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To read comments to this article, go here
ODF and Accessibililty: A Blind Groklaw Reader Speaks
Thursday, June 15 2006 @ 01:44 PM EDT

I got a really interesting email from Groklaw member JD, who, it turns out, is blind. I had left a comment asking him some questions about accessibility.

**************************

Below is my response to a question you asked me on Groklaw in the "Groklaw Podcast" story.

I'm emailing it to you because I see you have posted serveral articles since then and you may no longer be monitoring comments to this earlier story.

Regards

--JD

Groklaw Accessibility

Authored by: JD on Monday, June 12 2006 @ 12:51 PM EDT

Groklaw is already very accessible, no need to do anything. An important part of blog accessibility is selecting a system or framework which adheres to W3C standards and a11y guidelines. Most of the community-oriented or free software ".org" websites do this by instinct, not out of a desire to be especially accessible to visually impaired or blind people, but out of a desire to adhere to open standards and abide by best practices as defined by the W3C, and hence be accessible to everybody regardless of operating system or web browser.

It's always a pleasure to visit a site powered by tools like Wikimedia, Plone, Moinmoin, ..., etc. I only have a few nitkpicks about Geeklog (the software that drives Groklaw): it uses nested tables rather than nested div blocks and html h1, h2, h3, ... to do layout. slashdot.org recently updated their site from this old-school style to the better div blocks + CSS format with much better results for everybody. However, even as it is, Groklaw is still very readble with the Lynx browser, and with IE and proprietary screen readers.

I know you're already aware of the a11y problems posed by PDF files. PDF seems to be an annoyance for many, not just visually impaired or blind people.

I appreciate the Trojan work done by the volunteers who do text renderings of the most interesting or important PDF's.

Hi Pamela,

Yes, feel free to forward my comment to your web team. I'd also be willing to test any beta versions of the site your team comes up with. You can also reuse my comments in whole or in part as you please. I would prefer to be named simply as JD.

I'd been reading Groklaw for some time before the ODF battles started in October 2006, but what prompted me to register, and start posting comments, was my disgust at the way in which monopoly interests turned ODF accessibility for disabled people into a political football and orchestrated a witch-hunt against Peter Quinn.

ODF is a perfectly accessible format based on open XML standards which already have a proven track record in web accessibility. It is at the application level where accessibility problems arise. OpenOffice may have serious accessibility problems today, but ODF adoption is vital for long-term accessibility goals.

To demonstrate, I downloaded Microsoft's response to the ETRM from http://www.mass.gov/Aitd/docs/policies_standards/etrm3dot5/ responses/microsoft.odt

It's ODF content in a .zip container.

I have no application on my computer capable of reading ODF. But with a simple one-line Unix command-line hack, I extracted a perfectly readable (if somewhat oddly formatted) text file. What's more, I could send the same ODF XML back in time to 1984 to the first computer I ever used (a 16-bit Zilog running Zeus Unix or something), and recover the text in the same way with a command like:

sed 's/]*>//g' content.xml | fold -sw72 > content.txt
You certainly can't do that with an opaque binary MS ".doc" or an Adobe ".pdf" file.

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