Friday, July 18, 2008

AxsJAX at Google

John Crossman (Benetech's Director of Engineering) and I attended an interesting and exciting Google Open Source talk on AxsJAX at Google this week, by Charles Chen (the developer of FireVox) and T.V. Raman (the developer of EMACSpeaks). They are tackling the challenge of making the richer Web more accessible. Since the web is now used for much more complicated things than simple static web pages, there have been many accessibility problems. The people who do web standards, the W3C, have a proposed standard that is in its early stages of drafting called Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). It's already in Firefox 3, and is supposed to be in the next version of Internet Explorer. AxsJAX builds on this draft standard to make some tough web applications not only accessible, but even better in some ways for people with disabilities.

An example of this kind of challenge is with gmail. There's a lot going on in gmail that doesn't require going back to the Google mail server. So, the problem is more similar to accessing applications on the desktop than static webpages. But, these applications are on the web, so you can do some clever stuff. Actually, Charles and TV are doing the clever stuff.

If you are interested in new ideas in accessibility, check out the video of this presentation. It was a little like a cooking show: they whip up a fully cooked roast in about an hour, if you follow my analogy. It was very understandable, and has really made me think this week about how AxsJAX ties into my Raising the Floor theme.

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