Accessibility rarely figures in the headlines – unless there's some competitive angle, as there was with ODF's supposed lack of accessibility features that Microsoft was quick to trumpet. Against that background, it's good to hear of a thoroughgoing project to improve accessibility, like this one, announced by Sun's Peter Korn:
Today I am more than pleased to share with you news of the AEGIS project, a €12.6m investment in accessibility, with the vast majority of it focused on open source solutions.
The AEGIS project objectives are to take the early successes of API-based accessibility solutions (also known as "programmatic" or "engineered" accessibility), and expand upon them in three key areas:
#1 - AEGIS on the desktop
On the open desktop, AEGIS expands upon the existing, good work of the GNOME Accessibility Project, and the OpenOffice.org Accessibility Project. Key focus areas for the desktop include:
magnification improvements (and an open source framework for future magnification-based assistive technologies)
ensuring that there is good open source text-to-speech for all European languages
ensuring that that OpenOffice.org is an excellent place for authoring accessible content (and that people with severe cognitive impairments are able to communicate in written form with it)
building a robust accessibility testing framework for distributed open source accessibility development
developing & integrating real-time-text solutions for the deaf into existing open source audio/video chat software
developing open source eye-tracking solutions based on commodity web-cam hardware
#2 - AEGIS work on rich Internet applications ("Web 2.0")
For the web, AEGIS takes the programmatic accessibility ideas already proven in the open desktop, and brings them to the Web 2.0 world of rich Internet applications. Programmatic accessibility is significantly more complex in the web world - even more so with the rich visual interfaces enabled by technologies like AJAX and DHTML and Flash and JavaFX Script.
#3 - AEGIS research into mobile device accessibility
As well as being a worthy project in itself, the following is additional good news:
Open source is at the heart of AEGIS. It is the engine that pumps the blood into realizing the widest possible dissemination of the results of AEGIS' research, to enable the broadest possible adoption of AEGIS' techniques and solutions. While not everything done by consortium members under AEGIS will carry an open source license, the vast majority will.