ODF Will Work For PWDs

Sunday, 2006-December-24 at 21:34

ZDNet’s David Berlind reports that, according to a researcher with Google, ODF is expected to be accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs). There are a few reasons why ODF should be a very accessible format.

First of all, ODF uses XForms, the next generation of online forms that has accessibility functions built in.  XForms is also designed to work with XHTML and other document standards, and to solve a number of problems that have plagued online forms in the past.  In this way, any accessibility solution that works with browser forms (e.g., XForms in XHTML documents) will also be functional with ODF forms.  There are implementations in various stages that work with Mozilla-based browsers, Internet Explorer browsers, Java, JavaScript, PDF, and with Windows-powered PDAs.

It also occurs to me that there could be another key benefit to having both documents and the Web share accessibility technologies: that of consistency for people with PWDs. Obviously, this depends on who is developing the software or the Web pages but I can see where it would be clearly better for PWDs if the user interface to a form was the same regardless of whether the form was document-based (as in an ODF-compliant or Microsoft XML-compliant document) or Web-based. Accessibility is already difficult enough. Requiring PWDs to learning more than one way to interface to a form is just a bad idea.

It is important to understand that ODF is a not encumbered by patents that must be licensed.  Thus, any vendor of accessibility technologies (AT) may connect to all or part of the interface (API) when they choose to do so.  And because it does use an interface, it means that AT companies will not have to modify their software every time that the software gets updated, like present solutions require.

But, in addition to a lot of what’s already been said about how a file format like ODF with minimal legal encumbrances can pave the way for innovation in accessibility better than formats with encumbrances, now comes even more evidence that ODF is better for PWDs because of the way it leverages certain accessibility technologies that were designed for the Web

One commenter responded, in part,

StarOffice/OpenOffice expose all of their UI information to assistive technology (AT) through an API, using the Java Access Bridge on Windows. Peter Korn gives a detailed explanation of the benefits of this approach – “access by contract” – at http://www.sun.com/access/articles/presentations/IDEAS2004/IDEAS_3Nov04.sxi

Also, the technology is free for anyone to use without getting any special licenses. " XForms, like other W3C Recommendations, is a royalty free specification, and is not encumbered in any way with respect to vendors including or re-using it within other specifications."

Entry filed under: Accessibility, Computers, Linux, ODF, Software, XML.

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