Is Desktop Linux Handicap Accessible?: Page 2

Posted December 14, 2009

Matt Hartley

Matt Hartley

(Page 2 of 2)

Watching Simon in action from this video further convinced me that the future of speak recognition in Linux will be coming from this project. The downside to using Simon is learning to train the software. While not impossible, it does take some getting used to. So I could see this as being a bit of a hurdle for the new user. Putting all that aside, I think we might have some real progress in this area thanks to the efforts of the Simon application.

Limited vision and limited typing

For individuals who deal with limited vision, we find ourselves coming back full circle to Orca once again. For users with limited vision, Orca provides a one/two punch with special key bindings, Braille support and a screen magnifier that works very well.

I was able to determine that everything listed above with Orca works well, with the exception of having no access to a Braille keyboard/terminal for testing. Clearly this limits my ability to test Braille functionality out first hand, but I do know that Knoppix supports Braille terminals nicely. I suspect that Ubuntu would as well.

The on-screen keyboard works great as one might expect in that it's simply a keyboard. Likely used with eye-tracking hardware, the on-screen keyboard works much like what you might find in Windows XP.

Paralyzed and computing

One of the biggest myths I think I’ve been able to debunk is that if you are paralyzed, you might as well forget about using Linux on your desktop. On the contrary, it appears that there are some very solid options available.

The only real downside to any of them is that it will take a Linux enthusiast to get them installed. Distro specific packages, anyone?

The first application that impressed me was Opengazer. The idea is simple – spend a ton of money on eye-tracking hardware or instead, use a budget priced webcam. For many people, an existing webcam is a lot of more accessible in price.

The software is able to train/calibrate itself in addition to being used with an even cooler application called Dasher. Using the two applications together, one can actually write text with their webcams. Yes, writing an email to people with a webcam is actually doable with modern distributions of Linux.

As cool as all of that is, there remains a missing link: Mouse control. To execute programs from various menus on your Linux distro, one needs access to mouse control.

And while the software exists, it's not really usable at the moment. This video series shows you a program for GNOME's desktop environment called mouseTrap. As you can see from the videos, one can actually utilize a webcam to move and click a mouse to help the user navigate around the desktop applications.

It's just too bad that there’s a bug with using it with my chosen distro. Perhaps this will be addressed sooner rather than later? Only time will tell.

Are Linux distros like Ubuntu truly accessible?

Surprisingly, yes, today's Linux distros are more accessible than I had thought when I first started researching this topic. While speech recognition has a way to go, other aspects of desktop accessibility are showing tremendous levels of progress.

I am not completely convinced that the Linux desktop accessibility options are fully ready for prime time just yet. However based on what I have seen thus far, I think that it’s only a matter of time before see open source and proprietary accessibility on equal footing.

ALSO SEE: 51 Open Source Tools to Protect Your Identity

AND: The Linux Desktop: Nine Myths

AND: 49 Hot New Open Source Applications

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, desktop linux, voice

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