The Linux Foundation (LF) is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux and to helping close the gap between open source and proprietary platforms, while sustaining the openness and freedom of choice inherent in open source software. Founded in 2007 by the merger of the Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group, it sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies and developers from around the world. The Linux Foundation promotes, protects, and standardizes Linux by providing unified resources and services needed for open source to successfully compete with closed platforms. It is interesting to note that the Linux Foundation's focus is not exclusively on Linux, for example, IAccessible2 is a Windows-based specification.

IBM is a Platinum Member of the foundation and has actively contributed to the following accessibility workgroup and standards:

Open Accessibility Workgroup

The Open Accessibility Workgroup in the LF is dedicated to establishing standards that make software applications accessible to persons with disabilities and that make it easier for developers to support assistive technologies.

GNU/Linux is slowly emerging as an open source desktop alternative to Microsoft Windows. The open source community, universities, and companies—including IBM—have been working to create comprehensive accessibility for persons with disabilities on the Linux desktop. The GNOME and K Desktop Environment (KDE) community, through the Open Accessibility workgroup of the Linux Foundation, drafted and signed a unified statement regarding the development of desktop accessibility.

IBM has worked with Sun, SAP, Oracle, the Mozilla Foundation, KDE, Trolltech, Novell, and other GNOME Accessibility Project (GAP) and open source developers through the Open Accessibility workgroup and committees to define and implement accessibility API enhancements for Linux and Windows related to:

In addition IBM developed an ATK compliance testing suite (152KB, TGZ File, July 27 2007) and donated it to the Linux Foundation.

Assistive Technology - Service Provider Accessibility Application Programming Interfaces (AT-SPI)

The Accessibility Toolkit (ATK) for Linux is used to make Linux/Unix desktop applications accessible by revealing information and events about its graphical user interface. This information is then exposed to an assistive technology like a screen reader through the Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI) by bridging to the Linux or Unix applications' implementations of ATK APIs.

Through this committee, IBM proposed enhancements to the API for both ATK and AT-SPI. These API enhancements help to provide assistive technologies with better semantic information and improved performance and navigation for rich text documents, such as Web and office documents, and for rich Internet applications on the Web. IBM participated in the AT-SPI standard development for about 2 years and made significant contributions. It is not currently an active project because ATK and AT-SPI are stable.


IAccessible2, a Windows accessibility API extension to Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), was developed by IBM and donated to the Free Standards Group as an open standard. IAccessible2 provides Windows applications and assistive technologies running on Windows the same level of accessibility API functionality as the AT-SPI standard provides for Linux/Unix desktop environments . This API extension gives Windows assistive technologies more accessibility information needed for rich text documents and Web applications, such as table information, relationships between objects, hyperlinks, text attributes and selections, and events. IBM continues to participate in evolving IAccessible2 in the Open Accessibility Workgroup.

Last updated, June 1, 2011


For additional information on the Linux Foundation and work relating to it, refer to: