I came across an interesting article written by Peter Korn, accessibility architect at Sun Microsystems. In it, he discusses the accessibility problems facing the open source world, specifically as it relates to OpenOffice. Recently, the Massachusetts government decided to move towards using an “open document format” (essentially switching from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice). Government agencies are required by federal law to support accessibility guidelines. Unfortunately (for the OpenOffice guys), it appears that Microsoft’s office solution is far ahead in terms of application accessibility. This is an interesting tactic being used by Microsoft, but it illustrates a very real, very serious problem. If users with disabilities are ignored, open source software can never gain a foothold in the governmental sector (where accessibility is a requirement). Hopefully this particular problem will wake up the entire open source community, and result in improved programs for the disabled. It’s certainly a problem that cannot be ignored.
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