Friday, December 21, 2007

Red Hat and GNOME Accessibility?

Oddly, it is a message from Matthew Szulik as he leaves the role of CEO and President of Red Hat that renews my hope that Red Hat takes accessibility seriously. Why?

In reading that it is important at Red Hat to "seek out those who believe that for any democracy to continue, free and unfettered access to information is an unassailable condition for advancement", I'm struck by the term "unfettered", where I take the term to mean accessible and without barriers.

Please tell me that's what he mean't. Please tell me the new CEO and President, Jim Whitehurst will make that a company directive. I think with that directive in hand, Jonathan Blandford and the desktop team could really make a brilliant impact in GNOME accessibility. With the community looking at an accessibility infrastructure refactor, the timing is right.

Sun Microsystems, having laid the GNOME accessibility foundation, are still chugging away with the classy ORCA screen reader, and helping support GOK maintenance; as well as strategic thinking.

IBM, no longer directly involved in Linux accessibility are still involved peripherally, and are tackling accessibility on many fronts.

Ubuntu has seemed to "get it" from day one. Bravo!

The Mozilla Foundation continues to provide vital seed funding for GNOME accessibility work, bringing in great talent to work on gaps.

Novell seems to understand the importance of this and are putting resources behind it.

I'm sure I'm missing some obvious ones; please leave a comment and let me know.

Exciting times! Thanks for reading.

[Edited to fix name of company! Thanks David Z.]


davidz said...

Maybe if you spelled the name right (Red Hat, not Redhat) it would be more helpful.

That, said I agree we (I work for Red Hat) should be more involved. Up until a few months ago, I was actually on the weekly a11y calls.. but been buried under other work since. Need more of them 36 hour days.

Matthias said...

Well, a big part of the a11y "problem" in gnome is that the a11y stuff never made it out of the "ghetto". Thankfully, things are finally moving on that front; I've just approved the patch to merge gail into gtk+. And it already pays off, with long-overdue cleanups to the gail codebase flowing in...

davidb said...

@davidz: Sorry about the name! I was hoping you'd catch my blog. I met you at Boston 2006 and remember you coming to the accessibility meetings. I wish you more 36 hour days.

@matthias: Awesome news! Thanks for your comment.

patrys said...

Judging by the rather poor quality of Red Hat upstream software - both documentation- and build-environment-wise (Anaconda and its dependencies anyone?) their engineers are rather forced to push packages out in time than driven by any coordinated effort ;)

davidz said...

davidb: yeah, I remember meeting you too! I hope to get back at least on the weekly a11y calls some time in 2008.

patrys: Nice trolling. If you didn't know, Red Hat is a big company which means it's easy to find something you don't like (I'm not going to comment on whether your concerns about Anaconda are justified or not).

FWIW, most people in the RH desktop and kernel teams work solely on upstream projects and have written a huge chunk of the code that is a modern GNOME desktop on Linux today.

patrys said...


Please notice the smile at the end of my last comment. Of course I'm aware that each distribution shares a huge part of the great thing GNOME is. I just find it a little bit ironic that the biggest commercial players are the ones that have most problems. The way I see it's caused by inertia - the bigger you are the harder it gets to precise manouvers. That could also explain why so little of downstream work gets sent upstream (I'm a packager myself).

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