Accessibility is a requirement, not a feature

Let's say that a release of GNOME caused one out of ten NVidia cards to explode.

No warning. Just "boom". Out comes the magic smoke.

What do you think would happen? In my mind folks would stop the release cycle of GNOME, phone up as many folks as they could to understand the root cause, and make sure that they could determine why NVidia cards were exploding.

They'd triage the trouble, take model numbers of cards, and do whatever they could to make sure that nobody with an NVidia card had to deal with an exploding card ever again.

Of course the above example is hyperbolic, but it drives home that nobody would let a problem that severe linger for any length of time. The credibility of the developers, the organization, and the community writ large couldn't afford a catastrophe like this. Causing material harm to users is the antithesis of software development.

So, let's talk about GNOME Accessibility.

I'm a reasonably sighted person that doesn't require any of GNOME's accessibility assistants. However I have noticed that folks who do require assistance are becoming more and more fed up with how GNOME has abandoned them with each subsequent release.

I've been a GNOME user for a very long time. I still have the Ximian CD-R and manual when GNOME Nautilus / Evolution were something you paid actual money to use. I've been a fan ever since. And as a casual user each release of GNOME has tested that faith. More and more features have disappeared into cryptic gconftool commands and GNOME "Tweaks". So even as a "regular" user I've noticed GNOME catering to a user ideal that I find curious.

On Mastodon there are folks that I follow that are finding their accessibility needs further abandoned with each release of GNOME and Wayland. The latest releases of GTK4 and Wayland have broken screen readers like Orca:

GNOME has reduced accessibility support for screen readers.

"one out of ten NVidia cards explode".

Why is this being treated as though it's just an "oh well. Sucks, doesn't it?"? This should be a release blocker. This should get folks making calls and having discussions about how to prevent this. This shouldn't be a "we'll get to it when we have the resources / time / money / effort".

I remember when Sun Microsystems poured considerable effort and resources into Linux accessibility. Unfortunately that stopped when Oracle bought Sun because Larry Ellison only sees purchase orders, not people. But that acquisition happened in 2010. You can't tell me that in the intervening years that nobody thought to beef up accessibility. That would be pathetic. Sun wasn't even the most altruistic company on the planet and even they saw the crying need in GNOME to make it more accessible.

Accessibility is a requirement. Full stop. We're no longer the hobby OS and desktop environments of the 1990s. Accessibility is how Linux and open source become the high ideals of openness and (dare I say it?) universal access that we've espoused since the beginning. Treating accessibility as a feature damns those ideals as idealistic hyperbole.

GNOME and Wayland should stop their release cycles and fix this. Full stop. You'd do the same for "one out of ten NVidia cards explode". The lack of accessibility is a critical bug that needs addressing.

Anything less is just releasing the magic smoke.