Blind vs. mainstream distros

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Fri Apr 28 13:20:24 UTC 2017

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what the mixture of "blind
from birth/a young age" and "blinded as an adult" is on this list, and
I would imagine these groups would have very different perspectives. I
myself was blinded in the right eye before I could form memories, but
my left eye was good enough for anything short of driving until I was
25, and best I can tell, the biggest loss from lacking binocular
vision is not being able to bring magic eye pictures into focus and
having to watch 3D movies in 2-D.

For a blind child using a computer for the first time, Tony is
probably right that accessibility is the deciding factor. For an adult
whose been a sighted computer user most of their life and was just
recently blinded, I suspect familiarity plays a bigger role.

When my left eye failed, I sought out a screen reader for Linux, and
clung on to the first distro I found that let me go from an unusable
system to a blind usable system without sighted assistance, but I had
also been a full-time Linux user for the past 6 or 7 years at that
point, felt lost whenever I had to use Windows 7 on a school computer,
and didn't relish the idea of giving up the power of the Linux
terminal or the convenience of Aptitude for installing/removing
software, and I doubt I could ever give NVDA a fair chance even
running on XP, the last version of Windows I was ever comfortable
using. If anything, I would expect someone who has been using Windows
since the 9x days and suddenly found themselves blinded would be even
more reluctant to give Linux a fair chance than the sighted Windows
user, probably feeling that learning to use Windows with a screen
reader and without a monitor is a big enough challenge.

Though, a thought occurred to me regarding helping new blind linux
users learn the ropes, and it's something non-devs could contribute
to. How feasible would it be to produce a CD-length audio tutorial
that could be shipped along side install media for either a blind
customized distro or the talking version of a mainline distro? Perhaps
with the discs having brailled/embossed text on their labels that give
the distro's name and version with one disc saying install and the
other saying tutorial. The tutorial disc could also be offered for
download in mp3, ogg vorbis, and flac, and if there's an image format
that can preserve the data and audio tracks of a mixed-mode CD,
perhaps offer an image where the data track boots a live environment
that only plays the tutorial for the benefit of those who don't own a
CD player and don't have a pre-existing accessible CD player
application on their computer. If there's such a thing as a mixed-mode
DVD, you could even combine the install and tutorial discs and expand
the tutorials to include videos for sighted individuals assisting the
blind user or who will be sharing the system with the blind user, and
again with the disc being able to boot a live environment that can
play the tutorials in the absence of other means.

Such wouldn't be easy to produce, especially since effective teaching
is hard, especially without student-teacher interaction, but such
could go a long way towards making accessible Linux have a reasonable
learning curve to those who weren't already experienced Linux users
before they needed accessibility, and again, it's something blind
Linux users who aren't devs could contribute to. Putting the tutorials
on YouTube would probably be useful as well, but I still think
bundling the tutorial with the install media and ensuring as much of
the target audience can listen to them with existing equipment does
the most to reduce the barrier to entry.


Jeffery Wright
President Emeritus, Nu Nu Chapter, Phi Theta Kappa.
Former Secretary, Student Government Association, College of the Albemarle.

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