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[Accessibility] Accessibility Status: Swamped

From: Christian Hofstader
Subject: [Accessibility] Accessibility Status: Swamped
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2010 08:59:50 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100527 Thunderbird/3.0.5

Hi Everyone,

I was off line for more than a week due to some peculiar issues on this computer and I'm just now digging out of the pile of things on which I had fallen behind. For all intents and purposes, I am swamped with little tasks and could use help in many ways so if someone wants to volunteer to help out with some administrative stuff, please write to or call me directly and we can talk about ways you can help.


1. Development Priorities

Right now, regarding programming, projects, I am prioritizing orca and other highly visible accessibility bug fixes above all else. Our friends Joanie and Bill Cox will likely do the specific assignments (correct me if I am wrong folks) to try to get as many high priority bugs, performance problems and features that aren't quite right remediated.

2. Volunteer Hackers

Krishnakant has four students in Mumbai who are apparently ready to start hacking soon. I will coordinate with him on how and to whom these young hackers should be assigned. I haven't met any of these people via email, phone or in any other way so we'll see how they work out in the near term future.

A Brazilian professor whom I met while working on a project for the U. Florida RERC on Technology and Successful Aging, and I will be talking on the phone this morning. He has what he describes as a "lot of students" and substantial funding to work on FLOSS access technology. Sometime next week, we will have a better idea of how many resources we have in Brazil next week and I'll send an update when I have a better feel for who they are and what they will be doing.

I have some emails from people telling me that they also have students and/or other hackers who they want to assign to our projects and work in partnership. They are all dedicated to free software and my level of contact with each is somewhere along the introductorypart of the curve so I can't say with any probability what we will have in the near term future. Based upon conversations with the various people offering to help us find hackers, though, I would estimate that we might have as many as 10 people by the end of the month and no fewer than six or seven.

Quite obviously, anyone who knows of anyone or group of people who want to volunteer in accessibility roles should please forward them to me.

3. Major New Initiatives

I say above that we currently want to focus on fixing the accessibility problems that already exist but we are also pursuing some new initiatives.

Our new friend, Speedy Don Marang has agreed to turn his pretty cool "Speedy OCR" program over to us as an official GNU package. I discussed this over email with rms and we all seem to be happy with this idea.

We are starting off on the path to making a free speech recognition tool with a variety of different user experiences with different grammars for different applications. A couple of people have already signed up for our speech recognition mailing list (address@hidden, put subscribe in the subject field). We need many more to really get this going. One of the biggest early tasks is to do research on what may already be out there in the free software world and help build a collection of links to various tools which may prove helpful. For now, I've nicknamed this project "Greco" for GNU Recognition but I'm not the marketing guy so a better name will be accepted.

Related to the speech recognition project, we are about to kick off an initiative to get as many people to help improve the VoxForge corpus by sending recordings of themselves reading a particular bit of text. Recently, Nuance, the proprietary vendor of Naturally Speaking, told the world that it was able to improve its recognition by 15% by using millions of samples from people who used their no-cost iPhone application. I doubt that we can get millions of volunteer readers but we can use as many as possible. Virtually everyone can do this as virtually every computer sold in the past decade or so has some sort of audio recording software and many have microphones built in.

The GNU Accessibility Initiative has no formal web presence. I've been wanting to get to this for months but find that I never seem to have the time for it. I would really appreciate a volunteer who can work with rms and I on the text for an accessibility home page, some starter wiki items and a blog entry to say we are here.

4. Some of My Immediate Needs

I have been using Thunderbird as my mail client as I want to get a feel for all major office type applications with orca. Thunderbird is usable but has so many problems that I find that I will either send an email where the text got messed up if I'm in a hurry and do not stop to reread or that I need to do a lot of editing as odd problems with my text show up all over the place. I am told that the open office mail client, evolution, works very well but I cannot figure out how to configure it to receive mail from my GNU account, I can send mail but I cannot figure out the settings for receiving. Anyone who can help me, please write privately or call me as I'd like to start experimenting with evolution so I can report on how accessibile it is. For expediency sake, I may start using emacspeak for email as it just plain works and I haven't a lot of spare time to fiddle around with Mozilla's accessibility bugs.

As I mention above in a couple of places, I really need help from someone who is good at researching and finding things online. The speech recognition project alone has a ton of effort needed in this area but we have lots of other tasks that could be helped a lot if we could gather some information.

Thanks everyone!

Happy Hacking,

Christian Hofstader
Director of Access Technology
FSF/Project GNU,
GNU's Not Unix!

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