Thursday, November 30, 2006

Solving Disability

There is a movement towards defining disability in roughly the following way:
A disability is a condition resulting from a mismatch between an individual and his/her environment.
In the world of software user interfaces we might say:
A disability results from a mismatch between an individual and the user interface they are stuck with.
I would add:
Usability is the art of minimizing this mismatch.
and perhaps conclude:
If we can eliminate all the mismatches then we can eliminate disability.
This last one might appear silly yes, but remember I am toying here with new definitions. I think there are worthwhile reasons for shifting perspectives on disability, but I'll save that argument for a later post.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thunderbird Accessibility

I'm a lucky guy. Thanks to Aaron Leventhal and Frank Hecker over at Mozilla, another interesting opportunity has come my way: hacking on Thunderbird accessibility. I'm hoping I can make an immediate impact on shortening the bug list.

I will also be providing counsel with a compelling new project recently awarded Mozilla funds. This project will essentially be a first step towards a cross-platform user-centric flexible input/control system primarily aimed at users living with physical disabilities. Steve Lee over in the UK will be driving this project and has done a great job of welcoming input from myself and other key people in this field.

I was fortunate to meet Steve over at the GNOME Boston Summit last month, where he, Aaron Leventhal and I were able to retreat to a coffee shop. Aaron showed us the big picture for accessibility in Mozilla-land and I was intrigued. (I phoned Aaron earlier this evening and he told me that he and Frank Hecker are making huge progress in getting Mozilla HQ behind this master plan).

So I'm looking forward to getting my hands into the formidable Mozilla codebase (via Thunderbird). The best part is that the timeline for this work is very flexible, allowing me to keep some cycles on GOK and my other projects. I'm not sure what directions this work might take me but it should be a great challenge and a great ride.