Advice for blind Linux newbie

David Andrews dandrews at
Thu Jul 6 16:52:23 UTC 2006


I have a couple observations -- some of which 
won't be popular on a Linux list.  First, it is a 
bit tricky to install ZoomText and JAWS on the 
same computer.  Secondly, it is an even worse 
idea to run both at the same time.

I suspect you are right that only using each half 
way is causing your friend problems.  Whether 
visually impaired or totally blind, a person will 
ultimately benefit from learning how to do things 
in Windows, or another OS, with keystrokes.  It 
can help to have an idea of what the screen looks 
like, but not absolutely necessary.  I think a 
good teacher could use analogies to convey various ideas to a student.

I am not convinced a switch to Linux will solve 
your friend's problems.  Somebody will probably 
jump all over me here, I assure you I am not a 
Linux basher.  I have a Sun Cobalt server in my basement after all.

However you point to one of the problems with 
Linux yourself, when you say "What distro should 
I use."  At some point, most Unix and Linux 
discussions ultimately degrade into a "my 
distribution is better than yours."  It is 
counter productive and dissipates much of the advantages that the OS may have.

Linux is not for the faint of heart, or 
newbie.  If you set everything up for your 
friend, and maintain it, it might work for 
him/her, but it may not.  There can be long commands to memorize, etc.

Further, relatively speaking there are many more 
blind and visually impaired Windows users than 
Linux users, so there is a community of users, 
lists, tutorials, trainers, consultants etc. out 
there.  This pool of resources is not as large in 
Linux, and ultimately they start arguing about 
the relative merits of their particular installations.

Write me off list, and we can discuss other 
training alternatives, etc.  It is possible that 
another approach might work.  I would guess you 
are a sighted person, and may have a mouse 
orientation.  I am not trying to be critical, just realistic.


At 04:59 AM 7/6/2006, you wrote:
>Hi, I have just subscribed.  Hello to 
>everyone.  I was hoping for some advice.  My 
>friend is visually impaired and has been 
>struggling with windows for the last year.  The 
>GUI is what is causing him the most 
>problems.  As he has never been able to see well 
>enough to grasp concepts such as tabs, menus and 
>the desktop, he often gets lost and doesn't know 
>where he is.  His learning has come to a halt 
>and he is getting frustrated, so I have come 
>here.  I have wanted to try Linux myself and 
>thought I could learn a little along the way by setting it up for him.
>On windows he uses Zoomtext (screen magnifier) 
>and Jaws (screen reader).  I think this causes 
>him more problems as he won’t rely on either completely.
>So I am looking for a simple setup that allows 
>him to play music, read emails and browse the 
>web.  Can anyone recommend which Linux distros I 
>could use and what I should install for 
>accessibility with your reasons please?
>This would be a great help.
>Thank you
>Windows Live™ Messenger has arrived. Click here 
>to download it for free! 
>Blinux-list mailing list
>Blinux-list at

David Andrews and white cane Harry.

More information about the Blinux-list mailing list