Welcome to the Accessible Freedom Wiki-- your one-stop, distribution-independent shop for documentation on using the GNU/Linux desktop with accessibility provided by the Orca screen reader and/or Gnome Shell Magnifier. This document is designed to be a quick reference and/or startup guide, with user-contributed tips, work-arounds, hints, suggestions. It is offered, as-is, with no warrantee of any kind, and is subject to continuous evolution. We hope that you will enjoy being an active, involved user of GNU/Linux.
GNU/Linux comes in a variety of "flavors", more-properly known as "distributions" or "distros". Each distro caters to a niche within the larger GNU/Linux user space. Some distros, for instance, have, as their primary mission, to wean users away from proprietary software, making the transition as comfortable as possible. Others leave the impression that they are anything but accommodating. Most of our efforts are focused on distros that aim to provide a comfortable desktop user experience. The distros listed below are all available as "live systems", that is, the CD, DVD, or USB media contain a bootable, working version of the system. This lets you "try before you buy". If you like the distro, you can install to your machine, right from the live media. Live systems can also be used as a software "repair kit" for the system installed to your hard drive. Our documents are not a substitute for the help resources provided by the communities associated with the distros. We provide some quick startup hints and impressions for each. You may find yourself "distro-hopping", as we have done. Here are the distros we'll consider:
- Sonar re-mixes of Ubuntu 12.04 and Linux Mint that offer an experience, customized for blind/vi users.
- Open Suse--the non-commercial version of Novell's Suse Enterprise Linux;
- Trisquel--a community-maintained Ubuntu derivative that never recommends non-free software;
- Ubuntu--probably the best-known and marketed distro;
- Vinux--An Ubuntu derivative, optimized for blind/VI users;
- Fedora--sponsored by long-time UNIX industry player, Redhat;
All distros respect, to varying degree, the four freedoms:
- the right to use the software, without restriction;
- learn how the software works (source code availability is a necessary condition);
- modify the software to your purpose (source code availability is a necessary condition);
- share the software (your modifications included).
Open Source Assistive Technologies
Assistive Technology (often abbreviated as "AT") can basically be defined as any type of technology (either software or hardware) which helps (or assists) individuals with disabilities to use currently existing technologies which would otherwise be rendered "inaccessible".
GNU/Linux has come a very long way in the area of accessibility over the past several years. In its beginnings, it was not too friendly to disabled users. This is no longer the case thanks to enormous advancements in open source assistive technologies. Tasks which were once nearly impossible for disabled users to perform are now more than possible. The most wonderful thing about this is that one does not need to pay outrageous prices to be able to use his or her computer system thanks to the advances in GNU/Linux accessibility. One of the core philosophies behind GNU/Linux and open source software is that of freedom, and this freedom is not limited to those who are without any such disability. Thanks to this philosophy, one can readily access screen readers, magnifiers, and other assistive technologies at no cost, thus technological freedom is available to disabled users! There is no longer a need to worry about paying outrageous prices for proprietary assistive technologies to be able to use a computer system which is already paid for. The price for these proprietary technologies can often cost as much as the price of two or more computer systems. This should not be the case; disabled users should not be a target for greedy companies.
Here you will find links to numerous pages which are concerned with open source assistive technologies. The goal of the following pages (and subpages which are linked to by them) is not only to inform you about these technologies, but also to teach you how to use them so that you can become more comfortable with and more productive in the GNU/Linux environment.
Accessing Your Desktop Environments
A desktop environment ("DE") typically consists of icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers and desktop widgets. Many different groups have a different view of how a graphical desktop environment should be implemented, and therefore many desktop environments exist. GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, and Unity are just a few of the desktop environments available. Unfortunately, however, not all desktop environments are accessible to disabled users. The following pages will help you to learn and to use accessible desktop environments in GNU/Linux. Pages for additional desktop environments will be added as these environments become accessible.
Accessing Your Applications
In its essence, an application is a piece of software which helps you to get something done. There are many types of applications ranging from general text editors which allow you to create documents which contain plain (or unformatted) text to feature-filled office suites which allow you to create documents which contain formatted text, tables of data, graphs, charts, images, and much more. It is unfortunate, but at this time not all applications are accessible. The purpose of the following pages is to help you to be able to become a productive user of accessible applications. If an application is not mentioned in the following guides, it is either inaccessible or the authors of these pages have not written about it just yet. Please continue on to our Application Guides page.