What is Accessibility?

Accessibility means helping people with disabilities to participate in substantial life activities. That includes work, and the use of services, products, and information. GNOME includes libraries and a support framework that allow people with disabilities to utilize all of the functionality of the GNOME user environment.

In conjunction with assistive technologies if necessary - voice interfaces, screen readers, alternate input devices, and so on - people with permanent or temporary disabilities can therefore use the GNOME desktop and applications. Assistive technologies are also useful for people using computers outside their home or office. For example, if you're stuck in traffic, you might use voice input and output to check your email.

Assistive technologies receive information from applications via the Accessibility Toolkit (ATK) API, which you can find in the atk module in the GNOME repositories. Because support for the accessibility API is built into the GNOME widgets, your GNOME program should function reasonably well with assistive technologies with no extra work on your part. For example, assistive technologies can automatically read the widget labels that you would normally set in your program anyway (e.g. with GTK function calls such as gtk_label_set_text() or gtk_button_new_with_label()). They can also find out if there is any tooltip text associated with a widget, and use that to describe the widget to the user.

With a little extra effort, however, you can make your program function even more smoothly with assistive technologies. Besides helping individual users, this will also make your product more attractive to government and education markets, many of which now require their applications to be accessible by law.