Saturday, November 19, 2005

KOffice v1.4.1 Accessibility Assessment

I have completed an accessibility self-assessment for KOffice version 1.4.1. You may download the assessment in or PDF format by visiting KDE Accessibility Reports.

The assessment has been coordinated with the KOffice development team and includes notes about fixes in the upcoming 1.5 release (early 2006).

The reasons for the assessment are:

1. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind requested accessibility information concerning software that supports the Open Document Format (ODF), i.e. KOffice.

2. It needed to be done.

I expected blind access to be poor, since KDE does not have a screen reader, but the results for low-sighted and motor impaired users were surprisingly disappointing. That's the bad news. The good news is that the KOffice devs have been very supportive and many (but not all) of the problems will be fixed in 1.5.

I've reached the following conclusions:

1. Some of the problems are fundamental to Qt3 and kdelibs3. QSplitter, QDockWindow, and QToolbar, for instance, are 3 problem areas.

2. We need to get to Qt4/kdelibs4 as soon as possible. But there will still be many issues to address. Accessibility won't happen automagically.

3. We need to do this sort of thing more often and hold developers feet to the fire. Many of these problems are easy to fix if caught early. Others are not so easy and will need changes to core functionality to fix properly. Some are basic design flaws, such as providing functions that can only be performed using a mouse.

4. The timing of this assessment is really bad because KDE 3.5 is in freeze and KDE4 is a long way off. Had this assessment been done 6 or 9 months ago, we probably could have solved most of the problems (except for blind access) by making needed changes to kdelibs3.

If anyone wants to do similar assessments for other KDE applications, please do so and send them to me. They are not hard to do, and you don't have to be a programmer to do them.