Open Accessibility (A11y)

Statement On Desktop Accessibility Development
September 21, 2005

We are members of the Gnome and KDE Accessibility Projects, and also of the Free Standards Group's Accessibility Workgroup (FSG Accessibility). We have prepared this statement in order to clarify the plans and intentions of our projects with respect to interoperability and standardization. We believe this statement accurately reflects the consensus viewpoint of the individual members of our groups.

We wish to allay any concern that our standardization efforts might be focused on any one particular toolkit or desktop technology to the exclusion of other toolkits and desktops. We believe it is imperative to preserve choice and to maximize available options for users. Therefore we are developing an accessibility standard based on functional performance criteria implemented in messaging protocols fully independent of any particular toolkit or desktop technology. We believe users who are persons with disabilities should be empowered to choose technologies from any and all environments which provide accessibility just as other desktop users today routinely use a mix of technologies from different desktop environments. Our goal is seamless interoperability.

While some of the accessibility interfaces being discussed as candidates for standardization within FSG Accessibility, primarily AT-SPI, originated in Gnome, we as a group are committed to toolkit-neutral accessibility interface standards. A key goal of our ongoing standardization effort, which is inclusive rather than exclusive, is the long-term interoperability of accessibility solutions for the free desktop environment. The current KDE4 roadmap, for example, calls for interoperability with existing Gnome assistive technologies, using the AT-SPI bridge of Qt4. The KDE Accessibility Project also plans to port its own assistive technologies to AT-SPI so that Gnome users can benefit from them. The Gnome team is excited about this commitment and the willingness of the KDE developers to integrate technologies that originated within Gnome in those cases where they offer immediate tangible benefits to users.

At the same time, we are actively working together to develop and implement a strategy which will eliminate dependencies on any particular desktop, library, or toolkit, including KDE accessibility on Gnome libraries, or vice versa. The current plan of action, which was agreed to at a face-to-face meeting of FSG Accessibility during January 2005, is to standardize on a set of interfaces (most likely specified in IDL), and allow for multiple conformant implementations as long as basic interoperability requirements are met. This will allow for increased technology sharing and help "future-proof" our standardization efforts.

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