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Re: [to all candidates] Accessible software in Debian


Mario Lang <mlang@delysid.org> writes:

> 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?

Accessibility is more important than most people realise, yet, it is
also a very hard thing to get right when one has a hard time imagining
how accessibility features would be/are used by the people they were
designed for. My experience is that until you *had* to use a system this
way, you'll just be poking around trying to accidentally get something

So the lack of manpower in the field hurts even more than the lack of it

> 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'm not sure we can ensure anything - not within the scope of a
volunteer project. What we can do, however, is making damned sure that
accessibility is cared about. I believe many people would like to
support accessibility in their projects much better than they do now,
but without enough manpower, it's not going to happen soon. They need
people who understand accessibility, who can test the software, or tell
whether an idea is useless from an accessibility point of view or not.

We need better communication, and more people motivated to help. I do
have a couple of ideas how we could attempt to motivate - but we must
keep in mind, that in the end, we do not want accessibility to be a
Debian-only development, we want to take the task upstream. (If it
originates from Debian, if we 'lend' our human resources to upstream,
that's great, but whatever we come up with, has to go upstream.)

> 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.

I do have a couple, yes, but I don't want to sound extremely stupid, and
would rather consult with someone who understands accessibility first,
before I write down the ideas.

Nevertheless, the basic driving force behind my ideas is positioning
accessibility as an area where work is in high demand, is very
rewarding, and can be learned. How? Meet with people. Tell people. Show
people. For example, an accessibility workshop at DebConf would be a
reasonable way to gather feedback from package maintainers, users within
our developer community, and we could proceed from there.

Furthermore, we have a thing called "Invisible Exhibition" here in
Hungary, an exhibition of sorts, where the goal is to have a blind guide
guide the visitors through the exhibition, in complete darkness,
teaching them to rely on touch, hearing and smelling, and discover the
world of the blind, first hand. They're shown and taught situations,
simple things like paying for a cup of coffee at a restaurant. It is a
very popular exhibition, and I think it's an amazingly useful one too.

We could adapt a similar idea, and have sessions at the Debian booth in
various conferences, teaching visitors how people with accessibilities
use computer systems (and Debian in particular). I've seen blind people
work with computers, and I was astonished: they used it more effectively
than I did. That was kind of a revelation, to be honest: why would
*they* be disabled, when it is I, who is inefficient? Finding oneself in
a similar situation is a real eye opener.

We should open more eyes. We have a fair number of people within the
project who could help us with that, if elected DPL, I'd do my best to
support them in doing so, even if, to open our eyes, we'd need to close
them shut first.


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