Another (belated) GNOME Accessibility birthday

Since I started blogging, I have been recognizing the anniversary of the GNOME accessibility project. The first one, for the 4 year anniversary, was a lengthy post, cataloging all of the great stuff that had happened in the past four years. Year 5 was somewhat shorter, though with year 6 we had a bunch to talk about - Orca 1.0 shipping, a bunch of new energy with the then new Ubuntu accessibility effort and IBM's screen reader effort, as well as along list of conferences with sizable accessibility presences.

As both a father, and as someone who has celebrated his 39th birthday at least a couple of times now, I feel that birthdays are really most important for the young, while the "more mature" feel less of a need to make a big deal out of them. That's my excuse for being late with this recognition anyway (it couldn't have been the massive deadline I had in October that kept me from blogging, or all the work heading into the seventh TEITAC meeting...).

Still, it is high time to recognize that last month, on October 19th, GNOME Accessibility officially turned 7 years old. And at 7 years old, GNOME accessibility is growing up nicely...

Rather than producing yet another bulleted list (after all, those are sooo six years old), I'll do this paragraph style. The biggest change for me is that at 7 years old, the discussion has shifted. It is assumed that UNIX and GNU/Linux systems with GNOME are accessible - and that the access is built-in and free. After all, RedHat Enterprise Linux ships with blind & Braille access, as do several Fedoras and a bunch of Ubuntus, and of course OpenSolaris and Solaris Express Developer's Edition.

No longer is the discussion around the "if" of accessibility in UNIX and GNOME, it is around "how much" and "how efficient" is the access. Folks are asking about the best accessible developer tools, and the best music management app to use with their AT, and how to configure their open source software PBX with their AT. It seems every few weeks we get more languages supported by the AT tools, and every few months more speech voices. Some folks with disabilities say "it is coming along, but I'd rather stay in Windows, thanks just the same"; while others are finding that for what they do, the accessible UNIX environment suits them better.

So, please raise a glass with me and toast to the maturing 7 year old GNOME accessibility project (just don't let anyone see you offering your glass to the tyke; after all, 7 is still underage for alcohol most places...).

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Peter Korn

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