Brussels / 2 & 3 February 2013


How GNOME Obsoleted its "Enable Accessibility" Setting

(And How You Can Too)

Imagine trying to use your computer, tablet, or phone and being unable to: not due to a dead battery or lack of connectivity, but rather because there was some setting... somewhere... which you had to locate and enable on that device before you could use that device.

This unfortunate catch-22 is something that GNU/Linux users with disabilities have had to struggle with for years, because using the accessibility features of their environment required first enabling accessibility support for that environment -- or find someone to do so for them. And yet there was nothing these users could do to change this situation because enabling accessibility support by default would result in instability and performance degradation for all users.

GNOME has long felt that this was a condition which could not continue, and slowly but surely began identifying and tackling these issues. In 2012, things had improved to the point that the developer community felt confident that enabling accessibility support by default was something worth attempting. The end result: GNOME 3.6 was the first GNU/Linux graphical desktop environment to be released with no ""enable accessibility"" setting. For our users, accessibility is always on.

This talk will provide an overview of the steps we took to make our desktop environment immediately accessible to users with disabilities without any associated negative impact on other users. And it will include the specific steps you need to take to accomplish the same thing for the software you develop, because software freedom should include the freedom to ""just use"" your devices.


Alejandro Piñeiro Iglesias