February 14, 2002

Users with Disabilities Get Built-in Assistive Technology Solutions with the GNOME 2.0 Desktop

New developments make the GNOME 2.0 Desktop more accessible to the needs of users with disabilities.

New York, N.Y. January 28, 2002 – The GNOME Foundation today announced the latest innovative assistive technology contributions to the GNOME project, an open-source, free-software desktop for GNU/Linux and UNIX. BAUM Retec AG delivers the first full-featured GNOME screen magnifier, a screen reader, and a set of Braille drivers to meet the needs of vision-impaired users and the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto is delivering the first GNOME on-screen keyboard to support users with motor impairments. These built-in assistive technologies seamlessly integrate with a new generation of accessible applications as they enable users with disabilities to easily interact with applications that can adapt to their needs.

These new assistive technologies leverage Sun Microsystems, Inc.’s contribution of the GNOME Accessibility Framework. This framework based on an open architecture, provides a comprehensive toolkit and APIs, that developers can use to create accessible applications and interface them with assistive technologies on any UNIX or GNU/Linux platform running the GNOME 2.0 desktop. With the combination of the Accessibility Framework and assistive technologies, users with disabilities have the solutions they need to get their job done efficiently:

  • Screen Magnifier – enables users with low vision to enlarge the computer screen and interact with the magnified portion of the screen they are accessing, such as menus, toolbars, graphics, and text.
  • Screen Reader – allows users who are blind or visually impaired to access information on the computer screen through a Braille display or synthesized speech. With screen readers users can read and edit text, manipulate menu bars, buttons and dialog boxes, and fully interact with the GNOME desktop.
  • On-screen Keyboard – provides users with physical impairments a wide variety of ways to enter text and manipulate the graphical user interface of applications and the GNOME desktop. In addition, environments without a keyboard, such as a touch screen kiosk, can take advantage of the on-screen keyboard. This on-screen keyboard goes beyond the standard physical keyboard, it supports word prediction, scanning access, coded access, customizable keyboard layouts, and dynamic keyboard functionality that conveniently places menu bar options and other application elements onto the keyboard display for direct manipulation.

“Integrating accessibility technology solutions with the GNOME desktop allows anyone to use GNOME,” said Miguel de Icaza, GNOME Foundation President. These built-in capabilities provide enterprises with a ready-to-go and comprehensive accessible desktop that adapts to the needs of users with disabilities. The benefits are vast – for IT organizations this cost-effective alternative resolves the problem of buying and installing expensive complex software; for disabled users it’s simpler and more convenient to work and collaborate with team members since they have the advantage of using any UNIX or GNU/Linux platform running the GNOME 2.0 desktop”.

“We chose GNOME because of its open, extensible, and comprehensive accessibility architecture,” said Thomas Friehoff, CTO, head of software development of BAUM Retec AG. “Using the open Assistive Technologies Service Provider API we were able to deliver our solutions quickly, because it eliminated the need to reinvent assistive technology software for different UNIX platforms, saving us time and costs”.

“Our center in Toronto specializes in developing information technologies that include seamless accessible interfaces,” said Jutta Treviranus, Director, Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto. “The GNOME Accessibility Framework free software project enables us to leverage the component-based architecture to develop technologies that intelligently integrate alternative access techniques. Using this approach we will make the user interface accessible and usable by the large group of individuals who cannot use a standard keyboard or mouse. We will continue working with the GNOME open source project to develop new kinds of user input support, including an open source keyboard configuration editor that provides ways to improve the efficiency of computer interaction for users with disabilities.”

“By providing rich and consistent interfaces for both assistive technologies and applications, the accessibility framework enables flexible and comprehensive accessibility solutions for GNOME,” said Bill Haneman, GNOME Accessibility Architect, Sun Microsystems, Inc. “A key aspect of the GNOME Accessibility Framework is support for user interface component sets beyond the built-in GNOME component set,” said Peter Korn, Sun Accessibility Architect. “The thousands of applications that take advantage of the Java Accessibility API will work with the GNOME Accessibility Framework unaltered and gain the benefit of the assistive technologies included with the GNOME 2.0 Desktop. In addition, other important applications, such as the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, are being modified to use these technologies.”

Availability

GNOME Accessibility Framework is available at: http://projects.gnome.org/accessibility/

Baum Retec AG assistive technologies are available at: http://projects.gnome.org/accessibility/

ATRC, University of Toronto assistive technology is available at: http://projects.gnome.org/accessibility/

About GNOME

Gnome is a unified, open and rich desktop that employs an intuitive and appealing user interface, includes a wealth of productivity applications, supports the latest industry standards, and provides an innovative component-based architecture, ALL BUILT ON a powerful network-centric architecture.

GNOME is a free software project (also referred to as open source software) that is developing a complete, easy to use desktop for GNU/Linux, BSD and a variety of other UNIX and other operating systems. The GNOME desktop is used by millions of people around the world. More than 500 computer developers, including over 100 full-time, paid developers, contribute their time and effort to the project.

About the GNOME Foundation

Comprised of hundreds of volunteer developers and industry-leading companies, the GNOME Foundation is an organization committed to supporting the advancement of GNOME. GNOME is an entirely free user environment for desktops, networked servers and portable Internet devices. The modern architecture and design of GNOME includes a technically advanced application development platform and a powerful end-user desktop environment. Major leading software industry and computer manufacturers support the GNOME development effort, which is led by a world-wide community of volunteers. More information on GNOME is available at www.gnome.org

About BAUM Retec AG

As a leading European provider of products and services for the blind and visually impaired, BAUM Retec AG offers a wide range of electronic aids for educational, professional and private use. BAUM’s products want to help visually impaired customers to be more successful in their jobs and to have all the possibilities to access information. More information on BAUM Retec AG is available at www.baum.de

About Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC), University of Toronto

The ATRC advances barrier-free access to information technology by working directly with information technology manufacturers and developers to influence the early design stages of tomorrow’s computer based technology. The ATRC uses a user-centered design approach to model and create solutions that are commercially feasible, operationally effective, and inclusive of users with disabilities. The centre works closely with government and public sector partners to address accessibility issues. More information on Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto is available at www.utoronto.ca/atrc

About Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Sun, Sun Microsystems, the Sun logo, Solaris, Java are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States and other countries. More information on Sun Microsystems, Inc. is available at www.sun.com