ABLEGAMERS: Making Gaming More Accessible To 33 Million Disabled Gamers | Geek & Sundry


H/Ts Geek and Sundry & @angieoverkill

I am not much of a gamer beyond casual games such as Criminal Case. However, being Disabled makes me aware of issues in this community. Everyone has a right to freedom, prosperity, and liberty; i.e. what makes them happy. Despite the current politics, near nirvana happens when this ideal is nearing execution.

via AbleGamers: Making Gaming More Accessible To 33 Million Disabled Gamers | Geek and Sundry

LibreOffice contributor interview: Alex Arnaud

Everyone deserves an opportunity to be productive and geeky at the same time, if they so choose. Must not let a thing called Disability ruin the experience. Here is someone that is trying to change this in the free and open-source community. While not an official a11y supporter or developer, I am an advocate. Leaving people behind is not cool!

The LibreOffice community tries to make the software as accessible as possible — in other words, usable for people with special needs or requirements. Alex Arnaud is working to make the suite more accessible for users with visual impairments, and discusses his experiences and the challenges ahead in our latest interview…

Where are you from, and if you’re active on IRC, what’s your nickname?

I am French, and my IRC nickname is “alexarnaud”.

Do you work for a LibreOffice-related company or just work on it in your spare time?

Alongside the Hypra team, I am based in Paris. I am visually impaired and I use my computer with a screen magnifier and a screen reader. I use, on a daily-basis, the Universal Accessible OS (UAS) based on Debian GNU/Linux both for my professional and personal needs. I used GNOME before (and its magnifier), but given the important efforts that Hypra has poured into this project and the constant improvement of the, I have decided to switch about a year ago.

I’ve been working at Hypra since September 2015 as a project manager, leading the development of the visual-assistance stack (Compiz). I soon intend to join the company as a shareholder as I feel now totally involved in the startup’s ambition: making accessibility a key competitive advantage for Linux, and ultimately expanding the benefits of free software to the general public, beginning with visually impaired people. LibreOffice being one of the cornerstones of free software, I am contributing to the LibreOffice community inside the quality assurance (QA) team, mostly on my working time.

How did you get involved with LibreOffice?

When joining Hypra, my blind friends and colleagues Jean-Philippe and Raphael kept telling me: “Since version 4.3, LibreOffice is regressing on accessibility for blind people”. So far so good — we provide version 4.2 for our customers because it is actually the latest version usable for blind and visually impaired people. But we deem such an evolution is not sustainable on the long-run.

That is why we have decided to get involved, beginning with an accessibility audit on the user side. I’ve looked into all the LibreOffice bugs related to GNU/Linux and accessibility, and checked their validity and updated them as a consequence.

After that I started to become an accessibility bug hunter for the LibreOffice QA team and I have reported lots of bugs related to Writer, Calc and Impress. I see myself as a kind of “whistle-blower” about accessibility inside the community. Most of the sighted-users do not know that software has to be accessible for all people, so my job is raising awareness and hence trying to be a driver of change.

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like?

My initial experience with LibreOffice was in 2011. I reported bugs about the accessibility of LibreOffice for Windows — I sent them directly in a mailing list. In 2011, on Windows, it was completely impossible to use LibreOffice with a screen magnifier so I chose to use IBM Lotus Symphony, which was usable for a low-vision person.

What areas of the code do you normally work on? Anything else you want to tackle?

I am a user of the Orca screen reader (the screen reader being also useful for large array of people from the elderly to the visually impaired), so I can easily check if something is accessible for everyone. I focus on the user interface and the communication of LibreOffice with assistive technologies through the AT-SPI2 protocol.

I’m only working on the user side because I don’t know how to compile and how to debug LibreOffice — I just know QA-related things like how to check which version introduces a regression, for example. Testing and reporting bugs is huge work that requires attention and patience. I spent most part of my time tracking features and verifying whether they are usable for disabled people.

What is your vision for the future, or what would you most like to see improved in LibreOffice?

Free software entails a huge ethical and philosophical promise. It drives many expectations and hopes for average users in terms of social inclusion and privacy. It also provides enormous opportunities to reshape the relationships people have with technologies, focusing more on training and support, rather than on the cost of technologies themselves. This is a driver for social change. But to cope with these expectations, I believe we have to make sure that LibreOffice, being one of the cornerstones of free software, enables social inclusion.

Why should we keep adding features if we haven’t them usable for all? Can we accept it if a mainstream project such as LibreOffice keeps excluding people? As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that there are accessibility bugs, originally coming from the code, that were reported more than 5 fives years ago… We can’t let the status quo prevail!

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice?

I spend most of my spare time reading books and listening to radio podcasts to discover more in depth about how the world works. I’m fascinated by Noam Chomsky’s point of view about democracy and information. I find his famous book “Manufacturing Consent — The Political Economy of the Mass Media” extremely clarifying about the role of the media industry in a democratic country.

I also appreciate spending time with other people, with my family and with my friends.

What was the very first program you wrote?

If my memory serves me well, it was a very little social network.

Which is your preferred text editor? And why?

I’ve been using Emacs as my primary text editor since the day I discovered it. It’s really a pleasure for me to work with it because it help me to overcome my vision troubles.

In fact, I use a screen magnifier program that follows the cursor position. In some programs like “man”, “less” and “more” I can’t move the cursor inside the text — and that forces me to use the mouse, which makes my work more difficult.

With Emacs I can read manual pages inside a buffer, and I can use a command-line and move inside it — it is so convenient for me!

Why would you say there are few bug reports related to accessibility on GNU/Linux?

I would forward you to an interesting message posted years ago by Samuel Thibault (main contributor of the Debian accessibility team). For a blind person, if an application is not accessible enough it is completely impossible to report a bug.

Regular users that have disabilities spend more time than people without them, just to do things in their life. Information technology is a bridge between inaccessible hard things (newspaper, administrative things, TV programs, etc) and the accessible digital world.

It is really indispensable for blind people — for example — to be efficient in their lives when finding information related to their city, communicating with people by e-mail (letters are inaccessible), finding their path with GPS, producing and reading documents, finding a job of course — and so much more!

I have a dream: we work on free software, especially in this case LibreOffice, and everyone can work on the accessibility side and improve the life of everyone else. We need more manpower! Here’s a link to the meta-bug related to accessibility stuff on GNU/Linux.

I’m often available on IRC (Freenode network) on the channel of the libreoffice-design team (#libreoffice-design). Please ping me if you have questions relating to accessibility.

Thanks to Arnaud for his time and in-depth answers. For those reading this who want to get involved and help to make LibreOffice more accessible, join us today!

Originally published at on April 25, 2017.

Internet inventor: Make tech accessibility better already

I know technology people, such as Molly Holzschlag, that has been preaching this about accessibility #a11y {Accessibility is often abbreviated as the numeronym a11y, where the number 11 refers to the number of letters omitted. (“Computer accessibility,” 2017)} for a long time now. I am physically disabled but can vouch for what happens to others on the web. I never realized how much of a problem it is worldwide, and this is unacceptable.

Both Vint Cerf, known as a “father of the Internet,” and his wife have hearing disabilities.

Getty Images

This is part of CNET’s “Tech Enabled” series about the role technology plays in helping the disability community.

Vint Cerf is often called the “father of the internet.” Consider him a pretty stern papa.

Cerf, who is hearing-impaired, played an integral part in the invention of some of the most crucial technologies of the last half century, including the internet and email. But as quickly as he’ll extol how tech can advance society, he won’t mince words about its track record accommodating people with disabilities.

Accessibility shouldn’t be a “pixie dust” designers sprinkle on as an afterthought, he said.

“It’s a crime that the most versatile device on the planet, the computer, has not adapted well to people who need help, who need assistive technology,” he said in an interview last month. “It’s almost criminal that programmers have not had their feet held to the fire to build interfaces that are accommodating for people with vision problems or hearing problems or motor problems.”

Plenty of guidelines for designing accessible technology exist, but their implementation too often has been subordinate to other design goals, he said.

Cerf is best known as one of the designers of the architecture for the internet in the early 1970s, helping to shape the rules that dictate where internet traffic goes and, about a decade later, helping to deliver the first commercial email system. Today he is Google’s “chief internet evangelist” and contributes to the People Centered Internet, a group he cofounded to advance connectivity worldwide. His own disability, and the disabilities of people close to him, shaped his approach to tech, he said.

Email, for one, brought Cerf more than the typical benefit of posting and interacting on your own timeline.

“Because I’m hearing-impaired, emails are a tremendously valuable tool because of the precision that you get,” he said, sitting on a hotel couch in his trademark three-piece suit before a SXSW keynote organized by engineering trade organization IEEE. (On this occasion it was grey pinstripe with a blue shirt.) “I can read what’s typed as opposed to straining to hear what’s being said.”

He’s not alone in needing an assist from technology. About 360 million people worldwide have a hearing disability, roughly 5 percent of all the people on Earth, according to the World Health Organization. Then factor in those with vision, motor or other impairments. In the US alone, more than one in three households has a member who identifies as having a disability, according to panel research by Nielsen last year.

President George W. Bush presented Cerf with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, in 2005.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Email and the internet were also crucial to his wife’s adaptation to her own disability, even though Cerf teases her for being uninterested in email for more than two decades after he began playing with network mail in the early ‘70s.

Sigrid Cerf, who became deaf as a 3-year-old because of spinal meningitis, finally took the plunge onto the net in the mid ’90s to learn about cochlear implants: surgically embedded devices that bypass the ear and send the brain signals it interprets as sound.

She learned about the technology — and the doctors specializing in it at Johns Hopkins Hospital — by surfing the web. “She couldn’t get anybody’s attention at Johns Hopkins until somebody in Israel put her in touch by an email exchange,” he said. Even as an inventor of the internet, Cerf said he was amazed by the role email and the net played in so fundamentally changing his wife’s relationship with her disability.

Cerf’s awareness of disability also sharpens his criticism of tech’s shortcomings.

“It can’t be a pixie dust that you sprinkle on top of the program and suddenly make it accessible, which is the behavior pattern in the past,” he said. Accessibility should be a design choice that is rewarded, “something a lot of companies have not stepped up to,” he added.

But he believes awareness among engineers and designers is improving. For people with hearing impairments, speech-to-text products are growing more sophisticated, like automatic closed captioning on YouTube. Voice-command technologies, like those in Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, are more commonplace. And most recently, neural networks — a programming technique based loosely on how the human brain learns — are advancing speech synthesis, to make it more natural for people with vision or physical disabilities to interact with technology.

Perhaps most encouraging, he said, is a growing recognition in the tech community that accessibility is important.

“We need to build in these things from the beginning,” he said. “That’s very powerful stuff.”

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Originally published at on April 10, 2017.

Computer accessibility. (2017, March 28). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from