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Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms

From: Bryen M. Yunashko
Subject: Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2010 02:29:56 -0500

On Fri, 2010-07-30 at 15:42 +1000, Jason White wrote:
> In my view, the FSF has clear guiding principles that ought to be upheld. If
> that means turning away potential volunteers who don't share those goals or
> who are inclined to develop solutions that involve proprietary software, I
> think this is entirely necessary, since otherwise the FSF would be
> compromising its principles.
> One of the characteristics that I admire about Richard Stallman is his
> determination not to compromise his values and long-term objectives for the
> sake of short-term expediency, a quality sadly lacking in many aspects of
> contemporary society.

I, too, admire RMS for his commitment to his principles.  I think
they're laudable and I don't think most of us in this thread directly
oppose his principles.  

However, I hope that you equally admire the many people here who have
stuck to their own principles of adhering to the philosophy of A11y.
Note that I said A11y and not the basic term accessibility.  A11y is in
and of itself a philosophy and not just some geek term to address
technology.  A11y philosophy is that regardless of what your physical or
mental abilities are, you have the right to use any computer you walk up

That's an important philosophy for many of us and that accessibility
does take precedence over other FOSS-related philosophies.  It's just
the way it is and I feel that the tone you are expressing here is that
we are less-than-admirable for adhering to that philosophy than RMS is
for adhering to his philosophy.  I surely hope I'm reading that wrong.

> The more free software there is which meets accessibility-related needs, the
> less necessary it will be for people with disabilities to make such
> compromises in the technologies they use, if they value freedom in this
> domain.
> If people want to engage in proprietary development, or a mixture of free and
> proprietary development, then please first consider the logic of Richard
> Stallman's position, and if you still want to take that path, please do it
> outside of any forum or project sponsored, endorsed or promoted by the FSF.

Now I'm sorry but this statement frightens me.  "any forum or project
sponsored, endorsed or promoted by the FSF."   Let's take the GNOME-A11y
team for example.  RMS has certainly participated in GNOME discussions,
the FSF has published GNOME Accessibility API as a recommendation [1].
By your statement, if there's anyone on our team that uses non-free
solutions to do their work, we should ask them to leave the GNOME-A11y

If that's the case, then that's a pretty powerful weapon RMS and FSF
has.  Simply go around and endorse any project it sees fit to and that
project must then ask its contributors to leave the project whether
FSF's endorsement was solicited or not.

I commend FSF for recognizing the importance of accessibility (note I
said accessibility, not A11y) and hiring Chris Hofstader to head this.
In doing so, FSF inserted itself in a prime leadership role in the field
of accessibility which is quite vast with many projects going on all
over.  All eyes turned quickly to FSF when Chris was hired and many of
us looked forward to a great consortium of participants from a wide
variety of projects.  In a way, the discussion of a11y came to a very
central place here on this FSF thread.  And it's really great.  Many of
us are now encountering new names/faces in the a11y world that we hadn't
encountered before.  What a great new community.  I believe this was an
important goal of FSF's and they achieved it wonderfully.

But, not too long after this wonderful gathering was created, we
encountered this conflict of philosophies.  And for many of us, we've
never seen such a strong conflict.  Maybe the moral is we should have
been more wary.  I don't think that's the case.  

However, I think continuing to keep us all here and continuing to
discuss until we reach some middle ground hopefully that works well for
both sides is a far more pragmatic and sound approach than the "Like it
or get on the highway" approach you're advocating.  Especially with the
significant assumption of role FSF has undertaken and its our job to
ensure proper education of what A11y is all about takes place, just as
much as it is FSF's job to ensure proper education of its philosophy
takes place.

As much as I disagree with the priority FSF is advocating in this
discussion, sending everyone away as you advocate, actually is a
surefire guarantee to fail FSF's goal of achieving true free software.
Which is actually most people's goal here in this thread.  Keeping
everyone together gives FSF a chance to at least remind and prod us to
continue to work towards that goal.  But if FSF wants to maintain its
new role in the accessibility community, it's going to have to learn to
back off a little and let us get to that FSF goal in the proper time.
Accessibility is not FSF's domain, nor is it any other accessibility
project's domain.  It is everybody's domain.


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