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Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms

From: Michael Whapples
Subject: Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 17:36:59 +0100
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Here's some of my thoughts on it. Also there's some interesting questions which I would like to know the answers to.

As a blind computer user I fully understand where Eric was coming from, assistive technology can give disabled people much freedom (I mean freedom in their lives rather than freedom of the technology). Anyway even if others dispute whether freedom is the correct term, my point there is that it can significantly improve the lives of disabled users and at times it really can feel like you are free of certain restrictions you would encounter if there was no assistive technology. Sometimes it can seem that with "free software" philosophy can come before practical solutions, in which cases users may be forced to use proprietary solutions to be able to do a task, which in turn may force them to use more proprietary software than they may wish to use (IE. the assistive technology software may only run on a proprietary operating system). That raises the question of whether partial freedom is better than no freedom (IE. if having a free environment with one proprietary component is better than a completely proprietary system, we're dealing with the case where a user would be unable to use the system without at least one proprietary component due to the lack of a usable free offering so completely free environment is not an option)?

However I have to say, as hard as it might be to swallow, if the FSF were to compromise on their philosophy and strong beliefs of freedom of software it would undermine what they stand for and damage their reputation, so I can't see how they could support/promote a solution requiring proprietary software. In short I think what Eric suggested would really need a different organisation to look after it.

Now the only thing I would possibly say more is (it was something Eric hinted at but didn't get much discussion), if there was a way for those who use speech recognition to be able to start using the system (even if it relied on proprietary software) then you may increase the pool of possible developers who would have an interest in possibly developing the speech recognition stuff. Is there anything compatible with the FSF philosophies which could be done to try and capture those interested developers who rely on speech recognition?

Michael Whapples
On -10/01/37 20:59, Richard Stallman wrote:
     If I can't make money, software philosophy doesn't matter.

You're entitled to your views, but the GNU Project is based on the
opposite principle: freedom is the highest priority.  We consider
proprietary software an injustice, and our goal is to free people from

      the most important thing, a solution to disabled users.

If the "solution" includes proprietary software, it's not a solution;
it is the problem we are trying to eliminate.

     yeah I thought so. Look higher up in the definition of freedom to economic

What you are calling "economic freedom" is not freedom at all.
I think you have stretched the definition of freedom out of
all sense.

     They can't use linked in or write an e-mail
     message. Web forums, Facebook, Google, USENET, IRC are all off limits to 

That is unfortunate but it isn't a matter of freedom.  There was a
time when I couldn't do these things, but I had freedom.  However,
if I did them using proprietary software, I would not have freedom.

Billions of people today are too poor to do these things.  Poverty is
deprivation, but it isn't slavery.  Your concept of "economic freedom"
is a misguided concept that attempts to disguise poverty as slavery.
That is a mistake.

If we define all kinds of deprivation as deprivation of freedom, what
follows?  We believe that all people other than criminals deserve freedom.
We believe they all deserve the same freedom.  So does that mean must
all have the same wealth?  If I am denied some of the freedom Bill Gates
has because I have less money than he, does that mean I deserve to have
the same income he has?  Or the same wealth?

Either we become levelers, advocating the same wealth or same income
for everyone, or we have to abandon the principle that all deserve the
same freedoms.  For me, that's a reductio ad absurdam: circumstancial
limitations on a person's options do not constitute loss of freedom.

In other words, freedom is not a matter of how many options you have.
That is the wrong way to define freedom.

     How about liberating people from economic misfortune, social isolation,
     disconnection from governmental services because of their disability?

These are deprivation, but not deprivation of freedom, so it is a
mistake to use the term "liberating" here.  Is giving food to a
hungry person "liberating" her?  Clearly not, although it is good for
other reasons.

Our primary goal is not "providing solutions", it is to eliminate the
injustice of proprietary software.

That's what we are doing.  You're welcome to help if you wish.

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