Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scratch-ing an Itch

I gave a talk a few hours ago at the inaugural Scratch conference at the MIT Media Lab. Having first used Scratch last week, and leaving for the airport at 4am this morning I found myself reflecting...

What am I doing?

The title of the talk is "Scratching All Itches Equally" and originally listed Gregory Rosmaita, Liddy Nevile, and Jutta Treviranus as speakers. Gregory and Jutta couldn't make it so I was asked to jump in.

Here is the description in the program guide:
A discussion of strategies for ensuring that Scratch is usable by all, whether one can see the screen, or use a pointing device or an on-screen keyboard. The goal of the panel is to discuss Scratch’s architectural framework to ensure that it is capable of communicating with operating system accessibility APIs, as well as platform-agnostic APIs, such as IAccessible2 and ATK/AT-SPI (Assistive ToolKit/Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface).

Liddy and I realized that the audience was going to be made up mostly of teachers so we decided to turn the talk into less of an engineering discussion, and more of a brainstorm. We framed the storm in the context of Scratch, and accessibility, or disability in the wide definition.

Over lunch, it was cool to hear people from our talk bringing up topics from our brainstorming to groups who hadn't attended.

What interests me most about Scratch is that it is playful programming that kids (well, not just kids) can pick up rather accidentally in order create and express their ideas. It makes a lot of sense to me that this kind of tool should be made accessible to all children, regardless of culture, gender, or physics. When you only allow a subset of people to participate in creating and making, you lose some of the most valuable and insightful influences; you stagnate.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 21, 2008

GOK Maintainership

Here's my recent post to

Gerd Kohlberger has accepted the honour and responsibility of helping maintain GOK, the GNOME suite of on-screen keyboards that, among other things, provides access to the entire GNOME desktop via a single switch.

Gerd has already proven himself in the GOK codebase, is a skillful and thoughtful developer, and I think is the right person to help meet the challenges of maintaining a venerable C program beyond its 7th year. I'm hugely thrilled to have his help!

With the help of others that have emerged in the GOK community recently, these are happy days for GOK. A huge shout out to the helpful people who meet regularly in #a11y. THANKS!

This feels good. Thanks for reading.