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Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms

From: Fernando H. F. Botelho
Subject: Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 10:18:38 -0300
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100713 Thunderbird/3.0.6

I think that is a good point. many potential volunteers might not value freedom as much as they should but we can combine that with other facts:

* 80% of the world's persons with disabilities are in developing countries;
* They are not just poor, they are the poorest of the poor in those countries; * 9 out of every 10 kids with visual impairment in developing countries have no access to education;
* Unemployment levels are  usually far above 90%;
 and I could go on for pages.  The point is:

Educational and employment policies/strategies by both governments and NGOs have failed miserably, and so has the private sector, in offering solutions. The answer is not in throwing money at the problem while using the same formulas, but in using new strategies. Strategies that take advantage of new thinking such as Creative Commons and the GPL.

Computer use is essencial for anyone to be competitive these days and as such doing so is a human right as real as the right to be educated and the right to work.

Any government, foundation, or NGO that takes education and employment seriously and considers current statistics unacceptable will want to think strategically and will invest in technology that does not depend on any single government, company, foundation, or NGO to evolve and be generally available. Such entities will understand that donations of proprietary software are a trap since the student that becomes dependent on those will have yet another enormous barrier (cost) to face when he/she tries to move into the job market.

it is not just cost of course; nobody wants his/her human right to depend on whether any particular government is re-elected or any specific company does not go broke. If you think this is highly theoretical just look at how many "stable" institutions in finance (an easier industry than the software world) have gone bankrupt; or remember how much investment in software licenses and training went to waste when the company that made the Slimware Window Bridge screen reader closed its doors. Now imagine that waste when instead of Canada or the US you are Paraguay.

Long-term or strategic thinking is not easy for individuals or institutions, since such thinking pays off when one makes sacrifices in the short term for long-term benefit. However, no foundation, NGO, government, or individual can claim to have a serious straategy for making the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities become more than just pretty words without adopting principles such as the use of free software and knowledge.

Now I beg of you: Can we also discuss how to prioritize bugs, how to find technical people to manage volunteer developers, where can one send funds and get reports on the bugs that have been killed with those, how can we make Firefox developers resolve bugs that are blocking our work or make them accept accessibility-related contributions?

In many countries disability has gained a higher profile and this is an amazing opportunity for us to liberate more people from dependency and vulnerability to proprietary solutions. But we can only do so if we can show results. please help me out here so we can get Orca the patches it needs. If such day-to-day concerns are out of place here, let me know which list would be best and I will join it.

I have tremendous respect for what RMS and so many on the list have achieved. Our effectiveness however depends on achieving a balance between energy spent on our "vision" and on how to get there from here.



On 07/28/2010 12:43 AM, Bill Cox wrote:
On Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 6:24 PM, Eric S. Johansson<address@hidden>  wrote:
  On 7/27/2010 8:57 PM, Bill Cox wrote:
I thought the discussion was worth having
because this is a free software foundation sponsored list and if they say,
thou shalt do only free software, then that is their right and we should
respect that.

This gets to the heart of my greatest misgiving in having FSF leading
FOSS accessibility development.  I think that FOSS is pretty much the
only way to get programmers with disabilities from around the world to
volunteer to work together to write this stuff, so I see significant
synergy between FSF goals and the goals of the volunteers.

However, will the volunteers see it that way?  Will programmers who
use Windows and Naturally Speaking, or Windows and JAWs hesitate to
join a FSF community?  FSF has broad reach, resources for servers, web
development, and a well recognised brand, in addition to Chris working
full time.  So, it seems like a great foundation to organise things
from.  Will the community converge here?  Would we be better off
building an on-line community of volunteers dedicated to
accessibility, and only accessibility?  Can that be done through FSF?


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