KeepingDreams_Accessibility and Linux

Why Can’t I Use What You Do?

Maybe I am a special use case in programming. I want to be able to use the internet the same way everyone does. I really do. I can not do that today. I could not do that in the past, either.

I have experienced blindness (2/1200ths corrected vision), loss of use of my legs, loss of use of my right hand, loss of use of my fingers, confusion and difficulty with cognitive thinking, blurred vision, and a few other medical issues. Through these experiences, I have continued to use computers and the internet. Not of all these happened at the same time, and not all continue to this day. However, having experienced these things allowed me to try many of the accessibility applications available.

When I could not see, I learned to use Orca, a screen reader application. Orca is great, when it works. Of course, you must have good hearing to use Orca, but that is another issue. The problem is that Orca works very well with Gnome Desktop Environment (DE). I want to use Xfce DE. It doesn’t use Orca. I want to use KDE. Does it use Orca today? It did not use it in the past.

I learned to use Dasher, when my hands did not work enough to type. Dasher is an on-screen keyboard program. It works great! But again, it doesn’t always work. You must find applications it can work with. Want to use Abiword? Dasher might work with it. Test it and find out. Oh, you tried and dasher won’t work on your Linux DE? Yes, that is common.

I use an automatic zoom plugin when I use firefox. A well-known fact is that most websites use code to reduce the size of text. Most will reduce it to 80%. That means, if I need text zoomed out to 24 point fonts, your website makes you zoom it more than normal. Since most websites appear to written to take advantage of 8 point fonts, and that is reduced to 80% of and 8 point font, guess what? People with less than perfect vision miss half the text!

Ever heard of hearing disabilities? People that can not hear need visual clues to replace sound. Before we go further, take a look at the setting in your computer to flash important data on screen. Did you find that setting? It may or may not exist in your DE. If it does not exist, then someone can not use that DE.

For a number of years, I have advocated for better accessibility in linux. I know it is possible. I have taught many developers how to test for accessibility. It really is possible. I will try to write a few posts in 2014 giving some tips on it. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. But, it really needs to happen.

Why don’t others complain loudly about missing features? I am unique. I have experienced many issues that caused me to use accessibility features. As my body allows me to return to “normal”, I find out how much I missed. I have been able to find out how bad or good applications work for the disabled, because I have used them. If you never were able to not use them, you don’t know what is broken.

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