Re: UEFI accessibility mandate


Leif Lindholm
 

Hi Ethin,

Apologies for the delay in responding - I personally don't tend to
read the RFC list (and I know that applies to some other developers
who have now subscribed).

On Sun, Aug 11, 2019 at 06:15:18PM -0700, Ethin Probst wrote:
Hello all,

I'm new here, and was recommended to the TianoCore project by
someone over at the UEFI forum. I've run across TianoCore before,
and like the project.
Before anyone gets worried by the subject line, no, this is not any
kind of legal thing. Its just something I believe needs to
happen. :)
Back in 2016-2017 I contacted the UEFI forum about two problems, one
of which was the format of the spec, which I figured out on my
own. The other problem was not so easily dealt with. Te other
problem relates to accessibility of UEFI-compliant systems and
platform firmware to persons with disabilities. As it currently
stands, such a thing is nonexistent. To be fair, I completely
understand the difficulty that such a thing would require, and I
would fully agree if we still used the PC-AT BIOS systems -- yes,
indeed, I would never suggest this kind of thing on such a system
given that there was no actual standard of any kind for
BIOSes. However, now that UEFI is here, we have such a possibility.
As it currently stands, people with low vision or blind people have
access to their computers in the general sense (I am blind
myself). We can do pretty much anything anyone else could do. We can
code, play games, all that. There are few things that we cannot
do. One of those things is managing our systems firmware in the
preboot environment.
As it stands now, I can only boot other OSes or disks via
memorization. While that worked on BIOS machines (I have, or had, an
old Toshiba laptop that was BIOS-based), it no longer works because
UEFI is mercurial. When I access the boot menu now, I play a game of
chance. If the cards are in my favor, the OS I want to boot boots,
and I can go on my way. But if the cards aren't in my favor, I end
up making something happen that was unintended, and, worst of all, I
have no idea what I did.
However, the boot menu is only one portion of a platform firmware
UI. What about the setup utility or other utilities offered by
computer manufacturers? What about diagnostic utilities,
bootloaders, etc? What do I do with those? Well, I only have one
option -- sited assistance. If I go into my computers setup utility,
I cannot trust myself and say to myself, "OK, I know what I'm
doing. All I need to do is change x and save and quit." No, I can't
do that, because memorizing such a complex interface is extremely
difficult, and its something I wouldn't expect anyone to do.
My proposal is simple, and I'm posting it here because I'd like
comments and feedback before it actually gets implemented (it will
take a lot of time, I'm sure): mandate, in the UEFI specification,
that accessibility features for persons with disabilities must be
implemented and documented, and, if such features are not
implemented, then that vendor is not compliant with the
specification. Place strict minimum requirements for what the
accessibility features should do and how they should work.
So, first of all, I need to point out that what you suggest would be
very difficult for the UEFI Forum to mandate. *But* I don't think this
needs to be a problem.

UEFI primarily exists as a means through which interoperability can be
guaranteed. This means it does not tend to so much mandate what is
actually implemented in a platform, as it defines how it behaves if it
is. This is not 100% true, but suffice to say that mandating the
functionality you are asking for *without* having a reference
implementation available would likely simply be ignored.

If you want to turn thumbscrews, get Microsoft to add the requirement
to their windows logo requirements :)

However, as much as it is difficult to force people to develop this
support, if a functional reference implementation was published under
a permissive open source license, it would take a pretty spectacularly
incompetent product owner not to incorporate it in their products.

Now, I'm sure someone out there will ask me how this can be
done. Well, that's why I've joined the group -- though as I
familiarize myself with EDK2 development and all that I may actually
be able to participate as more than just an accessibility expert, of
sorts.
I have added Rafael Machado on cc. He did a PhD on firmware
accessibility, including a prototype implementing an audio driver for
EDK2. The resulting thesis can be found at
https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.03186 .

As a side note, I have been blind all my life. I was born with
retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which resulted because I was born
at 26 weeks. My retina was detached, and, though the doctors
attempted to fix it, it would not remain attached, and there is no
chance of it getting fixed now. I would neither want nor care for
such a cure, however. I have lived my entire life blind, and while
the thought of gaining site back is appealing, I am unwilling to go
through the years and years of rewiring and reconditioning of my
brain that would be required for me to survive with site. To me, it
is simply not worth the cost.
But back to the discussion at hand: I would be happy to discuss how
the accessibility features would work and what would be
required. Even standardizing, through the specification, a key
combination to toggle the accessibility features would be nice, as
that would alleviate the major problem of a blind person buying a
new computer and not knowing how to enable the accessibility
features. The overarching goal would be to make the preboot
environment (including applications run within it) accessible and
usable by blind and visually impaired people as a boot service
only.
Yes, I agree, operating systems are already doing their things.

Again, mandating such a key combination is not necessarily something
that the UEFI specification can do. Some devices won't necessarily
have a keyboard.

Some things the UEFI specification could do is:
- Add protocols for Audio output (and possibly input) and talking to
audio codecs.
- Add audio hooks for the Human Interaction Interface subsystem (HII).

EDK2 could then start adding device drivers producing these protocols,
and enable the support for some reference platforms.

Would we need any specific support for things like refreshable braille
displays?

It would be superfluous to make this a runtime service, as all
major OSes already have accessibility features. Plus, managing such
a thing would be impossible to do.
Agreed.

This email has gotten quite long, so I will suspend the discussion
of functionality and how I would like it to work for a future email
once everyone has gotten on board.
Best Regards,

Leif


Thank you for your time and consideration.


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