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!

Monday Dec 11, 2006

Orca and Dasher on OpenSolaris

The Solaris operating system release cycle is somewhat slower than that of many (most?) GNU/Linux systems. This has meant that a lot of the recent great work on accessibility that Sun has been leading and contributing to in GNOME have appeared in Linux systems, but not (yet) in Solaris.

That has now changed. Earlier today, OpenSolaris build 53 became available for download. OpenSolaris is the open source edition of Solaris. Build 53 is based on GNOME 2.16.1, which includes Orca version 1.0 and Dasher version 4.2.0. (it also continues to contain GOK, which was also in Solaris 10 - version 1.2.0 of GOK is in build 53). So, if you are interested in exploring the open source scripting screen reader Orca on Solaris, or the amazing alternate text-entry system Dasher on Solaris, we invite you to do so in build 53 of OpenSolaris. You can also of course continue to try and use these assistive technologies on GNU/Linux systems like Ubuntu version 6.10 and Fedora Core 6.

For folks wanting to try the very latest editions of Orca and Dasher (and GOK) on Solaris, also install the Sun Studio 11 development tools and grab and build the latest Orca and/or Dasher (and/or GOK) sources (from either the source tarballs or from the CVS code repository directly).

Saturday Nov 04, 2006

Happy (belated) birthday: GNOME accessibility turns 6 years old

A couple of weeks ago, on October 19th, the GNOME Accessibility project had another birthday. Bad form of me to miss it, but when you are about to turn 39 for the second time, others' birthdays can get away from you...

Before summarizing the recent growth and gains, I thought it'd be interesting to look back on some previous anniversaries. Here is what things looked like at five years old and what they looked like at four years old. Four years after the "birth" of GNOME - and graphical UNIX - accessibility in a public meeting in Minneapolis announcing an open source effort to build accessibility into the UNIX desktop, we had one multiple awards and were shipping early versions of three assistive technologies in GNOME 2.8. We had also just begun a standardization effort around UNIX accessibility in the Free Standards Group. One year later, at the 5 year anniversary, Sun was shipping the Solaris 10 desktop with two of the aforementioned assistive technologies (and already had 2 million licensed users of that OS), Ubuntu 5.10 was shipping with early accessibility support, and we had significant adoption by the Spanish National Organization of the Blind in Andalusia and Extremadura.

Over this past year, the momentum has continued:

In addition to all of these significant achievements, we've had a number of key meetings moving the cause of graphical UNIX accessibility forward:

Finally, in this the sixth year of GNOME/graphical UNIX accessibility, we've seen a new battleground and opportunity in the fight over OpenDocument Format. This fight with Microsoft (who would prefer that folks not use ODF) is interesting for the cause of UNIX accessibility because it addresses one of the key reasons for folks to stay on Windows - the ability to read and write the same word processing and spreadsheet files, and presentations as their employer and their government. While we've largely moved to Web standards, and use standard e-mail protocols and standard calendar protocols (as long as or organization hasn't chosen the Microsoft Exchange Server with its proprietary protocols), we are only starting to move to a standard office document file format.

These standards are important, because when our companies and governments and organizations adopt them, they give us the freedom to choose whatever application we want to use, on whatever platform or operating system (and with whatever assistive technology) that we want. We aren't tied to an operating system that may not support our language, or find ourselves out of luck if our screen reader won't speak in our language, or find ourselves to be like one of the 70% of Americans with Disabilities who don't have the income to afford commercial assistive technology products. While Massachusetts has led the way in ODF adoption, we are also seeing this in Denmark, and in Belgium, and in Malaysia, and a number of other U.S. States and European governments and governments worldwide. Every one of these government ODF adoptions becomes a place where citizens with disabilities don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for access software that may not even be in their own language in order to read and exchange government documents. They become places where, with open source UNIX accessibility, we can accelerate our closing the digital divide for people with disabilities.

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Peter Korn

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