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News on ODF and Accessibility - Updated
Monday, February 05 2007 @ 10:28 AM EST

Update: Here's some news about EOXML, from Computerworld:
Microsoft's bid to get its Open XML formats recognised as an international standard faces a delay for at least three months and could fail altogether, it emerged today.

The British Standards Institute, which represents the UK with the International Standards Organisation, has issued what is called a " contradiction" to Microsoft's specification.

And it is just one of many national bodies that had until today to contradict the application, which was being fast-tracked following its endorsement by the European Computer Manufacturers' Asoociation (ECMA).

* * * *

I wanted to let you know that I am sick today, and that's why things have slowed down. If anyone could OCR IBM-954.pdf [PDF] for me, I'd really appreciate it. I don't know if the Exhibit A [PDF] can be OCR'd successfully, but if so, please do that also. I keep falling asleep.

In the meantime, I thought you'd enjoy to read something posted by Sun Microsystems' Accessibility Architecht Peter Korn on his blog -- some lovely and touching news from the accessibility front about ODF. First, the OASIS ballot for OpenDocument v1.1 has closed, and there were no dissenting votes, so it is now approved as an OASIS Standard. This version represents a lot of work done by and with the disability community. But I'll let Korn tell you the rest.

Here's a bit of what he has to say:

Standards involvement is another facet of what what Joanmarie Diggs notes in her blog entry Accessibility in the "Participation Age" - the increasing active participation of the disability community in setting the directions and standards of the technology that affects their lives as much as everyone else's; and in their direct involvement in developing that technology.

In a recent blog entry, Joanmarie talks about "having spent a decade on the outside, unable to look in ó forced to be a consumer rather than a contributor" to access technology. In that same entry, she goes on to say "I cannot tell you how many times Iíve come across an accessibility regression in the Windows environment and have been powerless to do anything about it." But in her work over the last six months on open source accessibility tools providing access to among other things OpenDocument format via OpenOffice.org, Joanmarie says "the fact that I, a mere mortal user, have access to that code and can track such things down and can communicate directly with the engineers pleases me to no end. Open source solutions enable you to shape and refine the tools you need yourself. It may at times be hard work, but it is incredibly empowering work."

Thanks to the contributions of Joanmarie of the Carroll Center for the Blind, and those of Dave Pawson of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and David Clark of the Institute for Community Inclusion, and Janina Sajka of the Free Standards Group Accessibility working group, and the many other people from the disability community taking part in the open source Orca screen reader effort and the larger UNIX accessibility work, people with disabilities are no longer "forced to be consumers instead of contributors".

When vendors try to play games with standards, it's because they see them as a tool for market share. Isn't it appropriate to be reminded what a standard is really for? Standards are established so everyone can use them equally.


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