November 17th, 2007, 08:54 AM
First of all let me start by saying, I like what Ubuntu has done so far for accessibility for the blind. It is however not without its flaws. I hope to speak of what I have noticed with the 7.10 build of Ubuntu and provide options of improvement. After a bit of roaming through the forums, I actually found ubuntu's installation to be one of the easiest I have encountered. However, once you get everything installed and logged in, here is where the issues begin. First, the screen resolution that the gnome desktop is set to by default is not a standard resolution for most computer monitors. It should be set to at least a standard 1024 by 768. Not only because many older monitors will not accept the non standard resolution but also because, the higher the screen resolution is, the slower Orca's response becomes. Second, many of the administrative dialog boxes are not accessible while in a standard user account. However, once the blind user is able to log in as root, all of the dialog boxes become accessible. The largest problem in this area is that in order to enable root log in, the user has to assign a new password for root. You guessed it, it is another inaccessible admin dialog box that you have to go to in order to change the settings. I do understand that you can just type in sudo su, quit the screen reader and restart it with a special command but, from a usability perspective, that is just not a practical nor efficient way of having to do things. What I may suggest in this area is during the install process, give the user the chance to assign their own root username and password along with their standard user account. I understand the lock out procedure used by ubuntu is done for security purposes but because of it ubuntu remains inaccessible to a blind user in many many ways. Third, the version of Mozilla Firefox being installed in ubuntu 7.10 is not a version that is considered accessible. What a blind user must do, is first install either Grand Paradiso or Minefield. There is of course more than one way to do this through the terminal but for those blind users coming from Microsoft Windows they want list boxes and buttons. Again, we run into that admin dialog box problem again with the software package manager. There are also many other things that are not set in an accessible fashion such as the alt tab hotkey for window switching. Orca will not read the pretty picture mode that gnome is set to in ubuntu by default. Once the user changes it out of all of the pretty sliding menus and fading dialog boxes to just a standard behavior though this problem resolves itself. In conclusion, all of these things could all be resolved if the user were able to assign their own root username and password during the install and it wasn't set to a mode to lock the user out of the root account. Aside from that, the ubuntu team has done a very nice job at making it accessible to most everyone, now with that little fix, it can become accessible to many more.