Thread: About Windows 11's high system requirements. You know, a lot of blind people, who don't have jobs, live on social security and disability money, and who definitely don't have the newest computers, won't get Windows 11. This could have been a great chance for Linux to step up and say loud and proud "Because we support every person's ability to choose their system, and use and learn about computers, we will never force upon users what system they must run. And because we stand proudly with people with disabilities, all blind people are welcome in the world of free and open source software, where they can learn and create just like everyone else."

But no. Gnome, one of the most popular desktops on Linux, is trash with accessibility. KDE is working on it, but that'll take years. Who's ever heard of Mate? And who makes current software for the command line, for users and not other developers?

Also, it's not enough that Gnome is trash, or KDE is slowly trying, or the command line is mainly for developers. When a user installs Linux and needs assistive technology, like Orca, they can't just enable it and go on their way. They have to check a box in settings to "enable" assistive technologies. That's a huge barrier, and shouldn't exist. But it does. Another roadblock. Why do these exist in a supposed welcoming community? Why do these exist if Linux is open to all? Why? If FOSS is communal, why are blind people, due to the huge barrier of entry, shut out of the FOSS OS? These are hard questions we should be working through. Why does the GUI require assistive technology support to be enabled in order for Orca to work with many apps? Why can't it be enabled by default? Does it slow stuff down? If so, why? And should we have to live with a slower OS because we're blind?

@wauz @devinprater

One of the things Microsoft is good at is funding UI research to see how people use computers and to meet national procurment laws they put the hard work into accessibility.

I watched https://emacsconf.org/2019/talks/08/ as an idea to try and understand how to use a computer without vision, but it could also help to have examples of use.

Someone once posted a recording a of screen reader going through an emojii heavy post, to make it very clear how annoying it is.

@alienghic @wauz Okay. Since a few people have asked about it, during my two week vacation, I'll work on documenting how blind people use computers. It'll be anopen Github... Sourcehut? Org-mode document because Emacs, and videos may be made in the future.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz as early as 2001 there was a complete linux distro for the blind that booted with voice support and ran early gnome with orca by default. It was sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) when Janina Sajka was their CTO. Several of their major donors, including Microsoft, objected, and demanded they not only stop projects, but fire her and others or would stop donating. So they did.

@tychosoft @alienghic @wauz Oh... Oh my. I didn't know that bit of history. Where can I read about this?

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz perhaps rednote, if it is still around. The AFB also had built a portable daisy talking book portable reader using linux, which also angered AFB donors.

@tychosoft @wauz @alienghic Oh if you get a chance, check out the Braille Plus. Nthe Braille Plus 18, but the original. It was a beautiful, small PDA for the blind, running, I believe, Alpine Linux with apps built by APH, American Printinghouse for the Blind. That was about the best assistive technology ever made. Now we're stuck with stupid Android toys that can't even show basic text formatting in braille, like older devices could.

@devinprater @tychosoft @wauz

That's an interesting device, and that keyboard supports a lot of characters with very few buttons.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz Furthermore, sun was the major sponsor for assistive tech development for a long time, including the atk framework used in gnome. When sun was bought by oracle, they terminated their work on it.

@tychosoft @devinprater @alienghic @wauz@muenchen.social

not everyone is bowing to that bullying pressure. Thanks for that IRC link, I'll follow up on it. Here's a cool story about a state government switching, and I think that since the city of Munich gets to provide accessibility services to people, and they've all switched away from Microsoft, there might be something larger commanding development (an entire city in this case) towards a better designed user land.

https://www.zdnet.com/article/linux-not-windows-why-munich-is-shifting-back-from-microsoft-to-open-source-again/

@tychosoft @alienghic @abbaxi Oh yes, I've read about that. Hopefully, if there's a blind person working in the city government, developers there will help out and push results upstream.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz every year in the early 2000's Janina would come to speak at the Libre Software Meeting in France and run a blind workshop, as well as show of the distro they sponsored, and other projects like the linux portable daisy reader. That's why I know about it, as I was presenting Bayonne. I did a joint presentation with her one year.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz out of that, and my trip to Macedonia, came the GNU Alexandria project, which adapted GNU Bayonne to be a daisy book provider of e-government services for the blind. The AFB sponsored a pilot project of that funded by the US SSA, to read ssa documents over the phone to blind citizens. This project too was cancelled because of said AFB donors. @bob

@wauz @tychosoft @alienghic @bob You know, donors and sponsors sure have a lot of power. Like, theNFB conference is sponsored by Microsoft and Google. Google for heaven's sake! Android isn't exactly as bad as Gnome, but it's not nearly as great as iOS. And Microsoft does a bit more than Google, but a lot of people that go to the NFB conference won't even be able to run Windows 11.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz @bob in 2010 I shared a room when speaking at Libra Planet at Harvard, with the Gnome accessibility speaker, and his seeing eye dog. Of course he was defunded as part of the oracle purchase of sun.

@tychosoft @wauz @alienghic Ugh was literally everything better in the early 2000s? Soundcards had great MIDI chips and 3D sound was invisual basic or something, all this FOSS assistive technology... And then the big companies stepped in.

@devinprater @wauz @alienghic this clearly was much better along back then. So much had been lost.

@devinprater @wauz @alienghic its a good question. The blind linux community of that time seems to have faded away, or at least its been a decade since I had heard from anyone involved in that.

@tychosoft @wauz @alienghic Oh I never meant to imply that it was only useful for blind people. And yeah, Apple always seems to make it look cool lol. Like Assistive Touch on the Watch.

@wauz @devinprater @alienghic indeed, this is very true, and touches upon many areas. The GNOME accessibility guy, when they had him, discussed varous kinds of disabilities and how we can use tech to better accomidate, visual disorders and websites, hearing loss, etc...

@wauz @devinprater @alienghic many of the AFB sponsored projects were in Europe. So yes, a lot of people lost support when this was shut down.

@devinprater @alienghic @wauz thinking back, it might have been at the time also most functional when booting in pure console mode, which is also particularly useful for blind users and something gui only platforms simply cannot offer such users.

@devinprater

I'm hugely interested in working on a blind-accessible FOSS desktop for my own slightly-odd reason that I'd like to brainstorm things while walking without looking at my phone.

the awful thing is.
I could totally be put to work fixing accessibility by listening to real disabled people.
but I can't because I don't have an income and everybody who can help me search for jobs is oriented at the wasteful process of applying to tons of random jobs and 'climbing the ladder'.

1/

@devinprater

I waste all my time on these appointments, job applications, trainings, temporary jobs, etc,
(not to mention therapy because none of this ever feels worth it),
then I go home and waste more time on random hobby projects because I need a personally fulfilling goal to have anything to feel good about.

I don't really want to spend my time this way.

all it takes to tear me away from personal things to socially useful things is a living income.

2/

@devinprater

but it's not simply nobody giving a shit about accessibility,
it's nobody creating a place in society for all the programmers who would literally go fix it.

thus you find me rambling a lot about socialism and the idea of "better jobs".

3/

@devinprater

things like comradery.co look promising as a structure where new jobs could be created based on a real need and sort of assemble themselves together into bigger teams as appropriate

but that's not quite here yet.

4/

@devinprater

doesn't it strike anyone as weird that we're all bike-shedding about how somebody "could" fix problems "someday" instead of reporting directly over to an organisation that helps everyone coordinate with each other on how to make it actually happen?

5/5

saying "disabled people could go fix it" accomplishes just as little as saying "GNOME could go fix it".

who will actually fix the problem and when? who's fixing the things that prevent people from fixing it? who's fixing the things behind those?

@Valenoern What organization would that be? The GNU? FSF? Gnu's accessibility statement is like from 2005, so I get the sense that they don't care much about that.

@devinprater @Valenoern GNOME has not been part of GNU for many years.

@Valenoern @devinprater I simply wanted to clarify the actual history, since I did not think it was known, and I saw at least some of it happen first hand.

@Valenoern So, Igailia or however you spell it wouldn't hire you? that's the organization that hires the only Orca screen reader developer. Orca is the only GUI (mainly GTK) screen reader for Linux. But there's got to be something we can do.

@Valenoern @devinprater this touches upon what happened happened to the original work on linux for the blind after the AFB's corporate sponsers killed it. As many working on it were themselves blind, that was for many the first and last time they were able to be productive and funded to do something useful. But how dare they interfere with the profit-making needs of private already wealthy American companies like Microsoft...

@devinprater I'm considering making an "are-we-accessible-yet.tld" website, like the ones Mozilla made for various web and Rust related things, but:
-i don't have moniez for another domain name
...that's basically it actually. I should probably do it, unless it already exists.

@devinprater It Depends (TM), and I'm told they trick you with a cheap first year but then each yearly renewal costs way more. So I don't wanna jump head first into buying another domain, but I can host it on a subdomain of blobpat.space.
But most of the work would be to figure out how the site should work.
I was thinking of using a git repo hosted on Sourcehut or something (no Github or main Gitlab, for Reasons.) and people just send a pull request or patch to update it.

@csepp Yeah, nothing wrong with hosting stuff on a subdomain.

@devinprater Yup.

So, for the site, I'm thinking something like:
main page is a list of apps with an accessibility status that answers the question "is X accessible yet?", just a simple yes/unknown/no/etc. And if you click one of them you see the more detailed explanation for the rating, links to open issues, etc.

So really it's just a static site I guess.

With maybe a teensy bit of JS for sorting on the main page?

@devinprater

I hear your frustration, and I agree that we should aspire and focus on accessibility as a first class objective.

Now the question becomes how to do that with a largely volunteer community and without a source of funding that will offset the cost of time/effort.

Are there financial resources to support such efforts, such as government grants?

There should be, and hopefully are, which could be given to appropriate orgs to support the work.

@devinprater I mean it’d help if there were an organized company that made the entire stack and made sure it worked consistently and was supported with funding by the users and/or other funding sources sufficiently to actually produce the things you’re asking for.

@brion I mean, I'd donate like $20 or $30 per month for that.

@devinprater unfortunately it has to be not just you but a bunch of other people. And then there needs to be someone you can give it to in an organized way that makes sure effort is spent on consistent interoperable software that serves all users. There is no central place to send it, there is no coordination, and there is no project management.

@devinprater you can't demand that "Linux" do it because "Linux" is not a cohesive group with any organized management or funding or method of coordinating effort

@brion Yeah, true. When I say Linux, I mean userland stuff, like desktop environments and applications, and UI toolkits. And maybe it's too far gone to save.

@devinprater well it’s fundamentally been limited since the beginning. Limited resources, very little income, multiple groups companies and individuals pulling in different directions.

I just don’t believe what you want can be created without consistent funding and centralized product and project management, and the diverse array of distros and foundations for user land (especially GUI) make basically no income with which to spend on important things that don’t affect everyone.

@devinprater not saying it’s great. Fundamentally it’s awful. But without fixing economics, what’s your solution?

@devinprater FOSS is successful mainly where it’s useful to companies that have a money-making product that uses it, so they can assign developers to the tasks that are important to them.

Unless there’s a company that’s getting funding specifically to work on accessibility throughout the entire stack, it ain’t gonna happen. It’s gonna be a patchwork hell forever.

@devinprater and that sounds like a big problem, because the audience of people who will pay specifically for accessibility features is very small.

Thus you need an economy of scale where the company has enough income to spend disproportionate amounts of money (income-wise) on important things like accessibility that are essential and important to some users, but not to most.

@devinprater If you don’t have that, then no amount of hoping for volunteer patches will solve all the problems.

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