Accessibility in Linux

A few days ago, I made a social media post about how terrible the license practices for many major software packages had become (especially: renting instead of owning), and made a stand for using Linux and FOSS software as well as open document formats, especially in public institutions and corporate environments, to ensure long term reliability.

To that post, I got a rather angry reply from a blind person, who informed me that Linux had become widely unusable for visually impaired people. This surprised me, as I always thought, the Linux Community had taken pride in being an inclusive one.

Unfortunately, other blind people confirmed this information:

Accessibility seems to have deteriorated over the years, with GTK apps being generally the worst.
Others complained about having received dismissive and rude answers from FOSS developers when asking for accessibility features.

What do you think? Do you have any experience in this area?

Are we really that bad?

1 Like

I’m not “blind” but I am colour blind, and have “low vision” - every single Ubuntu release they make it harder to find accessibility options…

And to make matters worse - all the O/S vendors use these terms interchangeably :slight_smile:

Ease of Access

and a bunch of other things…

ACCESSIBILITY options should be RIGHT AT THE TOP in settings in all Operating Systems - and ALWAYS in the same place FFS…

It’s not rocket science! :smiley:


Talking about colour blindness.

In my last company, I created a user interface which showed action items in red and solved issues in green. I thought, this was pretty clever, until I learned that one of my colleagues was colour-blind, so I added bold and italic.

But how sad it is to see that things aren’t improving but instead getting worse. We’re supposed to develop towards a kinder and friendlier society, aren’t we?

PS: Don’t be fooled by the new profile pic. My old one (the one with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in a beautiful Renaissance dress) somehow got lost with the new login system. It’s still the same me, the one you know, but with my real face.


Sister Juana Ines of the Cross… I often wondered what that iconic image was.

My only contact with accessibility was, I once looked at Klaus Knopper’s Adrianne software, which comes as an addon to Knoppix. It seemed to me to be for someone with serious visual impairment.

I think you are right, accessibility apps seem to have a token appearance in most distros and there is very little development. How do we stand compared to windows or mac?


I can’t say for sure. According to what I read, we’ve been falling from the pole position to carrying the red lantern.

On the other hand, Big Tech (i.e. Google, MS, Apple, Adobe, etc.) is getting huge subsidies from governments in order to comply with accessibility standards, whilst these funds are hardly available to FOSS projects, so the whole playing field is definitely far from even (Who would have thought so?).

Regarding the picture, I previously used, it was painted by Pedro Manuel de Asbaje around 1666 (she was probably between 15 and 17), obviously before she became religious, the only way she could escape marriage and continue her academic work.

At this time, she was already one of the most famous intellectuals of her time, having been quizzed by about a dozen professors of the University of Mexico in Spanish, Latin and Greek about every possible subject from astronomy to the inevitable theology, being able to answer every single question.

OG nerd girl


Hi Mina, :wave:

great to see you´re back on the forum. I hope you´re well. :heart:

Not really. But I noticed the following:

As I´m on Linux Lite 6.2 now I realized it came with orca screenreader installed by default.
I´m sure Linux Lite is not the only distro with that policy.
Still: it seems to be a nice touch for visually impaired people, I think.

Many greetings from Rosika :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

It has an Alt Text… it shows if I finger it on the tablet
I like stories of people who were exceptional for their time.
The one that comes to mind is Hildegard von Bingen.

1 Like

Huhu Rosi! :kissing_heart: schön, bist du noch da!

Yes, the Orca screen reader comes as default with many distributions, but it’s rather old, and (as far as I’m told) does not work well at all with the Gnome desktop and also not with many apps (or better: the other way round: Gnome and many apps are not Orca-friendly).

1 Like

Of course, it has! I wrote it myself.

So do I!

1 Like

This is typical. Orca or Linux do not even rate a mention.


Thanks for the nice greetings, Mina. :kissing_heart:

Oh, that´s a shame.
Apart from that I noticed it´s not particularly easy to understand.
Well, mine “speaks” German, as my system is a German-language setup. Perhaps orca is better with the English language… :thinking: .

Cheers from Rosika :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

You may like the recent Florence Nightingale topic

and, the Adriane link

1 Like

There we have another problem: Speech synthesis on Linux in general is of abysmal quality, compared to commercial solutions. Good speech synthesis (i.e. natural sounding voices, as you would expect in the 2020s and not a voice that sounds like a robot from a 1960s SciFi film) requires a huge amount of data, which is of course available to major data stealing companies and their toys (Alexa, Siri, etc.), but not to FOSS projects.

There is the Mozilla Common Voice Project, where you can donate your voice (I did - it’s dead easy and quite fun), but as far as I see it, it is rather focussed on speech recognition, but even for this project, especially female voices are terribly underrepresented.

Every halfway decent sounding speech synthesis app uses either the Google or Azure resources with their restrictive licensing policies.


I will have to look that up. It’s been a while since I’ve been around these pastures.

This sounds interesting, indeed.

Hi Mina, :wave:

Right. I noticed that at an early stage of my Linux experience.
As I wanted to have a text-to-speech programme for having texts read out to me I needed something that produced an output which could easily be understood.

After having done some research on the matter I wrote a script that takes care of that.

At least to me it´s not only perfectly understandable but also very human-like.
No robotic touch at all.

It makes use of the programmes pico2wave and mplayer (with some scaletempo, lavcresample and equalizer options).

It supports the German and English languages and even caters for different speeds. :wink:
The output of mplayer runs in a sandbox (firejail).
At any rate: it suits my needs.

If anyone is interested, I could post the script.
Of course it can be modified to the user´s liking.

Many greetings

Rosika :slightly_smiling_face:


I noticed the same thing. The Read Aloud feature built into MS Edge is really nice. It worked the same on Linux at one time, but they dropped Read Aloud on Linux at some point. There are browser add-ons that do a nice job too. I use Reader View when on Linux. The voice seems the same as when using MS Edge on Windows, but you can’t read the current page aloud without going into an Immerisive Reader view.

The voice I prefer is Microsoft Natasha (english, female, Austrailian). It’s a bit like having Olivia Newton-John read the page to you. :slight_smile:


Scripts are always appreciated.

I have tried some programs (don’t ask me, which) for reading stories, and they worked, somehow.

However: I would have liked to use them for voice-overs on videos (I don’t really like my own voice for that purpose), but they sounded always too mechanic for that purpose.


The problem with these solutions is that, there are not truly free and can not be built into application or projects without licensing and copyright issues.

1 Like

Hi Mina, :wave:

That´s nice.
O.K. then. Thanks a lot.

I posted it here: Text-to-speech script as a follow-up post to this one.

Many greetings from Rosika :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Interesting topics - I’m not about to start listening, and talking to, computers just yet :smiley:

These two topics just prompted me to action : I removed my Galaxy S9+ smartphone from its waterproof shell (Amazon purchage) which I needed as I keep it mounted in a phone holder on my e-scooter - sometimes (not often) right in wet weather.

Any - I removed the phone from the “shell” - and used a pair of surgical scissors to remove the inner “bump” that depresses the Bixby or Google Assistant buttom - and covered it internally with some insulation tape…

Now I can no longer accidentally activate Bixby when fumbling about for the power or volume buttons…

Have I mentioned how much I LOATHE Bixby yet? D (rhetorical question)…

On another note, I have a friend who’s a conspiracy nut, refuses to use any form of social media other than email - and was extremely surprised to catch him using Siri of all things!