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What Accessibility Options Exist for Unix?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the computing-for-the-handicapped dept.

Technology 329

pll asks: "My wife is getting a Masters in Human Factors and Information Design. Tonight she attended a session on Handicapped Accessibility in Technology. Evidently MS has spent years studying this area, and the options one has under Windows is supposedly quite impressive (provided you install the accessibility packages). According to the lecturer, there are over 50 million handicapped people in the United States alone, and obviously even more worldwide. This got me thinking...the Free/Open software communities pay an awful lot of attention to i18n, but other than Emacspeak, what kind of attention have we paid to handicapped accessibility? I'm not aware of anything, other than Emacspeak, and that doesn't do much to enable the use of Gnome or KDE to a handicapped person." While Emacspeak does have some uses in this area, it's primarily only useful for the blind. What about people without the use of their hands, or features for the deaf, and so on?

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hnjmfrvde (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655121)


Hmm... It's pretty hard typing with your forehead!

Re: hnjmfrvde (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655145)


The 20 second delay has sure improved the quality of the first post.

Re: hnjmfrvde (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655153)

well then, just use your wang. I have been doing that for ages now, and i am not even disabled!! I also used to paintings with my wang, but as of late, the paintbrush has been rather painful. wang wang wang, what a cool word!

Re: hnjmfrvde (1)

mrpotato (97715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655277)

wang wang wang, what a cool word!

therefore your favorite palindrome probably is "gnaw a wang"

postos el firstos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655124)

This is pretty much it

Hack the gibson! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655128)

Let the gibson go free! We need to haxor the gibson before it is too late

hehe (-1, Offtopic)

NiN3x (180376) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655132)


GNOME accessibility (5, Informative)

JanneM (7445) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655135)

Take a look at the GNOME accessibility [] project to see what is being done under GNOME.


Re:GNOME accessibility (1)

Xiphoid Process (153566) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655203)

I guess my identical post got modded down becasue i submitted it 0.25 seconds later than you, but them's is the breaks. ;-P I think it's important to point out how deeply involved Sun is with the project. their developers have been really active on all the lists recently and they are really making the accessibility stuff happen. It's really cool to see the positive benefits of these companies getting involved.

well, for example... (-1, Troll)

five dollar troll (541247) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655137)

my unix has a wheelchair ramp, and a big handlebar next to the toilet.

Sun has a team of engineers on this. (1, Informative)

Xiphoid Process (153566) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655146)

The GNOME Accessibility Project []

They are making some serious headway too, their developers are very active on all of the Gnome development lists.

50 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655151)

I doubt it unless you count farsighted as handicapped.

Re:50 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655182)

Liberals use inflated numbers to make their point stronger.

Re:50 million (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655381)

quite right. Why should we use "conservative" estimates?

Re:50 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655419)

Sometimes relying on solid arguments instead of liberally sprinking statistics is the best way to get a point across.

People with no arms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655155)

can use chopsticks in their teeth. I saw it done on Discovery.

very much being accessible (-1)

neal n bob (531011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655158)

if you are a fat, bitter, communist, anti-social longhaired hippie it is extremely accessible.

At least as accessible as your mom is.

Re:very much being accessible (0)

five dollar troll (541247) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655174)

woooo hoooo heeeheheeeeheehee!!!!

that post made my day.

What about the GNOME Accessibility Framework? (1)

svara (467664) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655160)

Some work has been done in that area for GNOME - Here's [] the GNOME developer info about it.

They are working on getting specialized input/output devices like braille keyboards, screen readers etc. working with GNOME.

Arrrggh! i18N (1)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655162)

I have to say that the company i work for had to spend a lot of time writing a NON-i18N version of a bunch of standard library calls because after some profiling, we discovered that 75% of the CPU time this one app was using was spent in calls like toupper and isalpha and other things like that. Our code needed to deal with stuff in STANDARD ASCII only. We replaced them with an inline lookup table style function and got an immediate and _HUGE_ performance boost.
The point of this is that people adding any sort of strange feature creep (i know call me insensitive for not giving a damn about the handicapped and non-english speakers) should be kept modular so there is still a readily available fast and simple version of all functions that are polluted by slow and cumbersome new features.

Re:Arrrggh! i18N (2)

aardvaark (19793) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655201)


I'm sure you could have just went and found some before i18N libraries somewhere. I'd bet they are all archived. Why reinvent the wheel??

Bogus statistics (3, Offtopic)

MaxwellStreet (148915) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655175)

This may be a wee bit offtopic, but I think this is another example of those self-serving misuses of statistics.

You know - like the wildly overstated incidence of spousal abuse on Super Bowl Sunday.

50 Million disabled Americans? Assume (generously) that there are 300 million people in the U.S. - does this mean that one in six people could benefit from accessibility technology?

Don't get me wrong - I believe that the ADA was an excellent law, and am all for accessibility enhancements for software. But grossly exaggerating the (statistical) need seems to weaken the argument more than strengthen it.

Re:Bogus statistics (5, Insightful)

gorilla (36491) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655273)

I'd say that 6 out of 6 people could benefit from accessibility technology. You see, even though the disabled need accessibility, but we all benefit when it's included. If you make a program speech enabled, then it's possible to use that program over a telephone. If a program can be configured to use large fonts, it can be used on an LCD display. If a program has keyboard shortcuts for mousable operations, then we can use the program without taking our fingers off the keyboard.

Re:Bogus statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655274)

I was going to bring up this same point. Now, I may be "secluded" and not have a fair basis to ground my statistics on, but if 20% of americans are disabled, then I should be seeing people with crutches and wheel-chairs and leg braces every few minutes on my long bus trip to the center of downtown portland or at work in our 90,000 employee company or walking around downtown on my lunch hour.

If 20% of people are disabled, why aren't 20% of the parking spaces for handicapped people? (Of course, it already seems like 40 or 50 percent of the spaces ARE for disabled people!).

That 20% is probably counting people who hurt their back lifting a bag of dog food while working at Safeway and decided to kick back on disability compensation for the rest of their natural life or people who are manic depressive or take prozac or are compulsive obsessive or have freudian problems with their mother from childhood.

I would say 5% is being generous and probably more realistic.

Not that I'm not all for "accessibility". I think anything you can do to make technology reachable (and usable and valuable) to every individual is worth the trouble. Just don't blow your statistics out of proportion to convince people to work on that goal.

Re:Bogus statistics (0)

msulis (531087) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655427)

You're forgetting weaklings, obese people, and the exceptionally stupid. Also I believe "apathy" and "malaise" are considered qualifications for disability by the ADA. How about "During the past 12 months, reported that problems with people skills, concentration, or stress seriosly interfered with their ability to manage everyday activities" - that counts most computer programmers I know, including myself!

Re:Bogus statistics (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655444)

Disabled doesn't mean visibly diasbled.

If I have severe arthritis, I'm disabled, you may not notice it, but I am.

If I'm blind in one eye, technically I'm disabled.

I may only have partial hearing, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at me, but I'd be disabled then too.

There's plenty of other disabilities that aren't readily apparent. Just remember: disability is more than a wheelchair, crutches, leg braces or a cane...

Re:Bogus statistics (2, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655295)

OK, I can't comment on the statistics. I suspect it's fairly accurate, though; it depends of course on the definition of 'disabled'.

Sometimes, people forget (I'm not accusing you of this) that making things easier for the disabled makes things easier for the rest of us as well. A wide elevator and access ramps are essential for someone in a whellchair, but are also a great help whenever you need to move something heavy. Kitchen utensils designed for arthritic use are usually also much easier to use for everybody. Websites designed to comply with standards for screenreaders are easier to navigate with a text browser as well. Consistent menu and button placements are a help both for visually impaired and for everyone else.


Link to some info on the statistics (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655319)

Ok, so this is technically from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, but it's rather interesting, it's called 'Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion' and examines the statistics of internet and computer use among various groups (income, geography, education, and so on) which includes those with some sort of disability.

Anyways, this link [] (it's a large page, be patient) is the start of the section on people with disabilities. Scroll down a bit and you'll come to the section labeled 'Definitions' which states that an estimated 45 million (21.8% of the estimated population 16 and over) had some sort of disability.

Ok... so big numbers... You truly don't know that many blind people or people in wheel chairs? Right? Well, scroll down a bit more to Box III-2 (or use this link [] as it's a GIF) and you'll see that disabilities isn't all that you think.

Ok, so some are going a bit far (I'd personally say the second last item about stress should apply to me :) but as you can see, they aren't necessarily readilly apparent.

Re:Bogus statistics (2, Funny)

Ian_Bailey (469273) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655337)

My personal favourite:

Quarters cause cancer!
A breakthrough reporrt has discovered that ordinary Quarters cause cancer. The study was conducted by taking two groups of mice. One group had quarters surgically inserted into their bodies whle the other group was used as a control. The scientists discoverd that the occurence of cancerous cells in the test group was almost double that of the control group!

the morale: don't use quarters!

As a side note, I believe this was an actualy study, although I admit to fabricating the exact details.

Re:Bogus statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655423)

Microsoft is also enthusiastic about the ADA.

Now, if enforcement teeth can be put into the law, all kinds of compteting OSes can be banned. I.e. any of the freeware ones.

Oh, but not immediately. The Freeware OSes can get their legal staff on the issue and see what can be done about it.

Legal staff?


That would be one in six residents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655176)

50 million is undoubtedly inflated as the total population of the US is around 300 million per last year's census.

There's a lot being done with IBM's ViaVoice (4, Informative)

DoktorMel (35110) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655178)

kit to enable speech and speech recognition in various Linux projects. See here [] .

Lemmie point you to another article... (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655179)

As mentioned in a side discussion on the window-less office [] article, open source developers only develop stuff to scratch their own itch. If there isn't handicapped open source developers, you won't find much open source handicap software packages.

I don't agree that this is the way Open Source should go, but that's the reality of it.

Re:Lemmie point you to another article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655194)

Check cid=#2648684 for the side-discussion.

Sorry for not including it in the link.

Handicap People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655183)

Like people who use Linux, handicapped people who need specific functions on their computer to do certain things are a minority. Given the population of the States is around 270,000,000 and about 50 million are 'handicapped', i'd say only %1 of those require any special functions while using their computer.

No offense to people with dissabilities, but what's the point in coding something noone will get any usage from?

Re:Handicap People (1)

I am the blob (239590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655263)

There's quite a mental leap from 1% of 270,000,000 (2.7 million) to no one. How'd you make that jump, logically speaking?

Re:Handicap People (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655330)

You start with the stupidity constant of duH, and divide any numbers which need to be altered into that constant.

duH / 270,000 = 0

it would seem that duH is equal to zero, but it is in fact infinity divided by itself.

I hope this helps in the future.

Re:Handicap People--OPEN SOURCE FAILS! (2, Insightful)

iCharles (242580) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655453)

A critisism of the Open Source model is that nothing gets done unless it scratches someone's itch. I submit that this post reflects that attitude: it it doesn't interest me, why build it? You want it: build it yourself.

That is fine when you want, say, an new video driver. But, you create a catch-22: you need a development environment to create accessability options, but if you have no accessability options, you can't use the development environment.

So, if you want to take the stance of "what's the point..if [almost] noone will get any useage from [it]," you simply prove the "must scratch someone's itch" point. And, you show a weakness of Open Source.

Further, you want Linux on the desktop? Some companies will require an accessability solution.

Did I mention is was, you know, the right thing to do?

Input devices are crucial (1)

bucktug (306690) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655184)

People generally are limited by two things when it comes to their computer. The input and the out put. The input... the muscle control it takes to type or move a mouse. This typicall is taken care of via nifty specialized input devices. There are tons of these devices... all of them are odd looking but serve a specific function. As for out put... persons that are blind are the people that are hurt most in this area. People that are deaf are not terribly disadvantaged by having a computer without sound (unless they are playing games... then they get fragged quite easily.) In fact most of the NT/Win2k machines on the campus where I work do not have speakers attached to them.

Magnifier is 9/10 of the ball game (4, Insightful)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655186)

From my experience with handicapped PC users, a decent magnifying utility is 9/10 of the ball game. Most users have supplementary problems with entering input, but nearly all have a difficult time seeing the screen.

Windows XP ships with a decent magnifying utility (called "magnifier") but even they recommend in the opening dialog box getting something more robust. Popular packages to increase the entire desktop start around $19.99, but more "professional" ones can scale all the way up to $700!

Another problem is that, despite "anti-discriminatory practices", handicapped people simply aren't hired for too many computer-literate positions. Many IT managers don't want to foot the bill for high-end accessibility utilities. That's why something more robust than Gnome's project (and KDE's paltry magnifying utility) are so needed.

Re:Magnifier is 9/10 of the ball game (2)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655373)

I've found the price differences often are only the result of who the target buyer is. (This is largely related to non-computer assistive tech that I've seen.) For example, if the state is going to buy some adaptive tech, they get charged... $1000. A private employer pays $500. A private citizen pays $200.

All the same tech. It just depends on the purchaser. My brother-in-law got a night-vision scope (for night-blindness). Cost government ~$1000. Same product retails for $250. Why the difference? I don't know. Probably the company got a long term contract a long time ago, and just never changed their prices. They might have also gone through some BS certification process or something.

Anyway, my wife likes the command line. Nothing like an 80x24 screen on a 17" monitor. And if that's not enough, I can find one of the terminal font packages and change it to around 40x20 or so.

notes from wrist injuries (2, Informative)

whiteben (210475) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655187)

Perhaps we could take a page from the methods people use when they can't type because of wrist injuries. Check here [] for one man's experiences. Interesting to note that in the end, the author had to move to Windows for the accessibility options...

18% of US is handicap? (2)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655190)

50 million handicapped people in the United States alone

There are about 275 million people total in the USA. I find it hard to believe that almost 1 out of 5 is handicap. Okay, maybe if we count all the lawyers it makes sense.

Re:18% of US is handicap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655214)

Maybe myopia (near-sightedness) is in with the statistic. That's the only way I can believe it.

Re:18% of US is handicap? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655235)

Well almost 50% of voters last election voted for Gore, so there's a whole bunch of mentally deficients right there.

Re:18% of US is handicap? (2, Funny)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655406)

Slightly less voted for Bush, so thats a whole lot of fucked up people right there. :)

Re:18% of US is handicap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655441)

I agree. Anyone who votes and believes it makes a difference is clearly delusional.

And I believe all the parking spaces in Palm Beach County ought to be reserved for the handicapped.

*NIX is more accessible than windows (4, Interesting)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655191)

I did some tutoring for blind students in college and UNIX systems were much easier to use than Windows for blind students just because you could do everything without a GUI. The braille displays or auditory displays work best with text and with UNIX type systems you can do pretty much anything at the command prompt and text only... even web browsing.

Re:*NIX is more accessible than windows (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655316)

now with jaws , this is no longer true. blind users love windows.

Re:*NIX is more accessible than windows (1)

toneby (27318) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655422)

"Love windows" is quite a bit of an overstatement, but it has become much more managable than it was before, I know several people who really hate windows and JAWS.

A (graphical) GUI doesn't add anything of value (at least not much) for a blind user, while textbased GUI can do that.

Console based applications are by far much easier to use and navigate with a braille display than graphical apps are.

Re:*NIX is more accessible than windows (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655415)

I wouldn't doubt it - I wrote two text to grade 2 braille conversion programs and a collection of motley programs to let friends access door games... all this was in the age of DOS, and they were set. Later on, Windows made it harder and harder to get stuff done... I've lost touch with all my friends who were blind, so I'm *way* out of the loop... they were all using Blasie Braille'n'speaks at the time for classes and such.

Check out SuSE Linux - they have serious braille support, to the point that the installer looks for braille display devices so you can do a whole install from a barebones computer with no problem (I assume). Call them and ask - they obviously have someone doing QA and testing (or I could hope so) who would be very versed in Linux VI issues.


Emacs speak (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655196)

There is a version of emacs [] that can be used by the blind. it is very good, i like it alot.

Re:Emacs speak (1)

plone (140417) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655271)

Idiot moderator, that link is in the article.

What is "handicapped"? (4, Informative)

Puk (80503) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655198)

285,663,670 / 50,000,000 = 5.71.

So more than 1 in 6 people is handicapped. *Looks around the room.* I know of one person out of the 110 or so in my workplace that is "handicapped" to the point that they use accessibility options. Admittedly, there are reasons why my workplace would be lower than average on the number of handicapped people, but I was wondering just what the criteria used were.

Note that I'm _not_ saying that there aren't a lot of handicapped people around, or that accessibilty options aren't important (they're very important to that one individual, who is in turn very important to us). I'm just curious about how those statistics were arrived at, since it feels like an astoundingly high number to me.

After all, 95% of statistics are made up on the spot.


p.s. If you're going to flame me about my use of the word handicapped or claiming I'm downplaying the importance of accessibility tools, please don't even bother.

handicapped (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655259)

I have a handicap that doesn't interfere at all with using a computer. I'm partly blind in one eye (vision is 20/200 (the other eye is 20/20)), the result of a playground disagreement many years ago. I can't see stereo very well, but then, the computer screen isn't 3-d, is it? So while I am handicapped enough to fill a spot on the EEOC forms, I'm not handicapped enough for it to interfere with my work, or to require accessibility features.

Plays hell with my ability to play, however. Try swinging a bat at a baseball with one eye closed. Or hammering nails.

Re:What is "handicapped"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655353)

If you haven't figured it out, just because you can't see the handicap doesn't prove its inexistance. And that's where the numbers come from.

I'm handicapped, I work in the IT field (UNIX SysAdmin), and most likely only about 3/100 users here are aware of it.

Your perception is what's limiting your understanding...

Re:What is "handicapped"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655384)

What is your handicap? Is it serious enough that it warrants your being given a sticker on your car?

Re:What is "handicapped"? (1)

dagoalieman (198402) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655467)

While I agree with you, and suspect there are some magical statistics tricks going on here that anyone could do with a 4 function calculator, I just wanted to point out to all the people questioning the number of handicapped that this includes our retired people, those in nursing homes (who qualify), and some people who you wouldn't consider handicapped, but by law are (Good intentions, bad laws, as always. Kinda like the DMCA... but that's another rant^H^H^H^H section in /.)

The only reason I mention this is that while in public we hardly ever see the handicapped, they're all around us. I grew up in a neighborhood where half the people had handicapped driver's plates. Most of those retirees got out just to go to the grocery store, and occasionally stepped to their porches. (BUT, I should mention they were great people!) Then we moved, and the neighbor's daughter had some disease similar to cerebral palsy. That girl never got out except on special occasions.

Not to mention if we include the mentally handicapped in there, the figure gets larger. If we include the true handicapped (lawyers, politicians, and rent-to-own salesmen), then overall we're probably pushing one out of two people.

Seriously, 1 out of 6 is a bit high. But I suspect the true number is higher than we're thinking.

Unix's main accessability strength (2, Interesting)

Mdog (25508) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655199)


Seriously, all of the blind people I know at school love linux because it is very friendly to doing real work with text. The importance of this cannot be understated.

Well... (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655204)

...there really doesn't seem to be that much (at least in the research I've done, I haven't found much)

There is, as others have pointed out, the GNOME Accessibility Project []

However, I haven't seen anyone point out Linux AccessX [] , which was a project at the University of Illinois, and as should be obvious, is for Linux only. It however, hasn't been updated for 2 years, so I don't think there's much hope there...

Pity... accessibility is the topic of my honours thesis, and from the looks of it, it's probably going to concentrate on Windows... (Not that I really expected anything else though)

Java Option (2, Informative)

jeffphil (461483) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655206)

If you can live with the speed of Java client apps, then accessibility is built into the Java Accessibility Framework Classes []

This a great option for all platforms.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655207)

My wife is getting a Masters in Human Factors and Information Design. Tonight she attended a session on Handicapped Accessibility in Technology

What a worthless major and worthless seminar.

Accessibility of Open-Sores Assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655212)

CmdrTaco and Hemos are very careful to make their assholes easily accessible. The stench of the festering bloody mess makes it easy to use even for blind and deaf people. In addition, Cliff has had surgery to have "hooters" added to his chest to help guide unsuspecting disabled people into his mangina.

Features for the deaf? (2)

GypC (7592) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655213)

What kind of features would the deaf need? I have a computer at work with no sound card, not even the crappy little PC speaker. I haven't really found that it interferes with my computing experience at all. Oh wait, the visual bell setting on your terminal! That's about all a deaf person would need so, yep, got it covered ;^)

Actually there are (1)

eclectric (528520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655256)

and w3c already has a standard in place on how to present audio data so that deaf clients can use it (believe it or not, there are some websites that actually put useful information in sound files, such as companies copying over their phone-tree solutions.

This would mean you would need browsers, or specific derivations of them, that could read these standards, which is a software issue, and one that I don't think the open source community is going to push for very quickly. Indeed, the commercial demand for this seems pretty small, since for the most part, people can live without sound on the Net

Another one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655454)

TTY modems. The TTY protocol is different from anything else and requires its own modem.

use of hands (1)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655216)

"What about people without the use of their hands..."

In this case, the solution would be hardware based. I worked with one person who had Parkinson's disease (which slowly debilitates motor functions) and they were using one of those great big logitech trackballs.

In more serious cases, there are still hardware options. I read in a paper-based magazine (sorry, no url available and I can't remember which magazine it was) about one kid who was using a device that he could control using his leg because his other appendages were unusable for fine control.

So in the domain on physical-motor-control disabilities, the hardware solutions are already there or are on their way. The *nix community needs to do what it has been doing already and expand driver support.

Commercial advantage (3, Insightful)

Wonko42 (29194) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655217)

This is one of the major advantages of commercial software. Your average open source developer is generally not very interested in developing features that he or she doesn't have any use for. Thus, unless you have a good percentage of handicapped open source developers, your open source projects will tend not to contain good accessibility features. And, unfortunately, there aren't very many handicapped open source developers. :/

This is where commercial software (especially companies like Microsoft who spend countless millions each year on research alone) has a distinct advantage. People who write code for commercial applications or OSes are not writing it for their own benefit -- they're writing it because they were told to and because they get paid to.

That said, I'm very impressed with Windows XP's accessibility features, but I really don't think they would be too difficult to implement in Linux applications. The only major problem is that "Linux" is just a kernel, and accessibility features don't belong in the kernel. Thus, it will be left up to individual distributions (Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake...) or individual application developers. This makes for a very uneven and inconsistent level of accessibility support across different applications. :/

Sadly, this is one area where companies like Microsoft and Apple have much more of an advantage than open source OSes, due mainly to the structure of their OSes.

See what happens when management make decisions... (1)

Iamthefallen (523816) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655222)

Accessability is very important, however I think this Swedish site took it a bit too far with its Information for deaf people. [] (follow the numbered links for quicktime movies)

What? Suddenly deaf people can't read?

Nice gesture, but oh so useless. Moral of the story: Accesability is good, but only when it's done in a way that really helps those that need it.

Re:See what happens when management make decisions (2)

GypC (7592) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655325)

Actually a lot of deaf people can't read. While it is a bit harder for them to learn without a spoken language as a basis, the blame is mostly with a disinterested educational system.

Re:See what happens when management make decisions (1)

Iamthefallen (523816) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655368)

The syntax of sign language is vastly different from the spoken one, so reading/writing gets trickier. But I really fail to see how that websites implementation helps them. To me it sems to be an act of just putting something up so they can be called accessible, now, a ultralight version for the vision impaired would be a good idea. But strangely, that doesn't exist.

How many handicapped? (1, Redundant)

AgTiger (458268) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655225)

> According to the lecturer, there are over 50 million handicapped people in the United States alone

According to the United States Census for 2000, there is a total population of 281,421,906 people in the United States. For argument's sake, let's round that up to an even 300 million.

So... one in six persons is handicapped?

I suspect accidentally or purposefully inflated numbers, though I'm quite willing to be proven wrong. Does anyone have any hard data that would back up, or refute this particular claim?

ummmmm...... (1)

thetman (465742) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655227)

According to the lecturer, there are over 50 million handicapped people in the United States alone.

278 people in the US, 50 million handicapped....18%. So almost 1 in 5 people in the United States is handicapped. Athletes foot must be considered a handicap now.

1/6 of the population? (1, Redundant)

mclearn (86140) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655230)

Does this even make sense?

I'm not so sure...... (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655239)

Microsofts accessability tools are kind of useless(MouseKeys is good when I lose my mouse :)), and I don't think many disabled people would find them any better. Interfaces are going to have to change dramatically before the blind will be able to use a PC for surfing the internet or write E-mail. Translating a visual experience into a verbal one is difficult, and only someone who knew what they were doing already could use such a system.

It may not happen in my lifetime, but I think a connection directly into the mind will be the next big thing. I recall seeing experiments about creating a neurological UI a few years back, but I haven't heard about it since. Such an interface (if it was two way), could revolutionize computing, and perhaps even remove barriers in the world for disabled people.

Not one out of 6... (2, Funny)

Futurepower(tm) (228467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655240)

"According to the lecturer, there are over 50 million handicapped people in the United States..."

The population of the United States was 285,663,707 [] earlier today. That is one out of 6. When you look around you, do you see one handicapped person for every 6 people?

Okay, maybe they don't use Linux, but they aren't handicapped.

Links to respected news sources show how U.S. government policy contributed to terrorism: What should be the Response to Violence? []

Don't worry. (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655241)

The 2.6.x kernel will support direct neural connections.

Re:Don't worry. (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655361)

For the 2.6 series to support "direct neural interfaces", much of the work will have to be done now, as 2.6x will be a "stable" version of 2.5x (which has just started.) So start coding now.

how about "Fuck the handicapped?" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655243)

Why spoil our software to accommodate the handicapped? If they can't use it, fuck em. We don't need the extra users, especially if they're gimps.

Screw em... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655245)


Lets face it, I think we can give windows the retard and handicap market without too much worry. I mean, those are always going to be specialized markets anyways and a large company is the best way to meet their needs. If, they can be met. Let's be real here, if you're a deaf blind person there are some things in life you just can't do, like drive a car or operate a 75 hp gas powered chainsaw. A computer is visual by nature so maybe you're just shucks out of luck if you're blind. At least for now. Although some sort of a brail pad that was tied to your display would be kind of a cool idea, but way beyond the scope of the OSS camp.

So, to summarize my insightful post, I propose that the open source and Unix communities pay no attention whatsoever to the handicapped people of the world. Let them eat cake.

Blind Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655249)

There are two project I know of that deal with blind users.
One is blinux (Blind linux). Don't know the URL by hand but do a google search.
The other is GLS, a project to create a Linux for blind (Croatian) users sponsered by Croatian Ministry of Law.
Both projects user Emacs speak as their "desktop environment" and a set of new or old tools to bring network services line NNTP,MAIL,WWW closer to blind users.


SuSE Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655262)

Newer versions of SuSE Linux claim they can be installed by the visually handicapped, by detecting braille reader equipment early during the installation phase.
Microsoft support for braille reader equipment has to be installed after the OS, by someone who can operate the computer without the reader.

Not sure but... (1)

xZAQx (472674) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655280)

Couldn't help but notice that when the SuSE installation booted, it looked for a Braille display. Something I never heard of in windows, so I'd imagine that, yes, we have some accessibility apps.

Windows used to be good for accessability (2)

GiMP (10923) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655282)

Have you tried to use Windows 2000 without a mouse? It is near impossible. First of all, everything is in a GUI. It is a lot easier to deal with text rather then images when you are blind. Ok, you can finally do some things from the console like type "net start Windows \ 2000\ Service\ for\ making\ me\ type\ too\ much", assuming that what you want to do can be done that way.

The keyboard macros and accelerators in newer versions of windows are hovering somewhere between terrible and non-existant. I'm not speaking of the programming running under 2000. Just the built-in stuff like configuration, server management, the shell, etc.. It wouldn't fair to judge microsoft on 3rd party software :)

As far as X windows applications go, they are usually worse then Windows applications... although Gtk and QT (and their respective desktop environments) are doing much better then most older applications.

Are things getting better? for unix yes, for windows no. But they both still suck.

It isn't really an issue with the platform, though.. but more of a problem with bad UI designers writing 3rd party software.

Re:Windows used to be good for accessability (2)

GypC (7592) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655426)

As far as X windows applications go, they are usually worse then Windows applications... although Gtk and QT (and their respective desktop environments) are doing much better then most older applications.

Why would a blind person want to run a GUI? You don't need one with Unix, and the command line is fully capable with multitasking and everything... a braille reader and keyboard is all they would need to surf the net with lynx, chat on irc, use email, code, whatever.

Voice recognition, et al, will be brilliant for quadraplegics, but Unix is great for blind people right now! (And deaf people too ;^)

Re:Windows used to be good for accessability (2)

GiMP (10923) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655462)

I didn't say for blind people. You might want to consider those with other kinds of disabilities.

1 in 6 are handicapped in the US? (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655288)

I praise the efforts of Microsoft and the Open Source community to address these folks needs, but I doubt that figure is even close to correct.

Sue Center (2, Informative)

Dr.Altaica (200819) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655320)

Thare is a Perl program called Sue Center if you can't push any buttons and can just move the mouse around. I'me not sure if it working in X yet but the source is avlible.

Voice Recognition (5, Informative)

Troodon (213660) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655323)

Personally this is rather opportune, after years of cramping my hands taking notes in lectures and hammering on keys, recently the arthritis I suffered as a child has reoccured. Though not crippling at the moment, I can only type for a little while before discomfort sets in, not very portentous for begining a CS degree. Thus Im looking for ways to mitigate things.

Anyway Ive started looking at Voice Reccognition:

IBM have made there Via Voice SDK [] freely available, which is being made use of in the rather interesting looking XVoice [] , though its been passed between developers, the most current page is here [] ang the mailing list here [] . However training hasnt been implimented yet, but Via Voice Dictation for Linux compares rather favourably at ~ $50 compared to several hundred for the windows version.

Alternately, there is the Freespeach/Open Mind Speach project [] , gpl and makes use of the Overflow language/enviroment.

Not really aware of any active projects beyond such, hopefully this ask slashdot will prove to be interesting reading.

one avenue: (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655338)

Well, we're all about getting access to ebooks so that the blind can read them, aren't we? :)

monitor for the blind (0)

kippy (416183) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655339)

I don't know what the thing was called, but I met a blind user back at school who had a 70 character wide brail device that popped up pins to tell him what was on the current command line or line of code. What made him so hard-core was that he hd to memorize a whole program line by line without the quick reference that glancing up and down in a window affords most of us. Has anyone else seen this kind of device or know what it is called?

Section 508 (4, Insightful)

tomfuck (532526) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655341)

I've been working quite extensively within section508 guidelines [] which outlines electronic accesibility within government systems - from webpages, to software, to the photocopiers in the office. The statistics that are used in cases like this are misleading to those unfamilar with accesibility. You may not think that 1/6 people are 'handicap', but this term is fairly broad when used in this contex. The term also refers to the color blind, people with carpel tunnel syndrome, people with hearing-impairments (but not completely deaf), and the like - anyone who may require any assistance at all or may have difficulty navigating the web or a software product.

At the rate many of us are going, we're going to have weakened eyesight and carpel tunnel syndrome from so many hours on the computer. So we will be relying on many of these advances in accessibility options in the future.

I really recommend [] which is a really great resource for accessibility.

Blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655342)

I read something about a blind Linux hacker that uses a kernel patch that voice synthesizes his console using OSS or something.

I think I may have even gotten the link from Slashdot. Anyone remember?

Suse and Braille Readers (1)

Allnighterking (74212) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655347)

Suse happens to be the only distro I know of that automaticaly looks for and configures Braile readers during the initial install.

BLINUX (4, Informative)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655374)

The BLINUX folks have a wealth of this sort of information (as applies to Linux, anyway), at their site: []

Complete with FAQ, docs and mailing lists.

1000 Minds high ambition (1)

kinzler (123852) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655383)

Don't forget Alan Carter's remarkable 1000 Minds project, intended even for the severly handicapped:
The 1000 Minds software makes it possible to control all of the thousands of existing programs available for Linux with no more than a single detectable movement. [] []

Government requires handicapped-enabled software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655400)

This is probably where Microsoft's lobbyists did their money's worth. There's a law (don't remember which one) that requires the federal and probably state governments to only buy software that is handicapped-accessible. Microsoft has spent so much time and money on accessibility that they probably pushed for these types of requirements, knowing the Linux developers don't care enough about it to work on things like this. That means that pretty soon, Linux will be locked out from big government uses..... We better do something quick about this!!!

The 1000 minds project (2)

msouth (10321) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655425)

Look here:

Linux Speakup (2, Insightful)

CmdrPaco (531189) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655433)

Linux Speakup [] is an organiztion of blind folks who 'like to mess around with linux'. This is one type of software to help the (visually) impaired. A gentlemen on one of the mailinglists I subscribe to uses this package, and claims it works well. It must work at least half way decent if he's able to be on a mailinglist, and offer all the knowledge that he has, which is quite extensive.
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