Why digital Accessibility should be based on Open Source

An interesting fact is rarely mentioned: In open source systems like Linux, but also in many CMS, millions of working hours are put into it by developers and other volunteers. The web is essentially based on open source technologies. Has anyone ever wondered why there is no viable commercial editorial system? What for, because Typo3, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and countless smaller systems can do a lot better. Above all, they have one advantage: accessibility. Which I haven't seen on commercial systems like Magnolia, Sitecore or the Government Sitebuilder. But commercial systems are also not convincing in other aspects such as user-friendliness or suitability for everyday use. Why such systems are chosen in Germany in particular remains a mystery, but in Germany they also like the hyper-complex Typo3, maybe they just want it to be junk. In this country, persons also have a preference for laws that even those who made them don't understand.

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Another example is video conferencing systems. Admittedly, I used to use Zoom more until recently. However, a sensibly set up BigBlueButton can work just as well, provided the audio quality is stable. The last versions of BBB were easy to use, at least for the blind. If you improve the integration or recognition of sign language, there is no longer any reason to rely on WebEx and Co. Wheelmap and similar services rightly rely on the Open Street Map instead of depending on the googd will of the top dog Google Maps.

And of course my favorite example: the screen reader NVDA. I've never been a huge Jaws fan, but after Vispero bought everything that wasn't in the trees by 3, shut down Window Eyes and the zoom software MAGic, I wouldn't trust that software anymore. If you can no longer earn enough money with Jaws, you will pull the plug here very quickly.

The Danger of Close

The danger of closed systems with regard to accessibility is that one is dependent on the good will of a partly eratic management. Apple, Google and Microsoft have made billions of euros in recent years and are bound by US laws if they want to sell software there. But how much money will they put into accessibility advancements if profits dwindle or management changes? An Eratic billionaire took over Twitter and fired the entire Accessibility team. With other social media platforms not bubbling with profits like before, when will they scale back their accessibility efforts?

Is OpenSource accessible?

Now it is true that open source is not automatically accessible. I hear mixed things about Linux, but moving to Linux is definitely a big transition. LibreOffice has neglected accessibility a bit because there was a lack of suitably qualified developers. As a blind person, I'm rather semi-satisfied with Android.

Still, I believe that the future of accessibility lies in open source. Too often we have seen systems bought and closed or gone bankrupt and then no longer maintained or developed. This can be particularly problematic with medical products, which then become defective before their time. If a hearing aid manufacturer stops developing its products, at some point the devices can no longer be maintained or controlled via the apps. The screen readers will eventually become unusable because they are no longer adapted to new systems. Functional hardware such as Braille displays must be disposed of because there are no longer any 64-bit drivers and nobody can do that either because the existing drivers are 32-bit and closed.

End the Dependence of big Companies

One of humanity's great mysteries is why the EU isn't going for open source instead of either chasing after US vendors or desperately trying to clone mini-Microsofts, Apples and Googles.

The nice thing is that we can still control accessibility with open source. Let's face it, Apple or Google don't give a shit a damn about our comments unless there are thousands or at least one celebrity coming. With open source, we can get involved in the appropriate groups and we can help with donations to keep it going.

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