expand into all these other markets, I don't see why they can't
>>> hire you a couple of assistants to help distribute the workload.
>>> However,
>>> those decisions are beyond our control.  Speaking for myself, I am
>>> personally very appreciative of all the work you have put in.
>>> Best regards,
>>> Alex M
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Luke Yelavich [mailto:themuso at ubuntu.com]
>>> Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:05 PM
>>> To: Alex Midence
>>> Cc: Christopher Chaltain; vinux-support at googlegroups.com; 'Ubuntu
>>> Accessibility Mailing List'; orca-list at gnome.org
>>> Subject: Re: [orca-list] VINUX-SUPPORT: RE: Ubuntu Unity Desktop to
>>> go to
>>> Mir and QT
>>> On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 01:33:34PM EST, Alex Midence wrote:
>>>> Also, for the record, I fully recognize and appreciate all the hard
>>>> work of the developers of the Ubuntu community who freely give of
>>>> their time to make things accessible.  However, it was disappointing
>>>> to finally have gotten a very accessible port of Unity in 12.04 only
>>>> to be told that we were back to poor a11y in other versions of the
>>>> distro for at the very least 2 full years.
>>> For the record, I was disappointed as well. I expressed my desire for
>>> Unity
>>> to stick with using Qt at the time, given the accessibility
>>> advantages it
>>> brought for one, and the fact that it would have made maintaining unity
>>> easier as the nux GUI toolkit wouldn't also need to be maintained, and
>>> Qt is
>>> well established etc.
>>> I am the only developer working for Canonical who spends at least
>>> some of
>>> the time working on accessibility issues. I say some of the time,
>>> because I
>>> do have other duties, in fact the primary reason why I was hired was
>>> not to
>>> work exclusively on accessibility, although the powers that be are ok
>>> with
>>> me doing so.
>>> Having said that, my big focus for the next 10-12 months will almost
>>> exclusively be getting Qt5, Mir, and Unity as accessible an
>>> environment as
>>> one person can possibly manage. Qt5 helps somewhat, but the specific
>>> parts
>>> of Qt that are being used for the new Unity still have some rough
>>> spots when
>>> it comes to accessibility, and there is also the changing graphics
>>> stack and
>>> everythign that goes with it to deal with.
>>> Given these changes, and given I am the only person who is likely
>>> going to
>>> be working on all of this, I cannot really promise anything, given the
>>> work
>>> that is required, and given the time and resources, or possibly lack
>>> there
>>> of, available to do so. I do really appreciate that you all want
>>> regularly
>>> updated, accessible distro releases that have the latest accessibility
>>> crack, but please keep in mind just how many of us in the wider *nix
>>> accessibility community there are, and also keep in mind how many of
>>> us are
>>> involved with some form of active development in the area, and if you
>>> want
>>> to dig deeper, think about the number of us working on GUI desktop
>>> accessibility of some kind.
>>> I try to take the approach of under promising, and at least
>>> delivering, and
>>> if I can over deliver, than thats great.
>>> In the meantime, there is the Ubuntu GNOME remix, with GNOME shell, wich
>>> does work quite well these days. I'll do my best to try and fix any
>>> issues
>>> people may notice with that release, given the accessibility tools and
>>> infrastructure are shared with GNOME and Unity.
>>> Thanks, and I really appreciate your understanding, and support.
>>> Luke

Christopher (CJ)
chaltain at Gmail

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