Earlier today, at the LinuxTag conference in Berlin, Sun issued the press release titled: "OpenOffice.org 3.0 Beta and Extensions Show Strong Momentum; Office Productivity Suite Delivers Document Accessibility for Mac Users with Disabilities" (emphasis is mine). The release immediately goes on to state: "Advanced Integration of OpenOffice.org with Apple VoiceOver, ODF Editing is Now Accessible on All Key Desktop Platforms".
I am incredibly proud of the OpenOffice.org community for their great work on accessibility overall, and especially for their work realizing accessibility on Macintosh with this release. With this beta (and the subsequent final release later this year), Macintosh users will finally have an accessible office suite - blind users of VoiceOver are able to read and write office documents (including Microsoft .doc files, since OpenOffice.org supports reading/writing those as well as the native OpenDocument Format).
As is stated in the press release:
OpenOffice.org 3.0 Beta is receiving very positive feedback from the community for its strong accessibility support on Mac OS X. OpenOffice.org is the first application that is multi-platform accessible, exposing a rich set of information to assistive technologies on Windows, Solaris, GNU/Linux and with this upcoming release, Mac OS X (Intel-based Macs only). OpenOffice.org 3.0 will be the first version to run on Mac OS X that will have the look and feel of an Aqua application while supporting the Mac OS X accessibility APIs, and integrating well with the built-in Macintosh VoiceOver screen reader - offering better accessibility support than many other applications available for Mac OS X.
For nearly a decade Sun has argued that the right way to realize technology accessibility is to divide the task into three parts: (1) the tasks of the platform or OS (to define an accessibility framework); (2) the tasks of the application (to expose its contents and information via that accessibility framework); and (3) the tasks of assistive technologies (to utilize the information provided by applications via the platform accessibility framework in order to make things accessible). As the Macintosh platform has had a rich and powerful accessibility framework in OS X for some time now, and assistive technologies utilizing it like VoiceOver since at least OS X v10.3, that means that 2/3rds of parts are taken care of and it now the remaining task of applications to leverage the accessibility framework for AT compatibility. And that is precisely what the OpenOffice.org Mac team has done - making OpenOffice.org the first and to my knowledge only office suite (and one of the very few large third party Macintosh applications) to be accessible through VoiceOver.
The press release (and this blog posting) close with a quote from Curtis Chong:
"We are very pleased with this latest demonstration of leadership by Sun, Apple, and the OpenDocument community to further the cause of accessibility to the Open Document format by the blind and other people with disabilities," said Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. "This move - to make OpenOffice.org accessible on the Mac - is an important step for people who want access to the OpenDocument format and the OpenOffice.org software, and it is reassuring to know that as OpenOffice.org moves into the Mac arena, it will be usable by everyone. We sincerely hope that similar efforts are underway to ensure access to OpenOffice.org on all platforms where it is available."