I rarely post to Blind Confidential on weekends but, today, I wanted to present a couple of short statements that are actually about this blog and its contents recently. One will actually include a little more on the API conversation and the other will talk about the perspective of some of my posts.
On the matter of complex relationships and accessibility layers:
This morning, I read the post made by Anonymous about the relationships possible in the new gnome accessibility API. Before that post, no one had brought this to my attention and I accept the blame for not having done a thorough enough amount of research on the matter before saying that it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. The relationships page in the gnome API documentation clearly demonstrates that it can happen and, in fact, people are doing it today.
I still do not know how to motivate application developers to add this to new programs or to retrofit it to the billions of lines of code already out there but, as far as I could read, this API should do the trick quite well.
I may have an answer to my economic argument as well. This may already be the case as I haven’t spent the time to read up on how the gnome API attaches the relationship facility to the rest of the system but, if the idea doesn’t already exist, I propose that the relationship system be attached to the help system. In many applications that use complex data relationships, users without disabilities often find themselves lost in the maze of information. They find that making one change to the data causes a ton of side effects that they didn’t predict. Microsoft Excel has a pretty nice little window that displays the dependency tree in a spreadsheet but, to some sighted people I’ve asked to look at it, the diagram gets far too complicated to understand in truly massive and highly complex spreadsheets. I have witnessed sighted and blind users alike struggle with predecessor and dependency relationships in MS Project which could also be simplified by a system like this.
My notion of attaching the relationship facility to the help system will provide an answer for mainstream and AT users alike. In real time, someone using a project management tool can query, “What will happen if I change this value or break this link?” Having the relationship tree in a manner that can be delivered sensibly to humans will solve a huge number of problems for AT and be enormously useful to anyone who has done a handful of “what if” changes to a spreadsheet and then cannot figure out why the whole thing has gone kind of nutty.
I feel like a kid at Christmas as this seems to be exactly what I spent so many hours in AT/IT compatibility meetings, Accessibility Forum meetings and in every other venue where I could speak, banging on tables, insisting on a mechanism to expose complex contextual relationships in applications. My hat goes off to Peter and the other fine hackers behind the gnome accessibility project. Please tell me, privately or here, how I can get a demo of this in action.
Why has Blind Confidential been so gloomy lately?
I’ve looked back at posts I’ve put here in the past couple of weeks. I find that I write far more critical pieces about the past, present and future of technology and people with vision impairments. I do believe that most of the criticism I’ve presented can be validated and should be remedied. I also like hearing people point out where I said something false so it can be corrected. In reality, though, I have a very positive outlook on the future of technologies for we blinks and will post about the more optimistic issues in the future. I have been very busy with other projects lately and I guess that, in the short time I have to spend writing this blog, I find that negatives come faster or are easier to discuss the cool exciting new stuff in research and technology.
My current life has me working as a freelance writer, an itinerant research science and a self described purveyor of discount wisdom. This is a very cool way to spend one’s life. I get exposed to the coolest new research, get to go to the cool egghead conferences where people push ideas rather than sell products and I get to hang out with a lot of really smart people whose agenda is to further science. If I had been given the opportunity to describe my dream job it would not have come out as good as this.
So, sorry for so much criticism lately. I’ll try to get more researchy stuff and good news like I posted about the gnome accessibility layer above.