Thursday Oct 24, 2013

Exit stage right...

I joined Sun Microsystems in December of 1996, not quite 17 years ago. Over the course of those years, it has been my great pleasure and honor to work with a many talented folks, on a many incredible projects - first at Sun, and then at Oracle.

In those nearly 17 years, we made quite a few platforms and products accessible - including Java, GNOME, Solaris, and Linux. We pioneered many of the accessibility techniques that are now used throughout the industry, including accessibility API techniques which first appeared in the Java and GNOME accessibility APIs; and screen access techniques like the API-based switch access of the GNOME Onscreen Keyboard. Our work was recognized as groundbreaking by many in the industry, both through awards for the innovations we had delivered (such as those we received from the American Foundation for the Blind), and awards of money to develop new innovations (the two European Commission accessibility grants we received). Our knowledge and expertise contributed to the first Section 508 accessibility standard, and provided significantly to the upcoming refresh of that standard, to the European Mandate 376 accessibility standard, and to a number of web accessibility standards.

After 17 years of helping Sun and Oracle accomplish great things, it is time to start a new chapter... Today is my last day at Oracle. It is not, however, my last day in the field of accessibility. Next week I will begin working with another group of great people, and I am very much looking forward to the great things I will help contribute to in the future.

Starting tomorrow, please follow me on my new, still under constriction, Wordpress blog:

Friday Sep 20, 2013

New iOS 7 accessibility features... foreshadowed by AEGIS research

Apple just released iOS 7, a major update to their mobile operation system. As with the the last several major updates, this release includes a number of significant accessibility enhancements. This time the major emphasis seems to be an features for folks with severe physical impairments. These advances are part of "Switch Control", which comprises two key things:

  • A scanning UI that will scan through the interface, selecting the object the "cursor" is over when the user activates a connected "switch"
  • A "gesture switch" that uses the front facing camera to recognize certain types of head movements as activating a "switch"

Together these advances allow someone who has extremely limited motor control to completely control their iPhone or iPad - including the ability to make and receive phone calls and text messages. 9to5mac has a nice video showing switch control of an iPad using head movements.

It is particularly gratifying to see Apple commercialize these solutions, as these are two of the things we were researching and developing prototypes for as part of the AEGIS project from 2008 through 2012:

We did extensive user testing of Tecla in the AEGIS project, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. One user told us that they would happily pay many hundreds of dollars for software that would allow them to control a smart phone, and were stunned to find out the software was already in the Android store, available for free. We also did targeted user testing of OpenGazer with users with Locked-in syndrome (they couldn't speak or move muscles beyond those in their face), and there the feedback was also overwhelmingly positive. For one of the women we worked with, there was no other option that would work for her, including $10,000 camera systems that tracked eye movements (but not those of her eyes).

It is an incredible time to be alive and involved in the field of accessibility. Every year brings more and better solutions, at more affordable prices. I can't imagine any other field I would rather be in.

Thursday Sep 05, 2013

"Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (WCAG2ICT)" was formally published today as a W3C Working Group Note

After an intense 16 months, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published the Working Group Note "Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (WCAG2ICT)".

I want to thank my co-editors Michael Cooper and Andi Snow-Weaver; co-authors Loïc Martínez Normand, Mike Pluke, Andi Snow-Weaver, and Gregg Vanderheiden; and all of the active and engaged participants in the WCAG2ICT Task Force and the reviewing and approving participants in the WCAG Working Group for all that they have done to draft, review, and publish this Working Group Note in record time. I also want to specifically thank Andrew Kirkpatrick and Joshue O Connor, the new co-chairs of the WCAG Working Group for their 11th hour work to get this document published this week.

Even though this document was only published today, it has already had a tremendous impact on regulatory efforts in Europe and the United States. Previous drafts of WCAG2ICT from last July and from last December formed the basis of the European procurement standards effort Mandate 376 and specifically the draft technical standard EN 301 549. Similarly in the United States, the U.S. Access Board decided to use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as the basis the refresh of Section 508 ICT accessibility standards as they are applied to non-web documents and software (as set forth in their 2011 Draft Rule).

I'm certain I speak for all members of the WCAG2ICT Task Force and the WCAG Working Group when I say that we look forward to the completed Mandate 376 and Section 508 refresh work, and hope that our Working Group Note will have proven helpful in the efforts to develop effective, meaningful, and globally harmonized accessibility standards for ICT procurement.

Wednesday Apr 24, 2013

Oracle Sponsors Project:Possibility's 2013 European SS12

Project:Possibility is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating groundbreaking open source software for persons with disabilities. As part of their work, they inspire students through university coding competitions that introduce them to the possibilities unlocked by accessibility and open source assistive technology. One of the ways they do this is through SS12: Code for a Cause, in which a number of university student teams create accessible applications in a series of Code-A-Thons, competing with each other with finals held at a major disability conference.

Oracle is proud to be a sponsor of the 2013 European SS12 Finals to be held at the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) Conference in Vilamoura, Portugal.

Tuesday Feb 12, 2013

See Oracle at CSUN!

As we have been doing for more than a decade, the Oracle accessibility team is returning to the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (also known as the CSUN conference). This year Oracle is proud to be one of the conference sponsors. We are also hosting 4 sessions and participating in a fifth:
  1. Oracle Accessibility News on Wednesday, February 27, at 10:40am in the Edward AB room
  2. Accessibility in the ARIA-Enabled Siebel CRM on Wednesday, February 27, at 1:50pm in the Edward AB room
  3. Fixing Web Pages using JavaScript on Thursday, February 28, 10:40am in the Edward AB room
  4. Java Platform Accessibility: Java 7, JavaFX on Friday, March 1 4:20pm in the Manchester H room
  5. Panel: Inclusive Mobile for Everyone-Challenges on Thursday at 1:50pm in the Manchester B room (IBM's room)
If you are in San Diego February 27th through March 1st, please stop by one of our sessions and say "hello".

Monday Dec 17, 2012

Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web ICT: second draft published from WCAG2ICT Task Force - for public review

Last Thursday the W3C published an updated Working Draft of Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies. As I noted last July when the first draft was published, the motivation for this guidance comes from the Section 508 refresh draft, and also the European Mandate 376 draft, both of which seek to apply the WCAG 2.0 level A and AA Success Criteria to non-web ICT documents and software.

This second Working Draft represents a major step forward in harmonization with the December 5th, 2012 Mandate 376 draft documents, including specifically Draft EN 301549 "European accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services". This work greatly increases the likelihood of harmonization between the European and American technical standards for accessibility, for web sites and web applications, non-web documents, and non-web software.

As I noted last October at the European Policy Centre event: "The Accessibility Act – Ensuring access to goods and services across the EU", and again last month at the follow-up EPC event: "Accessibility - From European challenge to global opportunity", "There isn't a 'German Macular Degernation', a 'French Cerebral Palsy', an 'American Autism Spectrum Disorder'. Disabilities are part of the human condition. They’re not unique to any one country or geography – just like ICT. Even the built environment – phones, trains and cars – is the same worldwide. The definition of ‘accessible’ should be global – and the solutions should be too. Harmonization should be global, and not just EU-wide. It doesn’t make sense for the EU to have a different definition to the US or Japan." With these latest drafts from the W3C and Mandate 376 team, we've moved a major step forward toward that goal of a global "definition of 'accessible' ICT."

I strongly encourage all interested parties to read the Call for Review, and to submit comments during the current review period, which runs through 15 February 2013. Comments should be sent to I want to thank my colleagues on the WCAG2ICT Task Force for the incredible time and energy and expertise they brought to this work - including particularly my co-authors Judy Brewer, Loïc Martínez Normand, Mike Pluke, Andi Snow-Weaver, and Gregg Vanderheiden; and the document editors Michael Cooper, and Andi Snow-Weaver.

Thursday Oct 04, 2012

If you are in Brussels next week... come join a policy dialog on the European Accessibility Act

Next week I will be in Brussels attending a policy dialog held at the European Policy Centre on Thursday October 11th. It is titled "The Accessibility Act – ensuring access to goods and services across the EU", and I will be part of a distinguished panel exploring some of the issues the upcoming European Accessibility Act may address - with a particular emphasis in my case on the role of ICT accessibility. This morning policy dialog will be followed by a more focused workshop in the afternoon looking at specific challenges and potential solutions to those challenges. Oracle is sponsoring this policy dialog and workshop, alongside the European Disability Forum.

If you are in Brussels, you are invited to attend. Registration by e-mail is now open.

Friday Jul 27, 2012

Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web ICT: first draft published from WCAG2ICT Task Force - for public review

Last December the U.S. Access Board published the second Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for refreshing the Section 508 Accessibility Standards which describe the accessibility support that should be in Information and Communication Technologies that are purchased by U.S. federal agencies [many U.S. States and Universities also apply these standards to their ICT purchases; and in Europe the emerging Mandate 376 effort seeks to do the same for European government purchases].

One particularly interesting thing in this second draft is the idea of applying the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (AA level) to non-web platforms and applications. This is set forth in provision E207.2 WCAG Conformance which states: "User interface components and content of platforms and applications shall conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for web pages in WCAG 2.0 (incorporated by reference in Chapter 1)." In explaining this decision, the Access Board noted that: "WCAG is written to be technology neutral. While oriented towards web pages which are defined as being delivered using HTTP, it is straightforward to apply the WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements to user interface components and content of platforms and applications."

Many of public comments to the Access Board praised the significant use of WCAG 2.0 throughout this draft, and appreciated the potential to simplify the standard, but raised concerns that for a number of the WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria it wasn't so straightforward to do this. The April 2012 M376 draft followed the Access Board's lead in using WCAG 2.0 but noted a number of places where they felt it didn't apply to non-web ICT.

To better clarify this use of WCAG 2.0, Oracle joined with a number of our colleagues working in industry, disability advocacy, U.S. and European accessibility standards bodies, and U.S. Federal agencies - all with deep accessibility technology expertise as well as WCAG 2.0 knowledge - to develop guidance in applying WCAG to non-web ICT as part of a new W3C WAI Task Force: "WCAG2ICT".

After a couple months of very intense work, earlier today we published our first public draft for comments of Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies. I strongly encourage all interested parties to review this draft, and submit comments during the current review period, which runs through 7 September 2012 (details in the Status of This Document section).

I also want to thank the participants of the WCAG2ICT Task Force for the incredible time and energy and expertise they brought to this work - including particularly my co-authors Judy Brewer, Loïc Martínez Normand, Mike Pluke, Andi Snow-Weaver, and Gregg Vanderheiden; and the document editors Shadi Abou-Zahra, Michael Cooper, and Andi Snow-Weaver.

Wednesday Mar 28, 2012

GNOME 3.4 released, with smooth & fast magnification

The GNOME community released GNOME 3.4 today. This release contains several new accessibility features, along with a new set of custom high-contrast icons which improve the user experience for users needing improved contrast.

This release also makes available the AEGIS-funded GNOME Shell Magnifier. This magnifier leverages the powerful graphics functionality built into all modern video cards for smooth and fast magnification in GNOME. You can watch a video of that magnifier (with the previous version of the preference dialog), which shows all of the features now available in GNOME 3.4. This includes full/partial screen magnification, a magnifier lens, full or partial mouse cross hairs with translucency, and several mouse tracking modes.

Future improvements planned for GNOME 3.6 include focus & caret tracking, and a variety of color/contrast controls.

Tuesday Mar 13, 2012

The Section 508 refresh moves forward - Oracle comments to the ANPRM

Last December the U.S. Access Board published their second Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("2011 ANPRM") - a second draft of the new accessibility regulations for Federal procurement of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Comments on this draft were due March 7th.

The draft rules generated over 70 public comments, addressing various aspects of the new rules. I coordinated Oracle's public comments on the 2011 ANPRM, and also spoke at the public hearing they held at the CSUN conference two weeks ago.

I have had the pleasure of being closely involved in the Section 508 refresh process from the beginning, as part of the advisory committee to the Access Board which produced an advisory report to help the Board create their refreshed rules. I am very much looking forward to the next steps in this process, and particularly to the final rule, which should be a major step forward.

Thursday Feb 23, 2012

Oracle and AEGIS at CSUN

Spring has come early to California this week, just like the 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (more commonly known as the "CSUN Conference"). And just like last year, blooming wisteria outside my bedroom window lets me know that CSUN will take place next week.

This year Oracle is giving a presentation on Java & JavaFX accessibility, and I'm joining several AEGIS colleagues in giving 3 presentations on our work in the AEGIS project. Finally, I'm taking part ATIA's Accessibility Forum. Here's the full schedule:

If you are attending CSUN this year, I hope you'll stop by at one (or more) of our sessions and say hello!

Tuesday Nov 29, 2011

Java Spotlight on mobile accessibility with LWUIT

Ofir Leitner and I were interviewed recently about the Java mobile accessibility work we presented at JavaOne (and that I just presented again yesterday at the AEGIS Conference in Brussels). That interview appears on The Java Spotlight issue #58. You can listen to an MP3 recording of the interview, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes. Ofir and I appear in the podcast at 4:28 into the show.

Wednesday Nov 09, 2011

Accessible Oracle Solaris 11 - released!

Moments ago, my computer spoke to me: "Oracle Solaris installation is complete. Review the Oracle Solaris installation log for more information." This was followed by "Oracle Solaris installation log button" (telling me that that is the focused button on my screen). Three TAB presses later ("Quit button", "Help button", "Reboot button") and a press of the RETURN key, and my computer rebooted with a brand spanking new accessible installation of Solaris 11, Oracle's latest operating system release that was just announced earlier today!

I began my involvement in Solaris accessibility work just over 11 years ago, with the GNOME Accessibility Summit that we held during the annual Closing the Gap conference in Minneapolis Minnesota, October 19, 2000. Sun had decided to give its Solaris desktop a face lift into the modern world, and choose to do that with GNOME. And I was tapped to help the Sun Ireland engineering team - the initial home for GNOME at Sun - build accessibility into GNOME, and thereby into Solaris.

In the intervening 11 years a lot has happened that help make Solaris 11 accessible, with a LiveCD that can talk right through the installation process. Oracle Solaris 11 is the culmination of many many staff-years of work, begun at Sun, and completed at Oracle, with lots of community contributions along the way (GNOME, Firefox, etc.). And now it is available for use!

Tuesday Nov 08, 2011

Another AEGIS development: document accessibility checking - AccessODF

Over the past few years as part of the AEGIS project, our friends at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven) have released extensions to that allow users to create talking books in DAISY format (with odt2daisy), and to print documents in Braille (with odt2braille).

Today K.U.Leuven has announced something that makes both of these extensions even better: AccessODF. AccessODF is a third extension which adds a powerful accessibility checker to the office suite, allowing authors to find and fix accessibility errors in Writer documents. Properly marked up, accessible documents can then be used to generate accessible DAISY books, to print out properly formatted Braille documents, or to create accessible PDF files. AccessODF is fully cross platform, working on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris. And like odt2daisy and odt2braille, it also works as an extension to LibreOffice.

AccessODF, along with odt2daisy and odt2braille, will be one of the highlights at the upcoming AEGIS Conference in Brussels at the end of this month.

Thursday Oct 13, 2011

Java Mobile Speaks! Report on our LWUIT accessibility work for Java ME

Over the past year Oracle's Java Mobile team has been building accessibility support into LWUIT, the Lightweight UI Toolkit for Java ME. Last week Ofir Leitner and I gave a presentation on this work at JavaOne.

In a nutshell, this is what we've done in this research project:

In our talk last Thursday at JavaOne, we demonstrated the prototype screen reader providing access to the standard LWUIT "UI Demo" application, running on a Nokia N95 mobile phone. This nearly 5 year old device uses a 332 MHz AOMAP-2420 ARM11-based microprocessor. It is noteworthy that this phone has about 1/4th the processing power of the iPhone 3GS, the first mobile phone to ship with a built-in screen reader and a full accessibility framework. You can download and play a Quicktime movie showing the screen reader speaking the LWUIT UI Demo application running in the Java mobile emulator.

In an interesting coincidence of timing, the day after our JavaOne presentation of this Java mobile accessibility research, the Federal Communications Commission published their Report and Order implementing provisions of Section 104 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This order requires that manufacturers of equipment used for "Advanced Communications Services" - things like e-mail and IM and SMS - must make those products and services accessible to people with disabilities by October of 2013. Failing to do so by that date when it was "achievable" to do so subjects the manufacturer and/or service provider with fines of up to $100k/day.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, at the end of 2010 there were 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world. As noted by Mobi Thinking, in their July 2011 report, "Feature phones sales (let alone ownership) still outnumber smartphones 4:1", with less than 300 million of the 1.3 billion mobile phones last year being smartphones. And since most feature phones come with Java, this research has the potential to enable an awful lot of devices to provide accessible user interfaces...

Disclaimer: at this point our work is still research. It is not part of any announced product roadmap. As the standard Oracle presentation disclaimer states, you should not make a purchasing decision based on this research.


Peter Korn


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