Yes, you read correctly: An accessible touch screen device! This morning, I went to a retail store carrying mostly Apple products and had a look at the new iPhone 3G S that was released in Germany on Friday. Apple revealed during the WWDC keynote two weeks ago that it would have a built-in screen reader named the same as is included in Mac OS X: VoiceOver. This is a feature not available on the regular iPhone 3G, as its hardware capacity is insufficient.
I just published an article on how to use NVDA and Firefox to do website testing.
Last week, David Tenser, Kadir Topal, and I received an e-mail from Dirk, a moderator at www.BLINDzeln.net, a mostly German-speaking community which uses mailing lists exclusively to promote exchange between their members. These mailing lists vary in topics from cooking and gardening to some pretty advanced computer science, psychology and others. Dirk asked whether it would be possible to create German-speaking mailing lists pertaining to accessibility to give those who have switched to Firefox and/or Thunderbird, or those willing to do so, a common place to go. He also said that he and other moderators thought about doing this at BLINDzeln, but didn’t do it because they wouldn’t want to create an isolated island, but encourage end-user exchange by asking Mozilla to do it on our servers instead.
I’ll be at FOSDEM in Brussels this weekend. I’ll be at the Mozilla booth or attending sessions in the dev rooms. If you feel like dropping by and talk accessibility, ARIA and such, feel welcomed!
Over the past couple of years, accessibility options have become more widely available than just on the Windows platform. Since GNOME 2.18, Orca has become part of the desktop package, offering a way for some distributions to be installed with some speech guidance.
Recently, Apple announced better accessibility features in iTunes 8 and the 4th generation iPod Nano. This is a major breakthrough in accessibility because now, the maker of a mainstream hardware media player is taking steps to make sure the device is useable also by people with vision impairments. Previously, the only way to make certain types of MP3 players accessible was through projects like Rockbox, which provides a custom firmware for these players. This approach is never fully complete, because for the supported iPods, it does not allow the very specific features to work like DRM-protected media playback.
Jim Zemlin of the Linux foundation wrote a very good post on this year being the year of the Linux desktop breakthrough. One thing he did only mention marginally, but which I think is just as important for certain users/markets, is the fact that there is now a wide range of accessibility solutions available for at least the GNOME desktop, which either come directly with the distribution such as the Orca screen reader for the visually impaired, or are easily installable. Screen reading, which includes support for a huge variety of braille displays, magnification, on-screen keyboard solutions, alternative input device support are all available as open-source now and open up the Linux desktop alternative to virtually every potential user.