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AFB Participates in Setting Accessibility Standards for Linux

Workgroup Chartered to Make Linux more Accessible to People with Disabilities

January 21, 2004 (OAKLAND, Calif.)—"Today, the Free Standards Group announced a new workgroup dedicated to establishing standards that will make Linux and Linux-based applications accessible to persons with disabilities. The Accessibility Workgroup of the Free Standards Group will make it easier for developers to support assistive technologies (AT). Assistive technologies enable individuals who are blind or visually impaired to read online text, and provide the means for individuals who do not have the use of their arms and hands to write and correspond. AT also enable individuals who cannot speak or hear to participate on the telephony interfaces of today—and will support their participation on the multimodal computer interfaces of tomorrow.

"Standards are the key to making technology accessible to everyone, and coordinated industry support is essential to making standards truly universal," said Carl R. Augusto, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "We plan to work with developers and vendors throughout the Linux community to make the Linux desktop accessible to all users and bring it into compliance with laws like Section 508. As a result, usability will improve for all end users and we expect businesses to benefit significantly as well."

The Free Standards Group Accessibility Workgroup includes experts on accessibility issues—representatives of major organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind, Georgia Institute of Technology Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, the Computer Braille Facility of University of Western Ontario and the Archimedes Project at Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information. In addition, the Accessibility Workgroup includes developers of graphical user interface (GUI) desktop environments for Linux such as GNOME and KDE, and Linux developers from Red Hat, Debian, SuSE, IBM, Sun, HP and TrollTech.

"It is essential to make greater accessibility for all users a high priority," stated Patricia C. Sueltz, executive vice president of Sun Microsystems' services group, and recipient of the Helen Keller Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind. "We are delighted that the Free Standards Group has organized an international, industry-wide effort to provide standards based on the open-source accessibility technology effort led by Sun to promote this goal."

First-year goals for the Free Standards Group Accessibility Workgroup include the adoption of the Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI), which enables AT tools such as screen readers and magnifiers to query and interact with GUI controls consistently; the development of shared input/output (I/O) for AT devices, to make it possible for devices such as Braille readers and speech synthesizers to operate smoothly with several client applications simultaneously; and the standardization of keyboard accessibility for persons unable to use a keyboard or mouse, incorporating features such as "Sticky Keys" which enable users to press key combinations in sequence rather than requiring users to hold them down simultaneously.

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Further information on the Accessibility Workgroup of the Free Standards Group is available at: www.a11y.org.

About the Free Standards Group

The Free Standards Group is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the use and acceptance of free and open source software by developing and promoting standards. Key Free Standards Group projects include the Linux Standard Base (LSB), OpenI18N, LANANA and the new Accessibility Workgroup. Supported by leaders in the IT industry as well as the open source development community, the Free Standards Group fulfills a critical need to have common behavioral specifications, tools and ABIs across Linux platforms. More information on the Free Standards Group is available at: www.afb.org.

For more information contact:
Carrie Fernandez
AFB Communications Group
212-502-7674
cfernandez@afb.net


LaurieAnne Lassek, for FSG
415-844-6253
lalassek@accesspr.com

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