Accessibility Documentation for Users and Developers

Mentor: To be defined.

See bug 519067 to track this task.

This USD$6K/6mo task is for a good writer to update/edit/develop/deliver documentation for each of the following areas. This task may seem huge, but there is a lot of existing documentation to draw from. The person working on this task should work with the GNOME documentation team to get the new documentation in the right source format (DocBook) and stored in the right spot (gnome-user-docs and gnome-devel-docs) and should also do a search/destroy/relink mission to prevent people from landing on the old documentation by mistake (e.g., a Google search should bring you to the right spot and not some old crufty documentation).

NOTE: The person working on this documentation does not have to be the one to scour all the code. The documentation can be written by interviewing maintainers of various components (e.g., AT-SPI maintainer, Orca maintainer, GOK maintainer, etc.). The ultimate deliverables, however, are still the responsibility of the person working on this task.

How to develop and test for accessibility from an application developer's point of view

Application developers often know very little about accessibility -- they tend to support accessibility accidentally because the toolkit supports it. However, application developers often make common mistakes, such as neglecting keyboard traversal, making heavy use of images that have no text equivalents, not honoring desktop themes, forgetting to related labels to the things they are labeling (e.g., "First Name:" and the text area being labeled) and making/using custom widgets that do not support accessibility.

One of the first responses from an application developer to an accessibility bug is "What? A11y what? Whojamawitchy? Where do I start?". The goal of this task is to be able to point those developers to concise instructions for testing for accessibility and how to avoid/address common pitfalls. This should include using assistive technologies (Orca, GOK) as well as useful tools such as Accerciser. Keep in mind that approachability from a person ignorant about accessibility, and with likely very little time to study a thesis on the subject, is very important. There is some existing documentation to draw from for this:

A document that includes the following might be considered:

  • How to test for keyboard traversal - include instructions on setting up label for/by relations and mnemonics via code and via glade and pointers to docs for the general GNOME Desktop key sequences
  • How to test for theming - include instructions for setting (and recovering from) the high contrast large print theme and pointers to docs for how to support theming
  • Pointer to Accerciser and maybe a quick example of using it in the context of testing for a11y
  • Quick testing with Orca and GOK - typical use cases and expected behavior
  • Pointers to gail to give custom widget developers examples of code they can use to make their widgets accessible

Clearer diagrams (e.g. UML sequence diagrams) of why and how the accessibility infrastructure (application/atk/gail/at-spi/assistive-technology) works should also be created. In addition, the documentation should be clearer about the various dependencies and the order in which things should be built/installed.

Here's some notes on the AT-SPI IDL documentation. It has good docs in it, but they seem to be scattered about and are not always up to date:

"The history behind this is that the "new" IDL space was created as a workspace for drafting and documenting some extensions/enhancements to AT-SPI several Gnome versions ago. In the ensuing period, Doxygen documentation of AT-SPI's IDL in the main source tree was substantially improved; the "new idl" directory, which really should be have been named something else I suppose, lacks most of those documentation improvements - - BUT it DOES include draft documentation for the proposed new APIs, including Collection whose implementation has not yet made it into the SVN repository.

The rather unsatisfactory situation of AT-SPI docs being in my personal Gnome directory came about because of the use of Doxygen and because it was, at least at that time, difficult to get the autogenerated documentation tree extended. The ATK docs have been there, autogenerated from SVN, for a long time, but we didn't get the IDL-based docs there, probably in part because they use doxygen instead of gtk-doc as the doc-creation-tool. This latter fact is because gtk-doc, while the "official" source documentation generator for gnome, cannot parse IDL, whereas doxygen can."

How to test for accessibility from an operating system distribution point of view

Even if everyone on the GNOME side does their job correctly, operating system distributions can still make mistakes when it comes to integrating accessibility support. This document should provide operating system distributions with concise directions for testing to make sure they didn't screw it up. The directions should include things such as the following, as well as integration tips, tricks, and troubleshooting:

  • Pointers to accessibility for application developers (above)
  • A concise list of package/product dependencies
  • Testing audio
  • Testing speech
  • Testing brltty (you can use the dummy X11 driver if you don't have braille hardware)
  • Testing hardware switches (e.g.,,

  • Testing theming (are the accessibility inspired themes installed and usable?)
  • Testing keyboard accessibility (i.e., "AccessX")
  • Testing accessible login
  • "Smoke testing" with various assistive technologies

GNOME Accessibility from a user's point of view

New users coming to GNOME often do not know where to start, and they are also unsure if they should make the jump from their existing platform (e.g., Windows, Mac OSX) to GNOME. This documentation should include what's available and the capabilities provided by GNOME. It should offer concise information to help a new user quickly understand if they should make the jump, but also provide thorough documentation for getting going. As part of this, one should a thorough review and edit of the GNOME Desktop Accessibility Guide.

Ideally, GNOME should be a system that provides users with the independence to install and configure the accessibility environment themselves. However, some new users may need to work with their system administrators and clinicians to configure the accessibility environment. As such, this documentation should be written with that in mind.

Each assistive technology (e.g., GOK, Orca, Dasher) could also use improvements in the documentation. See the For Users page for links to the assistive technologies.

Outreach/Accessibility/Tasks/Documentation (last edited 2013-12-03 03:57:19 by WilliamJonMcCann)