G Linaccess (Making GNU Linux accessable)

GNU Linux for the partially sighted or visually challenged

Authors and inventors:

Purpose of glinaccess:

The purpose of the G Linaccess project is to make computers accessible to those with low vision, in a way that does not require the use of a text to speech converter or other devices that are normally used by the blind.

With G Linaccess, those with low vision can often still enjoy the visual aspects of computing, through the use of enlarged fonts that are optimally designed in contrast and shape to be readable despite visual defects that may prevent the person from reading traditional large print books and the like. Moreover, through the use of OCR, persons might acquire the text of articles and the like, and consume this material upon the screen of a cathode-ray tube or laser EyeTap device by virtue of its much higher contrast ratio than that of paper and other print media used for large print books.

Historical context:

I started the G Linaccess project primarily for developing systems for display on a laser EyeTap device, but it may also be viewed on a special high brightness/high contrast cathode ray tube. In situations where visual impairment is not severe, it may be used on a normal video display (preferably a black and white television that uses a cathod ray tube) with brightness and contrast set appropriately. (See http://wearcam.org/wearhow/node17.html for notes on how to connect a computer to a television with reduced power requirement useful for battery operated wearable or portable systems.)

Better viewing of images, something that cannot be done as readily or as meaningfully using audition, is also an important goal of the G Linaccess project.

The first phase of the G Linaccess effort has been the design of an XF86Config file suitable to the visually challenged. I optimized this originally for output on a tube running at increased anode voltage, on the order of 6000 volts on a 0.7 inch tube, 640 by 480 pixel resolution running on a "wearable computer" (WearComp).

Early implementation:

I put together a simple set of commands including xterm40, xterm30, and xterm20 to allow for creation of large-font xterms. The window manager is also configured for easy movement from one window to the next without using a mouse. An important consideration was the decision not to use a mouse, because of the visual dexterity, visual attention, etc., that pointing devices tend to demand. Various window manager files are included, the preferred being .fvwm2rc for the fvwm2 window manager. Pointerless (mouseless) operation is facilitated in each of these.

A .xinitrc file is also included, which execs fvwm2 in the background. A clock is the last item, rather than the fvwm2. This makes it easier to kill the window manager and start a different window manager.

The clock is large but transparent, so that it is easy to read, but doesn't block too much of the screen (because of its transparency). An exclusive or (EOR) clock is in the works, and will provide for zero occlusion so that users can enjoy a large easy-to-read clock that doesn't consume any workable screen real-estate.

overall, the choice of colours has been white foreground and black background for best readability.

Other uses, such as wearable computing:

In addition to the visually challenged, G Linaccess is also meant to run on various kinds of devices where computing is a secondary task. Accordingly, the goal is to reduce the amount of visual information processing needed to use a computer system. Thus one might, for example, use a computer (such as laser EyeTap built into sunglasses) while walking down stairs or jogging. It is desired that the computer not require excessive attention span, otherwise it may distract from the primary task.

G Linaccess also runs on the WearTel wearable wristwatch videophone (see http://wearcam.org/wristcam) which has a very small screen (0.7 inches). The G Linaccess package makes it possible to see the screen clearly from arm's length.

Ongoing work:

Many of the GNU Linux commands are being re-written to operate on a reduced character screen (e.g. to work nicely on a 30x12 text screen). Eventually it is hoped also to be able to provide BIOS and DOS commands also in large font-compatible forms. However, the initial release includes just GNU Linux commands that have thus far been made "accessible".

Further reading: CYBORG:

Digital Destiny... Wearable Computing

Quick start to using G Linaccess

Ideally, set up your xf86config file for 640 across and 480 down, in true 24bpp color. If you must use a larger screen resolution, you may want to experiment with the various commands like "x30" to make it fill your screen entirely.

To install G Linaccess:

How to use glinaccess:

Some of the G Linaccess commands for the x30 environment

here are some commands you can try inside the x30 terminal

the www browser, lynx, is not one of the commands because it already works quite nicely in any of the above windows (e.g. x20, x30, x40, etc.), except for x10. vi also works in all but x10. if you patch vi or lynx to work well in an x10 window, please email me your patches.

an accessible graphical www browser, glynx, is currently in the works.

if you find bugs, or if you have other commands that you'd like to see supported in linaccess, please email me.

Contact info: Prof. Steve Mann, University of Toronto, Department of Electrical Engineering, 10 King's College Road, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G4 mann@eecg.toronto.edu.

this file is called READNOW.HTM because files called README.HTM don't seem to show up in a file listing under various browsers such as lynx, glynx, dillo, etc..