Open Assistive Technologies

I haven’t been on this earth very long, but I can notice a trend when it’s right in front of me. Open-source and libre assistive technologies are being abandoned in front of our very eyes.


This is not to say that the tremendous effort of Federico Quintero is not appreciated. Nor is this an insult to the outstanding efforts of Joanne Diggs who works on the Orca screen reader.

The GNOME Accessibility Team has done fantastic things with the funding that has been provided them. I applaud their efforts at focusing on creating a free and open desktop that is accessible. But even then, just last week I heard that one of the primary architects in the accessibility world did not have their contract renewed. And one at a time, funding for accessibility continues its decline.

Microsoft, Google, Apple

The biggest technology companies in the world are able to spend a fraction of a fraction of a percent of their revenue to put together an accessibility team. Global, multi-trillion dollar companies are easily able to fund the accessibility of their platforms. Their efforts are divided; their efforts are duplicated; their efforts are dwarfed by their primary goal: to make a profit from their users by selling their data.

Your preferred company is complicit in this. Despite their fantastic accessibility and “focus on privacy”, now even Apple is offering ads on their users’ phones. Since Apple locks down their accessibility infrastructure, there is nobody who can extend this functionality to better and greater things. Only Apple, not their customers have a say in how accessibility functions on their device.

Proprietary Technology

This principle does not only apply to the tech giant. All public for-profit companies benefit exclusively from driving up dividends for their shareholders. They do not profit from accessibility; they do not profit from putting the user first; they only profit by selling your data. People who require accessibility features, those I will from now on call “the needers”, since they need accessibility tools to complete day-to-day tasks–they do not have a choice in their system. In theory, they could choose Android or they could load their computer with Linux. But the option is not attractive for a variety of reasons, including accessibility.

Inside the Linux bubble, there are those who want to see Linux take off as a desktop computing experience. This is a surprisingly popular opinion. To them, software freedom is defined by the freedoms as they are defined by the FSF.

  1. The freedom to run the code for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to modify the code as they see fit.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  4. The freedom to redistribute your modified version of the code.

These may seem very abstract for a non-technical person, but I will help it make sense for you as a user.

  1. The freedom to run an app for any reason you want.
    • Does not allow any individual or company to stop you from running the apps you want.
    • You may think this would never happen to you, but consider some cases where it has happened:
    • TODO
  2. The freedom for others, let’s say your technically-inclined child or sibling, to help you modify the program to fit your needs just that little bit more.
    • You know that feeling when you think “Man! Do I ever wish that ABC could do XYZ!”
    • This would grant you that freedom, as long as you know somebody knowledgeable enough to do it.
  3. The freedom to share copies of your changed
    • TODO

Selling Openness

Here’s a fact: it is not profitable to sell free software. It’s in the name!