Is the time right for ‘Free and Open source’ Assistive Technology?

circle of arrows

Open Source is about Community (OSSWatch)

In recent months as part of the REALISE project learning curve I have attended several conferences where there appears to be more interest in open source assistive technology and the community around its development.

I am tempted to say this is due to the present economic constraints, and my interest in the subject – weighing up the true nature of each technology against the real costs and suitability for each individual case.  For each project there needs to be a debate around the need for maintenance, training and support as well a healthy developer community to continue to grow the project that supports the application.  In the assistive technology world an example could be NVDA – a screen reader for the blind that has been going since 2006.  The project has had support from companies such as Mozilla,   Yahoo and Adobe.

csun conference

BBC Ouch review of CSUN conference

AT CSUN – California State University Northridge 26th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, groups such as GNOME,  Mozilla and Google accessibility communities were discussing their latest ideas around Accessibility, along with the Raising the Floor and with the concept of Building a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) “to make development, delivery and use of access technologies and services easier, less expensive, and more effective.”   There were several talks about specific open source AT projects including one give by Paul Lloyd (download .docx) who mentioned Android products such as Project Eyes Free and The vOICe.

Trinity College

Trinity College, Oxford

The second conference I attended was Open Source Junction run by OSS Watch in collaboration with 100% Open.  This conference was not specifically about accessibility or assistive technology, but it turned out that a fifth of delegates had links with assistive technology and two were from companies selling these products – Iansyst and Toby Churchill.  Three of the REALISE team will be attending the Toby Churchill seminar day on the subject next week.

The discussion at ‘Open Junction‘ was around mobile technologies and it is interesting to note the divide that is appearing between apps specific to an operating system and web based apps that are cross platform compatible and largely work with Webkit which can be totally accessible.   Julian Harty from ebay very kindly shared his work in the field and was looking for a community of developers to help out with his work on Android Daisy e-pub reader.

Nick Allott, Director of Nquiring Minds Ltd also discussed his work on the Webinos project that has just released a report which aimed to survey and assess:

1. The platform and application technologies that are relevant to home media devices, automotive, mobile and PC tablet distributions

2. The IPR and governance frameworks that underpin many of the organisation and open source initiatives that are significant in this space.

The conference summary said that the benefits to attending were to:

  • become familiar with the basics of open innovation in software

There were several really  useful talks on this subject and slides are available on the subject of ‘Processes and tools for open development collaboration’

  • explore partnership opportunities relevant to the cross-platform mobile apps space

This came out in several presentations and these can be found under the various headings on the programme page

  • join a community of industry-academic practitioners interested in pooling resources for co-developing mobile open source software

Certainly there was plenty of time for networking and finding out more about other projects.

  • find out about successful software partnerships created via open innovation

Several successful partnerships between organisations were presented and the speaker list shows who was involved.

  • have your say in setting up an industry-academia open source mobile community
2 minute clock

Seconds to go!

Finally, there were several chances to present ideas and take part in Open Source Junction speed-date!

Is the time right?  Well it is coming …