"Accessibility in Fedora Workstation" (fwd)

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at redhat.com
Sun Aug 14 13:02:57 UTC 2022

I'm going to address points from several of Karen's messages:.

> he is, according to those writing the article bringing accessibility 
> to Fedora workstation.
> i respect that for those in the know, in the choir so to speak what he 
> is doing is clean up.
> but that is not how the general Linux community is taking this 
> information.
Let's look at what the article actually says, particularly the intro 
before the interview:

    The first concerted effort to support accessibility under Linux was
    undertaken by Sun Microsystems when they decided to use GNOME for
    Solaris. Sun put together a team focused on building the pieces to
    make GNOME 2 fully accessible and worked with hardware makers to
    make sure things like Braille devices worked well. I even heard
    claims that GNOME and Linux had the best accessibility of any
    operating system for a while due to this effort. As Sun started
    struggling and got acquired by Oracle this accessibility effort
    eventually trailed off with the community trying to pick up the
    slack afterwards. Especially engineers from Igalia were quite active
    for a while trying to keep the accessibility support working well.

    But over the years we definitely lost a bit of focus on this and we
    know that various parts of GNOME 3 for instance aren’t great in
    terms of accessibility. So at Red Hat we have had a lot of focus
    over the last few years trying to ensure we are mindful about
    diversity and inclusion when hiring, trying to ensure that we don’t
    accidentally pre-select against underrepresented groups based on for
    instance gender or ethnicity. But one area we realized we hadn’t
    given so much focus recently was around technologies that allowed
    people with various disabilities to make use of our software. Thus I
    am very happy to announce that Red Hat has just hired Lukas
    Tyrychtr, who is a blind software engineer, to lead our effort in
    making sure Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora Workstation has
    excellent accessibility support!

That's somewhat long-winded, but it's clear to any careful reader that 
the foundation for accessibility was already laid, and that what most 
urgently needs to be done is to fix what has been broken in the years 
since Sun's accessibility team was disbanded. If things get 
misrepresented by others who have shared the article, that's surely not 
the fault of the authors. That happens all the time when people share 
things online; it's nothing new, and not worth belaboring.

> there are people using Linux in the console daily who deserve equal 
> access. 
I took this position in 2000, but for the last decade or more, access to 
a GUI has been widely available to blind people at no extra cost. (If 
there are blind people today who are truly stuck on old hardware with no 
accessible GUI, that's unfortunate, but I think this is one case where 
the best solution is charity, not expecting the rest of the world to 
accommodate this situation forever. That's no different than for sighted 
people stuck on very old hardware.) Blindness itself is a circumstance 
beyond one's control that deserves reasonable accommodation. But today, 
using the text console is a choice, a very conscious choice to swim 
upstream, against the current. Anyone who makes that choice should be 
prepared for difficulty. And in fact, the few people I know who choose 
to use the console today are prepared to use a GUI of one form or 
another when there's no other way to accomplish a task. A platform 
company like Red Hat is under no obligation to cater to the preference 
of the dwindling minority of a minority who choose to use the text 
console. To be clear, I have nothing against people who find 
console-based tools most productive; do whatever works for you. But we 
need to be careful about what we demand from the mainstream world, and I 
think that expecting to be able to do everything using only the console 
is too much.
> Second, this individual's job is to make this platform 
> accessible...which has never meant blindness exclusively.
His job, according to the article, is, "to lead our effort in making 
sure Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora Workstation has excellent 
accessibility support." To me, the word "lead" suggests that he's not 
doing this alone. Also, as I said above, the foundation of accessibility 
for all disabilities was already laid, by the team at Sun, starting 
roughly 20 years ago. They deliberately chose to start with a generic 
accessibility API, not a specific solution for a particular disability, 
because they understood that a well-designed accessibility API would 
enable independent developers to provide assistive technologies for 
multiple disabilities. And while I have my objections to a specific 
layer of their accessibility architecture, I believe they were on the 
mark here. Finally, I think it's safe to say that blindness is the most 
difficult disability to accommodate for GUI application and toolkit 
developers, as it requires them to provide a complete alternative 
representation of their default, high-bandwidth mode of visual output. 
Once that need has been met by implementing a sufficiently rich 
accessibility API, independent developers can handle other disabilities 
by implementing alternate input methods; indeed, the more comprehensive 
the accessibility API implementation is, the more these other input 
methods have to work with. So I think it's entirely reasonable for Red 
Hat and Lukas to focus for now on making their GUI accessible to blind 
people with a screen reader.
> Further this individual is no volunteer, he is being paid to have up 
> to date information, not just about fedora, but for screen readers he 
> did not even reference like Fenial <spelling>
> He is a single individual, That he has not seen a hardware 
> synthesizer,  due to age does not mean they do not exist.
As I wrote elsewhere, what he is actually paid for is between him and 
Red Hat. If they are paying him exclusively to focus on improving GUI 
accessibility with Orca, I think that's entirely reasonable, as I 
explained above. The fact that his statements on Speakup were slightly 
incomplete, or that he didn't say anything about Fenrir, is annoying to 
those in the know, but not worth getting outraged over. Also note that 
Lukas's primary job is not advocacy or education, but software 
development. Along the way, he will need to educate other developers 
about accessibility, but he's not obligated to comprehensively educate 
the world at large about how blind people use Linux. The details of how 
blind people can access the text console are of little or no interest to 
most platform and application developers, who are the people that Lukas 
would actually need to educate as part of his job. What we really need 
them to understand is how they can make their GUIs accessible, and the 
easier we make that for them, the more accessibility we will get. In 
light of that, dwelling too much on console options could even be 
considered an unnecessary and confusing distraction.
> That attitude is dangerous, because he is educating those outside of 
> the accessibility experiences, who will believe his ignorance is factual.

If people outside the blind community, including platform and 
application developers, believe that speech synthesis hardware is 
vanishingly rare, or that one can't use Speakup with Fedora (but can use 
BRLTTY or Orca), that's of no practical consequence. We just need them 
to know how they can make their GUIs and web applications accessible, 
and to be convinced that it's worth doing. On other disabilities, he said:

    Of course, utilities for other accessibility needs exist as well,
    but I don’t know much about these.

It's good that he's honest about what he doesn't know. I don't believe 
that current gap in knowledge should disqualify him from the job that 
Red Hat actually hired him to do, as opposed to the job that you seem to 
think Red Hat should have hired someone to do. He's going to have his 
hands full just making Fedora Workstation fully accessible to blind 
people. I trust that he'll be willing to learn about other assistive 
technologies when that knowledge is actually necessary.

> may I ask from where he obtained his software engineering degree?
> Studied computer science?  Perhaps disability studies?
Neither Lukas nor Red Hat are obligated to provide this information to 
random bystanders. But here's what I found in my quick research. Lukas 
posted his university thesis on GitHub 
<https://github.com/tyrylu/thesis>, and from that I deduced that he 
earned his bachelor's degree (and perhaps a master's as well) in Applied 
Informatics from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.
> there are certainly scores of  disabled individuals with these various 
> levels of qualification..even who are Linux users.

Sure. But the question is not whether the job went to the person who 
seems most qualified to an outside observer, or is known in that 
observer's community, but whether the job went to a person who was 
available and interested in the job, is qualified enough (as judged by 
the people doing the hiring), and will get the work done. Red Hat have 
been hiring developers to work on open source for decades, and I trust 
that they are competent to choose a qualified candidate. Beyond that, as 
I stated in my first reply, we can see for ourselves what Lukas has 
previously done online. There's even more of that than I realized when I 
wrote that message. For example, he successfully submitted a few patches 
to the GTK repository, before Red Hat hired him, and he has been 
reporting bugs in GNOME accessibility, particularly on Red Hat's bug 
tracker, for years. And as I said on Friday, his feel-the-streets 
project demonstrates an aptitude for taking on real-world programming 
projects. So I believe Red Hat's decision to hire him was sound. Not 
that they need my approval, or that of anyone on these lists.

Now, I suggest that we let the nit-picking go and just be happy that, 
with financial backing from the leading company in this space, GUI 
accessibility on Linux is moving forward.


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