Universal Tux: Accessibility for our Future Selves


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Linux, as a whole, is advancing – and we are as well. Applications that work for us now may not be as easy to use in the future. Embracing accessibility in Linux will ensure that as we age, our systems will age with us, and will also enable people with disabilities to join the Linux community, contributing new ideas and concepts that could change the very nature of how we access technology.
This presentation will discuss what's working – and not working – for accessibility in Linux, and why it is crucial to the future of not only the Linux community, but Linux itself as well. Spencer will also address the following: the current state of accessibility in Linux; the Confinement Cycle, and how Linux's continuing evolution into mobile computing and the Internet of Things can change it; ways to 'bake-in' accessibility (and why this is needed); and why we must design for our future selves.

*Re-uploaded to include notes; PDF will be available for download seperately.

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  • In your lifetimes, all of you will, on average, spend 8 years of your life with some sort of disability. At some point, you will be...disabled.The U.S. Census shows that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, which is about 20% of the population. The probability of having a severe disability is only one in 20 for those 15 to 24 while it is one in four for those 65 to 69.-or-Do you know any people with disabilities? Oh! Actually all of us. Each one of us has had some limitation at some point, and not all of us know everything or perform every task. Sometimes, we have accidents and develop temporary disabilities through situations. Others have functional disabilities: vision impairment, mobility, hearing and learning disabilities – some have more than one.
  • - Assistive technology = assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also process used in selecting, locating, and using them.
    Promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish/great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to/changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.
    - Accessibility = degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity.
    Accessibility is just ensuring that your product is usable and information is available to everyone.
  • So, why is accessibility important?
    Around 15% of the world's pop. (1 billion people) live w/ disabilities. World's largest minority. (UN)Figure is increasing thru pop. growth, medical advances & aging process (WHO).Accessibility is vital to the future of desktop and mobile Linux, since it encompasses users with and without disabilities.The easier it is to utilize our systems, the larger, more diversified our userbase becomes, leading to better development and beta testing - which allows the creation of more intuitive, comfortable, and usable interfaces, which encourages others to use Linux and open-source software.
  • A person with a disability starts out at a disadvantage. As we all usually work to be self-sustaining, we begin with a job.A person with a disability needs a job to earn money and be independent. However, in order to accomplish work tasks, many people with disabilities need some sort of accessibility or assistive technology. Many employers cannot or will not pay that cost, and thus will not hire someone with a disability. (While this technically is a form of employment discrimination, it is very hard to prove.) So the next step is to acquire the technology needed to do the job. Well, without proper finances, this is not possible – so now the goal is to get money to pay for the device...and in order to get money, one needs work – which puts the person with a disability back at square one.
  • Funding can be located, but it in and of itself creates a barrier to the technology needed for people with disabilities. No one wants to wrestle with their insurance provider, state and federal health insurance programs (medicaid), Voc Rehab, a loan, rental or lease, or even private sources. It’s disheartening to be fighting for your own independence when you have no choice but to be dependent on others to reach that goal.
    Using Linux to power the Internet of Things, in theory, a person with a significant disability can independently and successfully live on their own in their own home. Instead of having to rely on professional nurses or assisted living, they can control nearly every part of their living space from their smartphone, computer or other device. Simple things like turning lights on and off, making coffee, locking and unlocking doors, using a television and radio, etc. can all be done using SBCs, an accessible interface (mobility control stick, eye gaze system, etc) and the proper programming - and at a significantly lower cost than having staff do it for you.
  • So, how well is the Linux desktop handling accessibility?
  • Orca – very versatile, reliable, configurable, supported and around for many years.
    Lots of hi-contrast themes in many distros – native.
    Vinux – good distro targeting visual impairments through various means – magnification, orca integration, etc.
    SONAR – up and coming distro aimed at tackling a wide variety of accessibility issues; new version just released this past (8/18/2014).
    Basic accessibility – themes, modification – it's there. It's not perfect, but it's there, easily accessed through preferences. Positive sign.
  • Things I noticed while installing Ubuntu as a non-seeing user:
    The feedback from installing Ubuntu is...wanting. Great when tabbing through selections, but doesn’t give the user feedback when it comes to other options aside from what is selected. Either you could guess and press other buttons and hope to not get stuck, or just stick with the stock options and hope for the best.
    Password typing sucked. Every keypress was ‘asterisk...asterisk’ and so I had no feedback on what I had just typed, hoping I’d remember. After hitting the continue button, NO FEEDBACK until the installer notified of a certain percentage. So the whole slideshow that most of us see? Yeah, that wasn’t there. How is a blind user supposed to know if the OS is frozen, just busy, or awaiting command? The messages about downloading packages were not spoken, and they must be - we all appreciate the verbosity in text of many linux applications and systems, but blind users don’t usually get that. No feedback clicking on the volume button, but that might change with a fully live system instead of using Virtualbox.
    You CAN modify the settings in Orca to be more verbose, but if you’re installing, you’ll have to enter into Live mode first to do so before installation. Oh, and to access this, you have to click on the blue circle with the outline of the person in it and select ‘screen reader’.
    Novel programs like mousetrap and others rise up, maintained for a bit, and then...stall out.Documentation is needing a lot of work, whether it be manuals to teach how to use the software or simple install guidelines.Native accessibility can be a bit buggy, doesn't always cooperate with other applications.
  • ATK/AT-SPI (Assistive Technology Toolkit/Service Provider Interface)http://www.linuxfoundation.org/collaborate/workgroups/accessibility/atk/at-spi
    - Accersizer
    Smoke testing
    - Other ideas
    https://wiki.gnome.org/Accessibility/TestingAccessibility is not just about disability nor people with disabilities. Very often things are inaccessible due to developers overlooking basics like use of text alternatives for images, associated labels for form fields, keyboard access etc. Keyboard access doesn’t mean you need to provide access keys for every element but you need to ensure every function is usable via keyboard.
  • seniors are actually easier than many others to get running on Linux since they often don't want or need anything more than email and a Web browser.Big screens, big fonts, lots of zoom on the browser. While you are at it, make the mouse pointer big and contrasty.
  • Universal Tux: Accessibility for our Future Selves

    1. 1. Universal Tux: Accessibility for our Future Selves Spencer Hunley
    2. 2. What IS Assistive & Accessible Technology? ● Assistive Technology: umbrella term covering assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities ● Hardware examples: refreshable braille displays, magnifiers, alternate mice and keyboards, etc. ● Software examples: screen readers, text-to-speech programs, speech-to-text programs, screen magnifiers, etc.
    3. 3. Why Accessibility is Important ● Crucial to the future of desktop & mobile Linux ● Larger, more diversified userbase; more complete development/beta testing ● Usability& interface evolution
    4. 4. Confinement Cycle ● Locating funding for proprietary AT is itself a barrier to accessibility z ● Linux + Internet of Things = true independence f ● Use single-board computers (SBC) to automate a person’s living space
    5. 5. State of Accessibility on Linux Desktops (a.k.a. what works, what doesn’t)
    6. 6. What’s Working Orca Screen Reader High Contrast Themes Vinux SONAR Linux (beta) Basic accessibility in high-profile distros
    7. 7. What’s Not Working ● Novel programs created, briefly maintained, then...stall ● Documentation frequently out of date, lacking information ● Native accessibility can be buggy; sometimes doesn’t play well with other accessibility applications
    8. 8. A Recipe to ‘Bake-In’ Accessibility ● ATK/AT-SPI ● Accerciser ● GNU LDTP, Dogtail for GUI testing ● Smoke testing
    9. 9. Designing for our Future Selves Interfaces that age with us Flexible desktop environments, menus, etc. Seniors != computer noobs
    10. 10. Further Information Open A11y Workgroup: opena11y.org GNOME Accessibility: wiki.gnome.org/Accessibility Fedora Accessibility Guide: preview.tinyurl.com/fedoraguidea11y Dogtail: fedorahosted.org/dogtail f KDE Open Speech Initiative: speech.kde.org I Vinux Project: vinuxproject.org
    11. 11. Further Information Sonar Project: sonargnulinux.com Accessible Computing Foundation: accessiblecomputingfoundation.org Open Mind Speech: freespeech.sourceforge.net Emacspeak: www.cs.cornell.edu/home/raman/emacspeak Speakup: www.linux-speakup.org Linux Foundation Accessibility Workgroup: preview.tinyurl.com/lfa11yworkgroup
    12. 12. Universal Tux on Google+ http://preview.tinyurl.com/universaltux Spencer Hunley about.me/spencerhunley spencer.hunley@gmail.com