Critical Gaps

Contributions Prior to Meeting:

Note: For critical gaps in mobile devices please refer to the Mobile Accessibility page

Suggested By

Critical Gap

Comment on Importance

Eitan Isaacson

TTS Languages

While Open Source screen readers are attractive to developing countries because of their low price point, the main barrier for adoption is often localization issues, specifically the unavailability of free, or even affordable, TTS engines for the language spoken at different locales. Some languages, like Persian Arabic or Hebrew, have only a partially phonetic script, which makes TTS a challenging problem.

Janina Sajka

Audio Device Specificity for Linux TTS

Currently, if a user has more than one audio device, there's no way to
direct the screen reader's voice to any particular device.

James Teh

Better open source TTS engine for use in screen readers

For experienced, highly proficient screen reader users, eSpeak is probably the only suitable open source TTS engine. It is small, efficient, extremely responsive, multilingual and can speak at a reasonably high rate. However, many users have expressed dissatisfaction with the sound of its speech, often complaining of a metallic or "phasing" sound. As I understand it, these attributes are inherent to the algorithm used to generate the speech. An alternative is needed which is more satisfactory for most users, while still maintaining all of the advantages of eSpeak. (The Eloquence TTS engine appears to be very popular.) It should probably be based on formant (rather than concatenative) synthesis and should allow for support for as many languages as possible (see Eitan's point above). Ideally, it should be able to speak at a faster rate (no less than 450 wpm).

Louis Suarez-Potts

Specific text-to-speech productivity/development tools

Especially involve areas in the developing world lacking sophisticated tech.

Willie Walker

Hearing Impairments

There is currently little open source software available for addressing hearing impairments. Work is being done on VizAudio in GNOME and other work is being done on closed-captioning-type text for streaming media (think YouTube).  We need more people involved in this space, however, to make it easy for a community to add captioning to media and for that captioning information to be made easily available.

Becky Gibson

Hearing Impariments

This was already mentioned but good tools for capturing screen and audio as well as transcribing content are missing.  On top of that is that fact that there is no real standard for video.  You Tube has made flash more ubiquitous but that is not open source and not supported everywhere.  We need an open source web video standard.

Willie Walker

Speech recognition (both an engine and integration with the desktop)

Important for hands free and "keyboard free" operation as well as people with repetitive strain injuries

Willie Walker

Cognitive Impairments

Solutions geared towards people with dyslexia and learning impairments, such as something similar to What You Need Now (WYNN), would be very helpful to a large population currently under-addressed by open source accessibility

Rich Schwerdtfeger

lack of alterntive reading solutions for learning and cognitively impaired.

I would like to expand on Willie's suggestion by suggesting that we deliver these for web technologies as a web service offering. Features might include bookmarking facilities, highlighting as text is spoken, content managment to control the amount that is rendered at a given time and so on.

Peter Korn

Improved magnification

Many low-vision users can benefit from magnification functionality not yet available in the open source magnifier available for use with Orca.  Magnification also doesn't work on thin client environments such as Sun Ray, nor is it integrated with COMPOSITE window managers such as Compiz or GNOME Shell.  While listed as "improved", in truth this is a major body of work - both for the range of improvements contemplated, and also the work of integration with existing window managers like Compiz or GNOME Shell.  Also, such integration may be a significant component of work for Cognitive Impairments (see that need above).

Willie Walker

Long Term Support

Too often, a bright person creates a useful application, but then the bright person goes off to other things, often taking all the knowledge of the project with them. The long term maintenance and development of open source software projects needs to be taken into account.

Willie Walker

End User Support

A large portion of an accessibility project involves working through issues and requests from end users. Support structures need to be in place to encourage the growth of a thriving positive community of users and developers.

Willie Walker

Requirements Gathering

In many cases, open source projects are written by bright people with great intentions, but with little domain knowledge. With tighter integration with end users from the early phases of the project development, open source accessibility projects are more likely to address user needs and succeed.

Willie Walker

Deployment, Platform Integration

The open source accessibility community needs to work closely with the parties doing the integration and deployment of the platform. In some cases (e.g., Webvisium), this is luckily the accessibility community itself.  In other cases, such as operating system distributions (e.g., Ubuntu, OpenSolaris, etc.), the open source community needs to be well aware of platform issues and schedules.

Jamon Camisso / Yura Zenevich

Bootable Linux CD/Image / Installer

A few Linux distributions ship with features like Orca turned on by default. However, a live cd or usb based distribution that specifically focuses on accessibility would be useful. Such a cd/distribution could be used as demonstration platform to show and test various foss accessibility tools. Moreover, being portable it would allow users to carry their preconfigured accessible desktop or development environment with them. Another critical gap is the lack of default accessibility available by default at the time of installation of the OS. At best user would have to enable accessibility with live CD first but even then this feature is not widely available.

Peter Korn

Braille authoring/editing tools

Braille literacy is highly correlated with employment among the blind in North America and Europe and Japan.  Tools for creating Braille documents - in a wide range of languages - will help with Braille literacy worldwide.

David Bolter


This is sort of a vague issue I realize, but a concrete example would be a goal like: a user or clinician should *never* have to edit a configuration file in order to setup/operate an assistive technology. This has been a thorn in GOK's side in terms of setting up a secondary pointing device. This task might even end up with creating alternatives to X generally. This is a bit like Willie's Deployment, Platform Integration.

Rich Schwerdtfeger

First and Second Level Support

To me the largest barrier to adoption of open source assistive technologies is lack of a first and second level support organization to talk with customers and limit the calls to open source developers. This is a major barrier consumption of open source assistive technologies in the enterprise. Willie and I are on the same page but my reason for adding here is that I would like to see the advocacy  groups get involved.

Rich Schwerdtfeger

Reusable avatar sign language solutions for the hearing impaired

We oftent assume that hearing impaired users are best served by closed captioning. In reality as significant percentage of deaf users do not have a reading level beyond the fourth grade. This was validated by research experts in the field at the ICTA conference in Tunisia this year.

Rich Schwerdtfeger

Reusable Access For All Content matching solutions for web delivered technologies 

While such an offerning requires a set of standard vehicles for attaching meta data to resources, it would be very poweful to have a matching service that could be incorporated into technologies like mashups to select and configure resources to meet the needs of the user based on standized Access For All preferences and the delivery context. This service could be reused, adapted, and deployed by application vendors worldwide.

Jutta Treviranus

Accessible Collaboration Tools and collaborative development tools (Wikis, Chats, bug trackers, etc)

Needed to enable inclusive participation in collaborative activities including in open source development communities

Pete Brunet

Java access built into JRE

In the process of getting input regarding the Java Access Bridge, one feedback was that accessibility should be built into the JRE.  This is in line with knowing that many (most?) people have a hard time installing the Java Access Bridge.  Another input was that JAB should use COM as the IPC mechanism.

Pete Brunet


For input on gaps I interviewed a few people.  See this link for their input.

Pete Brunet

Usability vs accessibility

This is an old issue, and I know that people are working toward it, but it may be worth mentioning again that it's one thing to get a checkmark for accessibility and quite another for a product to be actually usable by a person who is blind (or has some other impairment).  What is the current state of affairs regaring whether the right leverage is being used with product development managers and whether adequate resources are being provided to product developers?

Pete Brunet

IAccessible2 and AT-SPI harmony

IA2 and ATK/AT-SPI are in harmony except for the recent additions to IA2 of IAccessibleTable2 and IAccessibleTableCell.

Pete Brunet

IAcessible2 implementation guidelines

IA2 can be implemented in a number of ways, e.g. in a fairly flat structure (like Symphony) or fairly deep structure (like Firefox).  It would be good to have some guidelines so ATs don't have to deal with too many styles of implementation.

Louis Suarez-Potts

Mobility-assistive technology for those less able to use keyboards or mice but able to speak or otherwise indicate intention

Reason: increasing number of maimed and afflicted aged as well as generally immobilized need to use ICT but are unable to

Janina Sajka

Accessible Login on Linux

As far as I know, it still isn't there on any Linux
distribution--Debian, Fedora, Suse, etc.

Janina Sajka

Stable and Functional Audio Environment on Linux

It's a long standing issue that has only been getting worse since the
introduction of pulseaudio as the new Linux audio control environment

Janina Sajka

Accessible Music Creation and Music Education Software

There are now numerous proprietary tools that people use with AT, but
almost nothing on open source space. On the other hand, there are
several open source applications that could, fairly easily, be developed
into open options for users.

Louis Suarez-Potts

No open-source office productivity on Windows

The only full featured open source office suite on Windows,, only has AT support via the Java Access Bridge, which is limited and not well supported by any AT. Adding
support for IA2 would dramatically improve AT support for on Windows.

Peter Korn

Access to PDF content in open source desktop (UNIX / GNOME)

A large and growing amount of content is in PDF, which today isn't accessible on the open source desktop of GNU/Linux, OpenSolaris, UNIX, etc.  This could be accomplished by Adobe supporting the UNIX accessibility framework in their PDF reader, or through accessibility support in an open source PDF Viewer.

Eitan Isaacson

Webkit ARIA support

ARIA is maturing, and has an excellent Open Source implementation in the form of Firefox 3. Webkit is an Open Source HTML engine with rising popularity (OS X Safari, iPhone Safari, Google Chrome, Google Android, GNOME, etc.) It too needs to catch up and provide a full ARIA implementation.

Note: see the GNOME Accessibility community's list of "things needing doing" in open source accessibility.

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