Well, that's true. That is something of a catch 22. I haven't read
Section 508 in full so I'm not sure what the government defines as
accessible, but I'm sure it pretty much means functionally usable, and
nothing more and nothing less.
For example, certain Linux distributions such as Ubuntu are
technically considered to be Section 508 compliant. Well, for the
most part the built in screen reader, Orca, does work. You can use
Evolution for e-mail, Firefox for web browsing, Open Office for office
work, etc. However, accessibility in this case is still more
functionally accessible rather than outstanding. If you grab Ubuntu
Linux and expect everything to work as well as Jaws with Windows or
Window-Eyes with Windows you are going to be disappointed.
Accessibility on Linux isn't quite as good as Windows yet, but you can
use it if you have to or want to. Plus out of the box
Speech-Dispatcher, the Linux speech driver package, doesn't support a
lot of commercial TTS engines for Linux like Cepstral, Eloquence, AT&T
Natural Speech, Dectalk, etc so you are pretty much stuck with lower
quality voices like ESpeak for the most part. This isn't really
accessibility related, but drastically lowers the quality of the
screen reading technology in my opinion. So technically speaking Linux
is accessible, but admitedly it has a long ways to go before I
personally think it can compete with Windows for an accessibility
feature by feature comparison.
Mac still has some accessibility hang ups too, but to its credit Mac
OS 10.6 with Voice Over isn't too bad, but still needs a few
improvements to be equal with the Windows accessibility software in my
So even though something is officially Section 508 compliant don't
think that means the standard of accessibility being used is the
highest standard out there. I think what the government was aiming for
was basic and functional accessibility and not if the software in
question meets a high standard of accessibility that most of us would
consider truly accessible.
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