GNOME 3.0 Accessibility: State of the Union (Desktop Summit 2011)

50 %
50 %
Information about GNOME 3.0 Accessibility: State of the Union (Desktop Summit 2011)

Published on February 15, 2014

Author: igalia



By Alejandro Piñeiro.

In GNOME, accessibility is a core value that touches all aspects of the system.

From the infrastructure, to the graphical toolkit, to the applications, to the assistive technologies, accessibility has been a central consideration from the very early days. As a result, GNOME 2.0 not only has compelling accessibility today, but it also provides a rich and stable base for future accessibility work.

This year (2011) was released GNOME 3.0, the first major release of GNOME since GNOME 2.0 on 2002.

As a major relase GNOME 3.0 involves several changes on the technology layers of GNOME affecting the accessibility support in several aspects. Some examples: bonobo deprecation, new desktop (GNOME Shell) using a new technology (Clutter), etc.

Since the annoucement of GNOME 3.0 and those technologies changes the accessibility community was working in order to get the best support on this major release, including two accessibility hackfests during 2010.

In general, the purpose of this presentation is:

Introduce accessibility on GNOME.
Briefly explain the technologies changes between GNOME 2.0 and GNOME 3.0
How this affects accessibility support?
Community reaction?
Briefly explain the status of GNOME 3.0
What works?
What doesn't works?
Plans towards GNOME 3.2

GNOME 3.0 Accessibility: State of the Union Alejandro Piñeiro (

Let's introduce it ...

Accessibility? ● Means helping people with disabilities to participate in any life activity ● Like computer stuff. That involves ● … programmatic access ● … keyboard navigation ● … themes

AT ? ● AT == Assistive Technologie ● Screen readers ● On screen keyboards ● Magnifiers ● Ok

what needs an AT ? ● Know which apps are running ● Know the active app ● Know the focus object ● Be able to interact with the app

AT-SPI ? ● “Assistive Technologie Service Provider Interface” ● Daemon providing the functionality that requires those ATs ● “out of the process” ● Using CORBA/bonobo on the old times

And the apps? ● How they expose the data? ● Direct CORBA calls to AT-SPI? ● It would be doing stuff really similar … ● But apps are heterogeneous ...

ATK ● ATK = Accessibility ToolKit ● Common interface ● The atk-bridge uses ATK calls to know that to expose to AT-SPI ● Toolkits and apps implement ATK ● “in process”

How this stuff was implemented? ● Not in time for GNOME 2.X ● Isolated on runtime loadable modules ● At-spi provided at-bridge ● Gail provided an ATK implementation ● Isolated since the beginning ● Extension and access to private data nightmares

That old GNOME 2.0

Stories from the past Bill Haneman, March Mulhany, GUADEC 2004: “Where we are today” ● ● ● ● 8 critical bugs, ~50 serious bugs Assessment: ● 2.6 : Can be made to work, with some effort ● Need some HEAD components for better results ● 2.8 : Reasonable level of functionality “out of the box” : (still at risk) ● GOAL: disabled users can do all key tasks ● Depends on regression control and attention by packagers, community

GNOME 3.0 is coming! (First introduced at Istanbul 2008)

Changes, changes! ● CORBA is dead, long live DBUS ● AT-SPI (major piece) CORBA based ● Nokia fund initial move on 2008 ● Gsettings VS GConf ● Desktops: GNOME Shell, Unity ● Clutter, Gtk3 ● CSUN 2010 Accessibility Summit

Hey, why so serious? ● We worked to get the a11y pieces on GNOME 2.0 Why just keep sync with GNOME 3.0 is so ● a big problem … ? ● Lets talk about that later ...

GNOME 3.0 is here! (April 2011)

GNOME 3.0.1 improved ● A11y community started to use a testing distro based on Frederic Crozat one ● Major functionality issues were solved ● GNOME “classic” is still the solution for a11y users

So, what we have here? ● Infrastructure: ATK, AT-SPI Toolkit implementations: GAIL, Cally, Java ● Apps: LibreOffice ● Ats: Orca, Caribou, GNOME Voice Control, ● VEDICS, Dasher, OpenGazer, MouseTrap ● A lot of things, right?

Really? ● At-spi just ported, no new features ● ATK still 1.0 after 10 years. ● Less than 5 commits in last two years for GVC, Dasher, MouseTrap, etc

What we really have? ● Infrastructure requires to be updated ● Some first citizens: Orca, Caribou, GNOME Shell built-in magnification ● Several Ats on their own ● Whats the difference? difference ● Orca has a real community behind

Some history – good times ● 16 Oct 2000, “GNOME Accessibility Summit” ● ● ● Sun, IBM and others joined the party A11y had a really big push A lot of new stuff between 2000-2005: ● ATK, AT-SPI, GAIL, Gnopernicus, LSR,

Some history – bad times ● 1 Jun 2007, IBM “change strategies” ● ● LSR dies, Orca survives 27 Jan 2010, Sun is acquired by Oracle ● Sun decreasing workforce is mostly removed ● Willie Walker stops to be a11y leader and Orca co-maintainer

First conclusion? ● If GNOME a11y wants to survive requires to maintain a healthy community ● But a11y applies to all GNOME. ● Why “GNOME a11y”?, why not “GNOME”? ● And talking about that ….

That mail … ● 2011-06-01 <snip> >From my perspective, the a11y team is far too happy to be inits own little corner, working on its 'testing distro' and its own little tools that need to work on every OS and thus end up working properly on none of them. Yet, when I try to run accerciser in a jhbuild tree on my system, it locks up solid after a few minutes every single Time... <snip>

A11y had opposite feeling ● Some IRC examples: Jan 22 21:31:37 <anonymous> API: aha...yeah. We need support for users who don't use the mouse at all. Jan 22 21:32:14 <anonymous> Seems as though that would just be a fundamental thing to build in Jan 22 21:35:08 <anonymous> As we all know, designing for a11y helps *everyone*, not just stupid disabled chumps that nobody cares about. Jan 22 21:38:35 <anonymous> API - heh - just joshing. I wasn't poking at you. I was poking at mainstream developers who haven't embraced accessible design yet. Jan 22 21:39:33 <API> yeah, I supposed that, but sometimes there are some strange situations Jan 22 21:40:06 <API> for example, at Boston, there are some presentations, and then the time of the "complainers from ally"

Communication breakdown ● A11y “folks” thing that the others prefer them to be isolated, and the others thinks that they are happy with that … ● Other extract from “that mail”: “I think that we have to be honest about the fact that a11y is not a first-class feature of GNOME until it is fully integrated” .

Current work and future

ATK/AT-SPI2 Hackfest ● Analysis of current status and future ● A lot of things to do now on ATK2 ● A lot of things would require an API breakage

ATK/AT-SPI2 Hackfest (2) ● A lot of ATK implementors to be updated ● ● Clutter ● LibreOffice ● Unity ● ● GTK Etc. AT-SPI2 would also require some changes

GailEctomy ● Benjamin Otte and Matthias Clasen are merging GAIL and GTK ● First Benjamin conclusions about ATK were really more radical ;)

Performance and stability ● Target: being able to have a11y running by default without affecting performance and stability ● Mike Gorse working on that, made some changes ● Require to measure the changes

GNOME Shell ● Awesome built-in Magnifier ● ● by Joseph Scheuhammer On screen keyboard based on Caribou ● by Nohemi Fernandez GNOME 3.0 included some ATK patches ● ● Still not really usable with Orca ● Work in progress

A summary?

Current status

Current status ● An accessibility framework ● Bad: Not enough ATs or people ● ● Bus factor of one in several cases Good: GTK+ developers are taking care of GAIL ● What we need: improve the base, more ATs, more people


Add a comment

Related presentations

Presentación que realice en el Evento Nacional de Gobierno Abierto, realizado los ...

In this presentation we will describe our experience developing with a highly dyna...

Presentation to the LITA Forum 7th November 2014 Albuquerque, NM

Un recorrido por los cambios que nos generará el wearabletech en el futuro

Um paralelo entre as novidades & mercado em Wearable Computing e Tecnologias Assis...

Microsoft finally joins the smartwatch and fitness tracker game by introducing the...

Related pages

Fer's blog | Just another GNOME Blogs weblog

... state-of-art e-ink screen with a ... or Android devices and your desktop ... of the mozilla accessibility and graphics teams to spend a ...
Read more

Igalia - Igalia goes to the Desktop Summit!

... Igalian expedition's arrival to Berlin this weekend for the Desktop Summit 2011. ... a talk called GNOME 3.0 Accessibility: State of the Union, ...
Read more

Desktop Summit, Berlin 2011: Día 1, sábado 6 de agosto (II ...

... os pongo y comento las actividades vespertinas de Desktop Summit 2011 ... GNOME 3.0 Accessibility: State of the Union. ... GNOME: The state of the Union.
Read more

Desktop Summit: Collaboration? | andré klapper's blog.

At the first Desktop Summit in ... The Summit website states ... I know that some GNOMErs expressed their opinion that Desktop Summits slow down GNOME ...
Read more


I started to involved in GNOME two years ago when I became involved with the planning for GNOME.Asia Summit ... GNOME since 2011. ... GNOME News provides ...
Read more

Gnome 3.0: the complete guide | News | TechRadar

Gnome 3.0: the complete guide ... from Linux Format Issue 145 5th Jun 2011 | 09:00. Comments. Share ... need to know about the sparkling new desktop in ...
Read more

Visited the GUADEC in the Hague – Information Overload

Last Wednesday I visited the GUADEC (GNOME Users and ... State of the Union; Building a strong post-3.0 GNOME ... Visited the Desktop Summit 2011 in ...
Read more

infapi00 – I have seen the truth and it doesn't make sense

... instead of my usual “GNOME Accessibility State of the Union ... he Boston summit was ... GNOME 3.0 Gnome Shell is the default desktop ...
Read more