Happy birthday GNOME Accessibility!

It was exactly 8 years ago today, in Minneapolis Minnesota, that the GNOME Accessibility effort began with the GNOME Accessibility Summit meeting. You can see past blog entries recognizing the fourth anniversary, the fifth anniversary, the sixth anniversary, and a rather belated seventh too.

I noted last year:

Tthe 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.

That shift has continued. This past year GNOME open source screen reader Orca was invited to a "dueling operating systems" talk at CSUN (and from multiple independent reports, acquitted itself quite well and as a result encouraged folks to try it out). More assistive technologies came to the GNOME desktop, and all that were already there continued to mature.

We've also seen open source accessibility growing generally in the past year. A whole planet is tracking blog posts in that area. The WAI ARIA specification is just about done, and already not only is open source Firefox implementing support, but so is Google (and the UIUC toolkit and the Dojo toolkit), and of course Orca when used with Firefox. Another nice measure are all of the great audio walk throughs that Darragh Ó Héiligh has done in the past year, demonstrating one or another aspect of GNOME accessibility for the blind, on various GNU/Linux distributions.

One of the most notable events of this past year was Microsoft & Novell kicking off work to make their cross-platform .NET/Mono applications accessible on UNIX systems via the GNOME accessibility framework. According to Willie's blog report of the Boston GNOME summit last week, good progress was demonstrated (and more promised for next year).

The year closed with a bang! Yesterday and today in Beijing was the first ever summit. Accessibility was of the seven strands on the schedule. In that strand were the four talks:

And of course, we had a small announcement about a significant investment in open source accessibility by a distinguished consortium with generous assistance from a much appreciated benefactor. Yes, it was a fine year!

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