Making Ubuntu More Accessible

Today I had a great call Penelope Stowe who has been leading some excellent efforts with the Ubuntu Accessibility Team in conjunction with the (quite literally) always rocking Luke ‘The Muso’ Yelavich.

The reason for the call was simple: I felt like I didn’t have enough knowledge or visibility of the Ubuntu Accessibility Team and accessibility in general, and when Ubuntu was started, the project made a firm commitment to the core aspects of freedom such as freedom of access to the technology, the freedom to have Ubuntu in your language, and the freedom to experience Ubuntu in an accessible way. Penelope, Luke and others are passionate about bringing the focus back to accessibility more, and I wanted to echo this important ambition here.

Penelope, with some input from Alan Bell, articulated the goals of the project perfectly:

At the heart of Ubuntu’s philosophy is the belief that computing is for everyone, whatever your circumstances. Ubuntu was certainly hailed as one of the most accessible operating systems when it was launched however different approaches to accessibility APIs in the upstream projects have lead to some areas needing renewed attention to maintain a high standard of accessibility. The Ubuntu Accessibility team has existed from the start, providing support to those requiring assistive technology to operate the Ubuntu desktop. This year an effort started to bring the team together to take up a more active role than providing support. This led to a more defined leadership being selected at UDS-M. Penelope Stowe now heads the documentation and community engagement activities of the team and Luke Yelavich leads the development activities.

Penelope goes on to share what kind of work the team is focusing on:

Alongside the regular support activities we are working on updating documentation including the team wiki pages and information on how to use Ubuntu with assistive technology and we are running a project to create design personas that can be given to developers and user interface designers to bring to life the accessibility requirements of our users. This project is starting with a survey of a wide range of people who use assistive technology with computers (not just Ubuntu users) and we will use the results of the survey to create realistic but fictional characters who need Ubuntu to be better so they can use it.

the Ubuntu Accessibility Team are doing valuable and important work and I know they (a) want better awareness of the team (hence this blog entry as one such effort), and (b) they are keen to get more volunteers involved. Here is where you can find them:

Keep up the awesome work Penelope, Luke, and co, and folks, if this interests you, do get involved!

  • Ibrahim Shakra

    Hi there

    ubuntu is a fantastic system & here in Syria, I trying to tell every one I know about this system, & if you need any thing from me, just email me .

  • Joe Buck

    I would expect to read something here about how Ubuntu is working with the rest of the Linux, Gnome, and KDE communities on accessibility. You can’t hire or recruit all the relevant experts as Canonical employees or Ubuntu volunteers, after all.

  • Penelope Stowe

    Joe, I definitely want to work with GNOME and other upstreams (I don’t have any KDE experience and wouldn’t know who to talk to there) on a lot of this. I’m just working on pulling together the Ubuntu team to an extent before getting really active other places as well. We’re still in fledgling steps with getting organized and I’ll feel better about working with other groups once I feel like we’re a little more solid with the Ubuntu-specific things.

    Luke is also active with quite a few upstreams as a contributer.

    And downstream we work with Vinux quite a bit (Luke has been doing quite a bit of testing in Vinux, I think)

  • Steve Lee

    Glad to see this new focus and +1 to more collaboration. There should be an opportunity for some harmonisation with the AEGIS and W3C persona work.