speechd-el 2.11 released

speechd-el 2.11 release introduces index marking feature, i.e. moving the cursor as the text of a buffer is read. This feature has been planned for more than 10 years but due to various circumstances, its implementation, although not that difficult, has been delayed. Now it is finally implemented although it may need further improvements in future if performance problems are experienced in practice. Sending long texts to Speech Dispatcher in chunks may be one of useful improvements.

speechd-el was designed as a project requiring low maintenance that needn’t be updated with each new Emacs version. Time has proved it is indeed so and speechd-el rarely requires updates of its code base. However, speechd-el has been here long enough to experience some conceptual changes in Emacs. During the time, Emacs has deprecated cl library in favor of cl-lib, improved the function advising mechanism and introduced a true lexical let. 2.11 version adjusts to those changes and, together with some other fixes, removed all compilation warnings.

So speechd-el is now in a clean state and the last long-planned feature has been implemented. I currently don’t plan any further changes to speechd-el unless there are bug reports, feature requests or patches from its users.

Who cares about Web accessibility?

I was at a Web development presentation some time ago. The presenters from certain company talked about many competencies needed for development of complex Web applications, such as knowledge of Web standards, JavaScript toolkits, Java programming, databases, photo editing, etc.

Many things were mentioned, but one important competency was completely omitted: understanding Web accessibility, i.e. making the Web applications accessible to handicapped users. So I asked about that. The answer was that understanding Web accessibility is indeed an important Web development competency but quite difficult and the company’s customers (such as banks, insurance companies, phone operators, media groups) don’t ask for it. So the company doesn’t care about it when making the applications.

I couldn’t find a better response than “Thank you for your answer.”. Is the Web development company to blame? Probably not. They are asked to make applications attractive for most users. The customers don’t care whether the applications are attractive or at least usable for handicapped users as well. Why should the Web development company implement features nobody pays for? Perhaps they can just suggest considering accessibility when negotiating with the customers (which they probably don’t do).

So companies want to invest much money into making their Web portals more attractive for the majority while they don’t care a bit that their portals can’t be used by persons with various disabilities. They exclude those users from common life and make their lives even harder.

Probably only law can fix that discrimination. But if you make Web pages or applications, please don’t forget that there are people who can’t see, who are colorblind, who can’t hear, who have reading problems, who have various motor skill impairments. It’s not easy to live with those handicaps, let’s not make lives of those people even harder by building yet another barriers to them and excluding them from the society.