Open source software as an accessibility tool

July 24, 2010

Brian Kelly’s paper From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability and his Web Accessibility 2.0 paradigm advocates that access should be provided however the student chooses. This includes disability, but also preference – including open source (i.e. I choose the platform that I learn on/via).

Instead of fitting some guidelines for accessibility of the web, it suggests keeping things as open and as adaptable as possible, so that users can import the data into whatever medium they use (APIs, RSS and screenreaders could all be examples).

There’s an interesting case study of Judith, with cerebral palsy, who would find it very easy to use Second Life as a way in to resources. Public sector organisations may shy away from using Second Life, but they are therefore are not allowing Judith use of their resources.

The article is a great thought provoker for open source advocates, and those who advocate for the open web. This data openness is an extension of that.

The freedom to modify software is really only of importance to those who can do it, and want to. For many of us this freedom is difficult to feel a need for. But another, possibly stronger freedom is the freedom to access materials using whatever tools you see fit.

As Mike Ellis once tweeted, putting resources on the net is not enough, if they are only on the net for access by those with perfect co-ordination and eyesight.

The actual material needs to be free to pull into your own ‘access tools’, whether that is your browser of choice, your operating system of choice, your accessibility tool of choice, or any other aggregator of choice.

Thus are web standards essential, but also by extension open, data standards.