Fwd: [FSF] GNU Project appoints director of access technology software and publishes GNU Accessibility Statement

Looks like a positive step...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter Brown <info@fsf.org>
Date: Tue, May 11, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Subject: [FSF] GNU Project appoints director of access technology
software and publishes GNU Accessibility Statement
To: info-fsf@fsf.org, info-press@fsf.org

GNU Project appoints director of access technology software and
publishes GNU Accessibility Statement


BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Tuesday , May 11, 2010 -- The Free
Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the appointment of Chris
Hofstader as director of access technology software for its GNU Project,
and the publication of the GNU Accessibility Statement.


GNU Accessibility is a free software pan-disability initiative to create
features that can be used by people with low vision, deafness, learning
and reading disabilities, and for people with mobility and other
physical issues who can use an on-screen keyboard.

According to the United Nations in 2005, there were 600 million people
with disabilities in the world -- an exceptionally large and
disenfranchised group.

To use computers, many people with disabilities need special software
known as "access technology." Like other programs, these can be free
software or proprietary. Those which are free software respect the
freedom of their users; the rest, proprietary programs, subject those
users to the power of the program's owner.

When people with disabilities use proprietary access technology, they
have little or no way to correct whatever is wrong with it. People with
unusual combinations of disabilities, who require relatively unusual
software, or who encounter a bug that keeps them from doing their job,
have no way to get the changes they need made. These products are only
changed or improved when the vendors see a business reason for doing the
work; this leaves many users behind.

Talking about his appointment as director of access technology, Chris
Hofstader said, "The FSF has led the software world to an understanding
of the importance of computer user freedom, but there is still much more
to do to achieve accessibility for people with disability in free
software. There are a number of projects in this area that have been
hurt badly by recent layoffs at some large technology companies, and
there is a vacuum in leadership on this issue in the free software
world. Our first major tasks include finding free access technology
software and cataloging it, raising awareness of what can be done to
improve access for people with disability, and finding people to help us
make programs accessible."

The inventory of free access technology is an ongoing process, but GNU
is actively recruiting volunteers in all areas of tasks that can be
performed to expand the accessibility of free systems. "Some of the
tasks are obviously very technical and will require relatively senior
programmers, but many others, ranging from writing documents on a wide
array of best practices, universal design as it applies to free access
technology, testing programs that claim to be accessible with free
access technology, helping webmasters make their sites become more
accessible, and literally dozens of other things to do to further this
cause, can be done by people with different skills," continued Hofstader.

In order for access technology to work, the other software in use must
interoperate with it. The majority of computer programs and web sites
(85% in one estimate) do not comply with accessibility standards and
guidelines, so they do not work with access technology. They provide a
frustrating experience, and can bar users from jobs or school activities.

"Software accessibility is increasingly important to all concerned. We
are thrilled, therefore, to welcome the new emphasis on accessibility
from the GNU Project," said Janina Sajka, the chair of open
accessibility at the Linux Foundation. Sajka continued, "We aim to work
together with GNU to achieve solid, user-friendly enhancements to the
computing environments available to persons with disabilities. This is
indeed a very welcome development."

Sina Bahram, a leader in the world of software development by people
with vision impairment, a blind user of access technology, and a PhD
candidate in human computer interfaces (HCI) at North Carolina State
University said, "I am delighted to see that the FSF has recently added
its strong and influential voice to the growing and crucial movement for
accessibility, universal design, and software freedom for all. Given the
myriad of ever present and growing perils to both software and cyber
freedom, it is extremely heartening to see the FSF take a firm stand on
accessibility by encouraging all developers to strive to do better in
this space. It is my firm belief that free software has already done and
will continue to do so much to revolutionize accessibility for all
users. The FSF's commitment to this cause helps guarantee success”.

Hofstader has been a software engineer for about thirty years. Along
with Richard Stallman, he co-founded the League for Programming Freedom
(http://progfree.org/) and supported himself making mostly proprietary
software. He had a moderate to severe vision impairment until he was
about 35, when he slid into profound blindness. He then took a job at
the company that makes the most popular proprietary software used by
people with vision impairment, believing incorrectly that a well-funded,
profit-oriented company would be able to make the best software for
people with disabilities. Hofstader left that job about six years ago
and has been working in the research and development area of access
technology since. He officially joined the GNU Project in February of
this year.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as
in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its
GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF
also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of
freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org
and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux.
Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at
http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

Chris Hofstader
Director of Access Technology
GNU Project

Peter Brown
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

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Received on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 13:41:06 UTC