Leaving tomorrow, as I will be first at the Evince Hackfest
Welcome to a new “GNOME 3.12 is out blog post”, somewhat late because I wanted to focus on 3.12.1 instead of the usual 3.12.0, and because I was away for several days due to Easter holidays.
As I said just after 3.10, Antía worked hard on adding keyboard navigation support to Evince, and Adrián provided an implementation of the tagged PDF specification for Poppler. The plan for the 3.12 cycle was to build upon their work in order to improve Evince’s accessibility support.
Thanks to the tagged-PDF implementation for Poppler, we were able to start experimenting with tagged PDF documents in Evince, and playing with all the cool things that tagged PDFs bring to the table. Finally we have available information about if we are in a paragraph, where a list starts, different levels of headings, and pretty much anything else one can put in an element tag. But while Adrián and Carlos García kept working on getting their patches pushed upstream (more than 15 patches were pushed during this cycle), Joanmarie Diggs and I realized that “only” a bare/plain implementation of this specification would be a hard animal to tame in order to be used by assistive technologies: Additional parsing and structuring will be needed in Poppler to properly implement ATK support in Evince.
Additionally, having working keyboard support in Evince made it finally possible to test real-world document accessibility with Orca (as opposed to just Accerciser). But in doing so, we found that the existing ATK support was incomplete or wrong in several places. So even the more basic PDF documents, those that should be also accessible without tagged PDF, were not properly accessible. Taking all this into account, we decided to focus on fixing the bugs in Evince’s core accessibility support as doing so would make all PDFs more accessible, but at the same time to continue working on the tagged-PDF support in order to start developing a concrete list of the improvements we will need added to Poppler.
So the main tasks on Evince during this cycle were:
- Reimplement AtkText
- Expose all document pages to the accessibility tools, not only the current one.
- Implementation of AtkDocument
- Some fixes to caret-navigation and hyperlink management
As a result of these changes:
- Several accessibility-triggered crashes have been eliminated
- Orca’s SayAll feature now works with Evince
- Prosody when reading documents with Orca has been improved
- The caret can be positioned and text selected via AT-SPI2
Some of this work was not quite in time for the 3.12.0 release, but has been included in 3.12.1. In addition, we are continuing to work on accessibility-related bug fixes which we anticipate will be included in 3.12.2.
As for what’s next: We encourage Orca users to give Evince a try and help us identify the bugs that remain in Evince’s core accessibility support. Anything that they find will be added to our high-priority TODO list. In the meantime, we will continue to work on enhancing Poppler’s tagged-PDF support and then exposing that structural information through Evince to assistive technologies.
Finally, I would like to thank the GNOME Foundation and the Friends of GNOME supporters for their contributions towards making a more accessible GNOME, as this work would not be possible without them.
3.10 is out, what’s new about accessibility?
As you probably already know, GNOME 3.10 was released several weeks ago, with lots of new accessibility goodness:
- Magnifier focus and caret tracking: Finally, the focus and caret tracking feature of GNOME Shell’s magnifier has landed. Now the magnified view automatically follows the writing caret and changes in focus so you can always see where you are without having to move the mouse. You can read more about this work in this post written by Magdalen Berns, the GSoC student that implemented this feature.
- GNOME Shell improvements: One of the new features of GNOME 3.10 is the new System Status Menu. This menu includes several new visual elements which were reviewed and enhanced in order to ensure they would be fully keyboard navigable and accessible through accessibility tools like Orca. Keyboard navigability was also added to the calendar pop-down in the shell panel, though admittedly there is some room for improvement which we hope to address in GNOME 3.12.
- PDF accessibility: Evince keyboard support has landed. Now users can press F7 to activate a caret for navigation and selection within the document being read. This new support was also made to work with Orca, so that PDF content can be accessed by users who are blind directly in Evince. Support for tagged PDFs is currently being added to Poppler and will be used to further improve accessibility support in Evince. This work is being done by Igalia, having been funded by the Friends of GNOME accessibility campaign. You can read more about this work on Antía Puentes’s “Accessibility in Evince” and Adrián Pérez’s “Tagged-PDF: Coming to a Poppler near you” blog posts.
- A new global keyboard shortcut for Orca: Now the screen reader can be easily turned on/off at any time by just pressing Super+Alt+S. This might seem like a small change, but it is in fact a really big step that allows more distros to be more accessible out of the box.
- ATK deprecations (a lot): While this does not directly affect the user experience, over time it will make developers’ lives easier, and will also lead to cleaner and more easily maintainable code. The first one is the simplification of what used to be extremely confusing and hard-to-implement methods to get a substring from a text related object. We had been talking about this problem for a long time, and finally agreed upon the new API at this year’s GUADEC. Mario Sánchez then added the new method to ATK and AT-SPI2 and also implemented it in WebKitGTK. The other major change is related to focus handling. One signal and six methods were deprecated, simplifying the situation *a lot* in that regard.
Captain Obvious to the rescue: 3.12. Although 3.10 was better than 3.8, our plan is making 3.12 even better. Like a lot of other teams, we started the new cycle listing, analyzing and prioritizing everything we need to do, using the Montreal Summit as a kickoff for 3.12 and making the most of being able to talk face-to-face with other GNOME developers. There are always changes to keep up with: new applications, new widgets, and new deprecations. But right now, the more important change in progress is Wayland. A lot of work was done for 3.10, so that we have the possibility to run GNOME 3 using a Wayland session. It is still not production ready (in my humble opinion, it is alpha status), but the plan is filling the gaps for 3.12, and that includes accessibility.
But Wayland is not the only topic for 3.12. During the weekly Accessibility Team meeting after the summit, we discussed all the improvements planned for 3.12:
- Complete Wayland support
- Create a new asynchronous API for AT-SPI2
- Add configuration UI for some already-implemented magnifier features (focus/caret tracking and tinting)
- Homogenize keyboard navigation within GNOME (to be proposed)
- Update ATK implementations (e.g. GTK, Clutter) for deprecations and new API
- Implement tagged PDF support in Evince
Finally, I would like to thank my employer Igalia for its continued support of my work on GNOME accessibility as part of my job duties, and the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my trip to the Montreal Summit.
Last week planet GNOME was full of “Going to” posts. This is my traditional “Coming from” post. Most of my events-related posts are written after the event itself. I blame the need to write slides. Anyhow, I’m back from FOSDEM 2013.
This is the fourth time that I’ve attended FOSDEM, making it my second most-visited Free Software event (GUADEC being the first), and the third time that I have given a presentation there.
This year, instead of my usual “GNOME Accessibility State of the Union” talk, I spoke about what is arguably one the biggest changes in Accessibility for Free desktop environments: “How GNOME Obsoleted its “Enable Accessibility” Setting” (aka “Accessibility Always on”). The turnout was great in spite of it being the first session Sunday morning. I don’t see the slides uploaded on the FOSDEM page, so I’ve provided them here for those of you unable to attend.
Additionally, I attended several interesting talks (the number of interesting talks at FOSDEM is overwhelming), met people that I only see at this kind of event and also participated in a small (somewhat informal) release-team meeting.
Finally I would like to thank Igalia for sponsoring my trip this year.
In some hours I will go back to Spain. The last three days I was attending the Boston Summit. I will not repeat what happened there as we have really good summaries written by Colin Walters (here) and Matthias Clasen (here and here). Anyway want to comment that was an really good experience (if we skip all that airports/flights delayed thing).
The last time that I attended he Boston summit was on 2009. Reading my “going back home” post that I wrote then, is funny to see how things have changed since then. Although we already knew that we wanted something on that direction for the upcoming GNOME 3, on 2009 gnome-shell was still a kind of proof-of-concept desktop. At that moment I was starting to try to use then then somewhat experimental Cally module on gnome-shell, and at the post I mentioned that Emmanuele Bassi was ok with adding accessibility related API on Clutter. Now we don’t have Cally as a isolated module anymore. All that code is part of Clutter source code. Since GNOME 3.0 Gnome Shell is the default desktop (and if we finally drop fallback mode, for 3.X Gnome Shell will be THE DESKTOP). Since 3.4 Orca users can interact with the shell, and included several other accessibility-related features. 3.6 showed a improvement, and 3.8 will be event better. A lot of things have changed since 2009, good to see that have “changed” in this case is the same that “improved”.
“One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing…”
UX-Hackfest + GUADEC
This year I was present at the UX-Hackfest which was held at Igalia’s headquarters in Coruña. While I’m not really very involved with the UX team, having this event in the same place I work every day gave me the opportunity to see first-hand how the designers work, take an in-depth look at the features they are working on, and be the voice of the Accessibility Team if required. For me it was a very good experience. And in the end I didn’t need to be that voice, as several of the designs were already taking accessibility needs into account.
In other stay-at-home news, I also attended GUADEC which took place here in Coruña, the city I have been living in most of my life, and at the same Faculty where I studied computer science several years ago. It was great having GUADEC so close to home this year, no flights and so on.
As everyone has already mentioned in their posts, this year GUADEC was really successful, from the point of view of the organization (kudos to all the people involved) as well as the content and community. Although it is true that there were a lot of challenges, we had a lot of energized people working hard to make the project a success.
From my side this GUADEC was really busy. After a release-team meeting, we gave a “five minute” presentation at the AGM that, unlike most of the other presentations, started a little debate. Some people feel that the challenges faced in producing GNOME require someone pushing the community in the short-medium-long term, and some think that the release team is that “someone”. Whether or not this is the case, and how to do that pushing if it is, is something that we are still debating.
I also gave a presentation at the AGM as a representative of the Accessibility Team, summarizing the work done and the features and fixes which will be included in 3.6. I gave a longer and more detailed talk about the same (slides here). As probably you already know, for GNOME 3.6 the most important accessibility feature included is “Accessibility always on”. Instead of needing to activate the accessibility support, log out and log in again, now the support is always there.
Becoming a WebKitter too: Thanks to F123&Mais Diferenças
After GUADEC, Joanmarie and I began working on the accessibility support of WebKitGTK/Epiphany, specifically the support with Orca, resuming the development already done by Mario. This work will be included in the next GNOME stable release, so Epiphany 3.6 will have a better accessibility support. But not only Epiphany will benefit: Because most of the work was done in WebKitGTK, all applications based on WebKitGTK will have improved accessibility support. This includes Geary, Evolution, and Yelp.
I would like to thank F123&Mais Diferenças for supporting this development and continuing to help improve the accessibility support on the GNOME platform.
GNOME 3.6 is coming
There have already been a number of posts (not to mention the in-progress release notes) describing what’s new for GNOME 3.6. In fact, some even talk about accessibility support (like this one from Matthias). So I won’t repeat what they have said. The tl;dr version is this:
- Accessibility always on
- WebKitGTK accessibility support improved
- GNOME Shell improved (wifi and power top panel menu items now accessible)
- All the stack reviewed and improved
Next?: going to Randa
Tomorrow I will be heading off for the KDE Sprint in Randa. This year some of the developers will be discussing and hacking on accessibility. Because KDE and GNOME share several key components of the accessibility stack, collaborating with the KDE community to improve accessibility support is essential. Mind you, this will not be the first time such collaboration has occurred. In previous AT-SPI2/ATK hackfests we were joined by Frederik Gladhorn and José Millán. This time I will be the GNOME guy attending a KDE event. I am looking forward to once again working with Frederik and José, meeting other KDE accessibility developers, and continuing our joint efforts towards more accessible free desktop environments. Many thanks to the KDE community, and especially to Mario Fux, for the invitation and funding to attend this event.
“… and you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky”
2019-04-10 Update: on the original post, I included a link to Pledgie in order to help to fund the KDE Spring. Right now that link is broken. If anyone is interested on what happened with Pledgie, take a look to this link.
GNOME 3.4 is here!
Well, this is not really something new, but GNOME 3.4 was released. And as the release notes explains and Mathias Clasen advanced on his blog, one of the things improved was the screen reader support. On some of my old posts, I already mentioned how some stuff were slowly being added (like here and here). Although that work was also required, was mostly low level ATK stuff, and not really impressive from the POV of the user. After that work the outcome was GNOME Shell exposing some info through the accessibility technologies and Orca knowing that GNOME Shell is there. But it was mostly babbling.
For GNOME 3.4 we finally made a whole review of the GNOME Shell UI. Now most of those UI elements expose the proper combination of name, role (if the element is a button or not) and state (if a toggle button is checked or not). Adding the improvement on the stability and performance of the accessibility technologies (both at-spi2 and Orca), we have now something that we can ask Orca users to test. You can take a look to the result on this video:
This is the first release of GNOME 3.4 with a proper Orca support, so the first one that we can proudly show to our users, so for sure we will get some feedback and some additional stuff to improve. But after all, GNOME has a bugzilla for a reason. During this cycle some users reported some issues with gdm, so we would require to review that part. For sure GNOME 3.6 will have a better accessibility support.
In the same way, don’t forget that GNOME Shell has other accessibility related features. Since GNOME 3.2 has a built-in magnifier, and now, with GNOME 3.4 it is fully configurable on the Universal Access Settings dialog. And for 3.6 it will have brightness and contrast functionality (something that Joseph Scheuhammer finished just after the code freeze) and hopefully focus-tracking.
Acknowledges and conclusions
This release shows how having people with some time to work on the accessibility stack can make things improve. Gtk accessibility is in a better shape thanks to Benjamin Otte. at-spi2 thanks to Mike Gorse. GNOME Shell magnifier thanks to Joseph Scheuhammer. Orca thanks to Joanmarie. Although GNOME 3.2 was an step over GNOME 3.0, the fact is it is more noticeable on GNOME 3.4, and it is mostly due the fact that for GNOME 3.2 (and perhaps 3.0) people were more busy on other stuff. Lesson learned: we need to find a way to keep people working on accessibility and getting more people.
Finally, I would like to mention that this is the first GNOME release since Joanmarie Diggs joined Igalia. Having her on Igalia and getting a release with a noticeable improvement on the accessibility support for GNOME Shell, and the performance and stability of Orca, is not a mere coincidence. Her experience, energy and motivation was a push to the work that Igalia has being doing.
Well, as in the previous hackfest, I planned to make a post per day, but in the end I didn’t. Next time I will not make any plan.
Yesterday we had our last day of the hackfest. It was, in my opinion, a productive Hackfest where each one had the opportunity to work with other people working in the same field, and discuss several topics regarding the current situation. If you want to know all of the details and conclusions, you could read a minutes-like brainstorming document on the wiki. But If you were to ask me to pick just one, I would mention the discussion about enabling the accessibility support by default. The main conclusion was stop to use the atk-bridge as a module, and instead have that feature integrated. Doing that has several advantages, including having it compiled (and thus tested) when someone compiles GTK+ or any GTK+ app, and not only when you want to compile the “accessibility stuff”. The implementation details are still not clear. Convert atk-bridge to a library and add a dependency on GTK+ and others? Integrate it in ATK (making the bridge something like the DBUS backend)? Integrate it in GTK+? Forget ATK, and let GTK+ talk directly with the accessibility tools using GDBUS (an option that I feel is too drastic or non practical, but still in the mind of Benjamin)? Now is the time to debate it, in order to have something decided by 3.4, which we can start to testing properly at the beginning of the 3.6 cycle. Interesting times these days.
As in the previous hackfest, other conclusion is that there is a lot of work to do, but not a lot of people to do it. And this was reflected by the amount of people in attendance (some photos here). Anyway, although we were not a lot of people, we had a lot of different backgrounds represented at the hackfest. People from GTK+, ATK, AT-SPI2, WebkitGTK, Mozilla, assistive tools and QT. For example, in several discussions Frederik Gladhorn explained how the qt-bridge implements certain features, in some cases in an different way than how atk-bridge does the same thing, as Mike noted recently on his blog.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who came to this hackfest, as they made this hackfest possible. I also want to thank Igalia, GNOME Foundation and Mozilla Foundation for their sponsorship.
Today the ATK/AT-SPI2 Hackfest 2012 started. This time there are fewer people than last year, but we have the addition of Benjamin Otte. During the morning the main topic was global events versus per-object events. Although being simplistic the idea would be just listening to the focused object, things get complex when you start to add some practical examples, like searching. On a web page, or in GNOME Shell overview, the focus is on the text entry. But when you start to search, the content of the search result changes, and you also want to expose that. This could be solved with global-events and filtering, or with direct per-object connection to “relevant” objects. If per-object is used, it is required to decide how and with which objects, to avoid missing notifications. In any case, if we decide to keep global events, the current implementation of the global event listening in ATK seems to not be the most appropriate (as it is based on g_signal add_emission_hook, that has some problems and could be considered overkill).
During the afternoon the main topic was the removal of key grabbing in GTK, or going into more detail, deprecating gtk_key_snooper_install. The controversial part was that the code using that on the accessibility support for GTK was removed. The reason is basically that key event emission shouldn’t be done there for a lot of reasons (as we already concluded during the previous hackfest), so that removal could be justified. *But* at this moment there isn’t any alternative implemented, so several things were broken. So in the end, the conclusion was reverse that change until there is an alternative. Probably this is a good task for this hackfest (anyway, any X expert over here?).
Going to dinner can be hard
Since today was the first day, we decided to keep it simple, and try to have dinner near the hotel where most of the people are staying. So after finding that our first option was closed, and wandering around for a while, we entered a place that seemed ok. Well, typical tascas in Galicia are in general not really vegetarian friendly, and although you can find really nice places (like “Taberna Gaia”), some people can still surprise yourself. Note: it doesn’t matter if macaroni are a kind of pasta. If the sauce includes meat, it is not vegetarian. Additionally, it was a bar with TV. And although it was not too loud at the beginning, it became totally noisy when the soccer match started. Yes, we forgot about the Real Madrid-Barcelona match.
Day 2 is coming
And tomorrow there will be more. We have plenty of things to discuss and bugs to solve, so for sure it will be a busy day. Finally I want to thank Igalia, GNOME Foundation and Mozilla Foundation for sponsoring this event.
This year we organized an ATK/AT-SPI hackfest on May at Igalia offices. Almost one year after its time to organize a follow-up hackfest. On January a new ATK/AT-SPI2 will be organized, or more in general, an Accessibility hackfest. You can see the details in the the announcement that I sent today and in the live gnome page about the Hackfest, but the summary is that a Hackfest with the target to improve the free accessibility framework will be organized this January (18-22) on Coruña, at Igalia offices. If you want to come to the hackfest put in contact with the travel committee. I want to thank GNOME Foundation and Igalia for their sponsorship.
Friends of GNOME campaign to support Accessibility
Probably you already read Juanjo Marín announcement, but just in case. GNOME has recently started a Friends of GNOME campaign in order to push the effort to make GNOME really accessible. As the campaign says “Help make 2012 the Year of Accessibility for GNOME”.