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Help needed: People willing to help co-maintain debian accessibility packages


As many of you might already have noticed, I recently didn't have as
much time for Debian related work as I'd wish (or as the size of the
packages I'm involved in would require).  It is now about 2
years since the Debian Accessibility project started, and the number
of active maintainers of accessibility packages seems to actually go down.
For instance, the Emacspeak maintainer recently gave up emacspeak
and asked me to take over maintainership.  Since I very rarely use
Emacspeak these days, it is just yet another thing adding to my TODO list...
I actually tried to prepare an upload of emacspeak 21 for
several hours, but since something obscure kept breaking I finally
gave up on it for a while.

We seriously need people willing to help maintain various a11y related

I'd like to get help on the following packages:
* Emacspeak: Someone to fully take this over would be ideal.
  I've already asked Sam Hartman but he doesn't have time either
  and would only take emacspeak over if not doing so would mean it
  gets removed from the archives.  We are at release 17, while
  upstream is at release 22. Tasks which would need doing are:
  * Get emacspeak-22 into unstable
  * Get rid of non-debconf prompting

  You should be able to work on elisp packages fairly independently,
  don't expect upstream to give you much help.

* speakup: A co-maintainer on this one would be wonderful.  I once bought
  a hardware speech synthesizer for testing speakup, but since
  my primary output medium is still braille, it doesn't get as
  much attention as I'd wish it should.  Besides, I always
  had those strange lockups when speakup tries to deliver a lot
  of speech to the serial port, which very badly interacts
  with my other pet interests, namely low-latency audio work,
  so I had to finally stop using the prebuild speakup kernel images myself... :(

Besides, we'd need people to work on specific tasks which involve
several packages:
* A framework for building drivers for commercial software speech
  synthesizers on Debian is needed.  Examples include
  gnome-speech and Emacspeak.  I am not a fan of non-free software,
  but in the area of software speech, free software is not delivering
  what the users require, so there are actually some commercial
  software speech packages out there which are used by
  the typical blind user using speech.  We sould make it as easy as possible
  for those users to install support for their favourite commercial synth
  into backends like gnome-speech.  This is obviously a quite involved
  task, since in the end it means the person doing this would
  need to buy most of the available software for testing.
* We should assess what the current situation regarding
  gnopernicus and Java-based applications or OpenOffice
  is.  What would need to be done to make gnoperncius
  support Java apps on Debian out of the box?  Can it be done
  with the currently available Java tools in Debian or is
  a (non-free) JDK required?  If so, what would be needed to make
  gnopernicus/OpenOffice cooperate with the free java tools?
* A access initrd for Debian-Installer CDs would be needed.
  Currently, accessibility drivers are only available via the
  access floppies.  As we all know, floppies are legacy these days,
  and we should offer these drivers on the standard CD.  AIUI, a special
  isolinux target with a special initrd should suffice.  Someone
  with debian-cd and debian-installer background, or the willingness
  to learn a lot, would be required for this task.

If you want to help improve overall a11y of Debian, this
is your chance.  As usual, volunteering for one of these jobs
automatically means you accept to work within the Debian framework,
i.e. you go with Debian Policy.  I can sponsor packages
if someone not yet in Debian wants to help, but only
if: 1) That person actually knows what he/she is doing.  The idea of this
call for help is to get some work off my back, not to add even
more.  If I have to doublecheck every single line of changes you
do, this is not helpful.   and 2) you should consider applying
as a Debian developer.  I am not happy with sponsoring people
who actually dont want to be official developers at some point
in the near future.

Accessibility, as some of you may know, is one of the painful
areas in Free software.  Usually, people scratch their own itches,
and so bugs get fixed, but accessibility involves 1) very small
specialized groups of people and 2) many different types of these
small groups.  So there are a lot of unsolved problems out there, and
very few people actually interested to solve these.  If you
are looking for an area of Free Software development that really
needs (wo)manpower, consider helping to make Free Software (and
Debian in particular) more useable for people with various disabilities.

Perhaps some more words of clarification:  I am definitely *NOT* planning
on leaving the project, I'd just like to see more active development then
I can currently deliver.  So for the sake of transparency,
this mail is basically an information on what needs
doing, and a call for people to actually do these things :-)


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