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Re: [to all candidates] Accessible software in Debian

Hi Mario,

On 18/03/13 at 12:37 +0100, Mario Lang wrote:
> Hi.
> To make a rather complicated and long story short: Accessibility of
> graphical user interfaces in Debian has taken a slight step backward
> with the GNOME 3 rewrite.  Squeeze was more stable regarding this.
> While discussing this topic on IRC with other Debian people I was kind
> of shocked to read that basically every feature can be dropped anytime,
> and since accessibility is for a very small user group, that user group
> suffering from big rewrites is "normal" and acceptable.
> I'd like to know your opinion on this.  Are people with disabilities
> something that we want to support, or is it just luck if "they" get a
> working system.  As a Free Software community, should we make sure that
> the digital divide is not going to increase, or is accessibility just
> margin topic which we as a community do not really care about?
> If you think we should make sure to provide maximum accessibility to our
> users, do you have any idea what to do to ensure that?
> I realize the provokativeness of this mail.  However, I feel I really
> have to ask this question publicly.  When I read the reactions "quoted"
> above on IRC, my heart felt heavy, and I was seriously considering for
> a moment to leave Debian, since the attitude I've read there was really very
> discouraging to me personally.  Actually, I didn't expect a rteaction
> like this from fellow DDs.
> I realize that accessibility is suffering from the same lack of manpower
> issues that most other free software projects have.  But I am still
> enthusiastic enough to hope for some sort of solution that will work
> around the "small margin group" problem in one or another way.
> Do you have any ideas what we could do to raise awareness of
> accessibility issues, and maybe motivate developers who are currently
> not into accessibiility work in any way, to start caring about various
> issues around accessibility for people with disabilities.
> After all, we will all grow old, and our eyes and ears will eventually
> start to fail slightly.  I guess at least then people will enjoy if
> their favourite desktops on Linux would help them to still be able to do
> quality work with their computers.  And I dont mean just reading and
> replying mail, I mean everything else that people without diminished
> vision or hearing or mobility would want to do.
> If you wait until your body fails you, it might be too late to catch up then.

First, I think accessibility is extremely important.

Now, a few points:

In Debian, we often have no real choice but to follow upstream projects
decisions. A good example is GNOME 3, another good example is systemd
(and how it could [not] support kfreebsd). It's sometimes possible for
Debian to maintain patches or its own branch, but it's often too much

And as you rightfully pointed out, accessibility suffers from the same
lack of manpower than the rest of the project.

So yes, we should work on increasing awareness. I can imagine two main ways
to do that:

- communication. Most of us rarely have the chance to engage with people
  with disabilities. Some of us might not know what it's like to use a
  computer in that case. More talks or demos on this topic during DebConf,
  or more blog articles, etc. would be very useful so that the
  community understands the needs and current limitations.

- have an "accessibility" release goal to leverage the increased expose
  (display in the PTS, etc.) and have a way to generally check the
  status of accessibility in Debian.


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