More open source accessibility news from CSUN10

In my previous post on the CSUN10 conference I concentrated on the GNOME accessibility team hackfest and booth. An audio version of that post recorded while at CSUN has also ended up in the new Access Collective podcast from David Banes of AbilityNet. This time I want to describe the exciting activity of the Project:Possibility who encourage computer science students to work on open source accessibility projects through competitive events. I’m on the board of Project:Possibility and this year we worked with the GNOME accessibility community to offer the students a chance to work on established projects to the teams, gaining sort after skills. Accordingly this post is largely written with my Project:Possibility hat on.

However before that I like to mention news announced at CSUN that Adobe will be adding support for IAccessibile2 to Reader and Acrobat. IAccessible2 is an enhanced accessibility API for Windows that is an open standard maintained by the Linux Foundation, so the announcement by Adobe is a good affirmation of the standard’s position.

At the other end of the corporate-to-personal scale, BryenY who was with GNOME at CSUN and also used a number of signing interpreters, describes how these interpreters clearly explained all they had learnt about open source through performing their work.

As for the Project:Possibility student teams from USC and UCLA who won the SS12 accessibility coding competition? Well the CSUN organisers arranged for 2 events to showcase the programs they had created. The first was an informal ‘meet and greet’ requested by Dan Hubbell of Microsoft, who sponsor of CSUN. Dan wanted to meet us all and suggest the students also consider the Microsoft Imagine cup for future activity. We invited the GNOME accessibility team and others who we thought would be interested and the event was very successful. The students presented themselves very well indeed, stimulating interested discussion. Project:possibility gave a brief introduction to our work as well.

After the meeting, Willie Walker presented the students with Friends of GNOME t-shirts and the CSUN students stayed with Ben Konrath, Caribou maintainer, to work on further improving their winning code to make it suitable for submission into to the GNOME code base. This was key as the reason for offering GNOME projects to this years SS12 teams was to make sure the code they produced did not stay on the shelf, but rather lived on as something useful for users. Although we were concerned the students might find it daunting to work with an existing open source project, we were very pleased to find the students said this was actually a positive draw, as was the chance to have a mentor experienced with existing code. We are hoping that the USC team complete the work getting their code submitted, and indeed they expressed a great interest in seeing their code in a standard Linux distro like Ubuntu. If they do we’ve arranged that they will get a GNOME certificate from Stormy Peters that will bolster their resumes.

The students were also given an opportunity to present their work on the Saturday along with students from San Diego State University. I tried out both the mobile currency scanner running on a Nexus One phone and the new binary input mode for Caribou. There was quite some interest and again the students gave a very good impression.

CSUN University have stated they will definitely enter the SS12 next year and we hope to see their students in the finals. There is also much interest in the idea of having the SS12 finals as part of the CSUN conference next year. Other ideas include working with high schools and having many more SS12 competitions. So along with the clear interest we saw for GNOME’s accessibility solutions, I’m pleased to say Project:Possibility are also raising awareness of open source accessibility and the benefits it offers to users and developers alike.

Finally I’d like to thank OSS Watch for sponsoring my visit to CSUN10 and so enabling me to experience and contribute to the success of open accessibility this year. We also raised the profile of OSS Watch as a experts in open source development.