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Thread: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

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  1. #1
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    Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    Currently, I'm using Gnome 2/Classic in Ubuntu 11.04, with workrave, a patch for the touchpad, and various fixes to restore and widen the scrollbars. I'm getting all sorts of bugs from the update manager. I'd install 10.04 LTS but the patch for the touchpad requires at least 11.04 so I can't do that. I'd like to find an accessible and still-supported version of Linux which fits my needs:

    1. I am not a programmer.

    2. I have trouble with manual coordination: can't form a conventional pencil grip, can't use 'tapping' on touchpads, can't hold most styli, and can't type two-handed. Also can't avoid accidentally 'tapping' on touchpads, so it's important to be able to disable tapping.

    3. I have various arm injuries, and scrollwheels give a stabbing pain in the back of my hand.

    4. I have a lot of trouble with visible-on-mouseover features, like the broken scrollbars. Also invisible features and excessively small buttons/narrow features which are too hard to select are a problem.

    5. I use LibreOffice a lot, and often have two or three documents, in the same program, open at once.

    6. [New] I don't have much experience with joysticks, but I understand that an analog joystick might be an alternative to a mouse.

    What versions of Linux would people suggest? I tried Xubuntu 11.10 but had a bad install and found I couldn't disable the touchpad in it, so went back to Ubuntu 11.04.

    [New] Does anyone have experience using joysticks in place of mice?
    Last edited by MarjaE; July 17th, 2012 at 06:07 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    Found the Assistive Technology and Accessibility forum. Perhaps this should be moved there?

  3. #3
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    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    Moved to Assistive Technology & Accessibility.

  4. #4
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    Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    KDE is very configurable and that might be useful for you, some ideas:

    - To deactivate the touchpad while typing you can install kde-config-touchpad and the option will be available under system settings.

    - In mouse settings you can choose to use the numeric keyboard arrow keys to move the mouse pointer.

    - In keyboard settings you can activate "sticky keys" if key combinations like ctrl+c are problematic.

    - Bear in mind that most programs can be used without a mouse. In Libreoffice's menus the underlined letters indicate that that option is accessible with alt+<letter>

    just some ideas.

  5. #5
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    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    I'm probably going to need to switch soon.

    Anyway...

    Typing hurts. Mousing hurts. Typing more doesn't improve things.

    Unity was an utter unusable disaster for me. One reason is because I often go back and forth between different documents. I'm not sure how anyone would use a computer without going back and forth between different documents, such as two sets of typed-up notes, and the sources. Gnome 2 made that relatively easy. Unity made that much more difficult, and besides, made finding things much more difficult.

    I looked over Kubuntu again, and the Wikipedia article says it's full of eye candy. If that means nonsense like visible-on-mouseover features/bugs, like animations, like deleting the scrollbars, etc. then so it won't be accessible for me. If it uses the same workflow approach as Unity it won't be very usable for me either.

    Sorry to rant but I'm coping with non-stop arm pain, or not coping as the case may be, and I want to get things sorted out.

  6. #6
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    Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    Quote Originally Posted by MarjaE View Post
    I looked over Kubuntu again, and the Wikipedia article says it's full of eye candy. If that means nonsense like visible-on-mouseover features/bugs, like animations, like deleting the scrollbars, etc. then so it won't be accessible for me. If it uses the same workflow approach as Unity it won't be very usable for me either.
    No, no visible on-mousover things or dissapearing scrollbars in KDE. Also it has a bottom panel in which the open documents appear, like in Gnome 2 or Windows.

    I suggested KDE because it is very customizable and there are higher chances that you find a configuration that suits you, but only you can judge that.

    Why don't you download Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu, burn them to CD and actually try them?

  7. #7
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    Re: Looking for an accessible version of Linux due to arm/hand issues

    Because I've had to download a patch just to fix the touchpad...

    When you need to customize a lot of things, the live cd doesn't really work. I installed Xubuntu last year assuming I'd be able to customize everything I need to. I was wrong. I wasn't able to customize the touchpad settings because Xubuntu didn't even have touchpad settings. I also had a lot of trouble with a buggy installer [it kept demanding an internet connection *during the install process*], which led to trouble with a buggy system [the system clock was always wrong, and I couldn't reset it, and I only broke things trying].

  8. #8
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    Which desktops and which distros are accessible for users with arm and hand injuries?

    I am still using Gnome 2 in Ubuntu 11.04, but it leaves my arms aching. I have been able to patch the touchpad, to restore the scrollbars, and to reset the scrollbars so they are wide enough to use. Unfortunately, I understand that fixing the scrollbars can break newer versions of Ubuntu, and I know that using older versions will break the touchpad patch, so I can't back up to 10.04 LTS.

    I have tried Unity. Couldn't use it.

    I have tried KDE. Either it doesn't have touchpad support, or it doesn't work with the touchpad patch, so I need to use the mouse and keep away from the keyboard or everything goes haywire. It has other accessibility issues, involving the brightness settings and the narrow scrollbars, that I haven't been able to fix.

    I have tried XFCE. Again either it doesn't have touchpad support, or it doesn't work with the touchpad patch, so I need to use the mouse and keep away from the keyboard or everything goes haywire.

    I have always been too clumsy, even before these injuries, to use ergonomic keyboards, touchpad tapping/gestures, touch screens, styli too small to hold, trackballs, and mouse settings that start them clicking randomly.

  9. #9
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    Re: Which desktops and which distros are accessible for users with arm and hand injur

    Are you a keyboard shortcut kind of guy or a mouse kind of guy, given the choice? And by touchpad are you talking about the pointing device found on laptops or are you talking about a drawing tablet of some sort?

    I don't know if any touchpad support is available, but if you aren't afraid of an old-school type interface you could try out fvwm.

    The reason I mention it is because you can configure the window and menu behavior in much finer detail than you can in any other window manager I've used. That's the good part. The bad part is you HAVE to do all that.

    I haven't used it in years, but I've been looking at it again as I am not really happy with the current batch of WMs. I've been using XFCE as a stopgap to my sanity.

    If you're into keyboard shortcuts, then just about any behavior can be mapped to a shortcut. The window border width can be chosen from zero (nothing visible, you need a keyboard modifier to be able to resize) to any size I ever imagined. You can map center-click on the mouse to ALWAYS pop up your application menu if you like, and the list goes on.

    If you want a button for each app, then that's a frequent thing for FVWM, and you can make the buttons any size or location on your screen. If you want a single shortcut to open 27 different applications on 6 different virtual desktops and have the windows open up in specific places with specific dimensions, then FVWM is your baby.

    Better yet, you can get on the fvwm forum and grab somebody's config file to get a place to start that's close to what you want, and modify from there. I'm sure somebody there can also help with touchpad support information.

    Note that FVWM is NOT a desktop environment. It's a window manager. It's meant to work with a bunch of other tools which, used together, can approximate a desktop environment. Fvwm also uses a text file for configuration, and so you're going to spend quite a bit of time editing that to make it work to your satisfaction. If this is not your thing, then you want to look elsewhere.
    Help stamp out MBR partitions. Use GPT instead!

  10. #10
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    Re: Which desktops and which distros are accessible for users with arm and hand injur

    Personally, neither keyboard nor mouse nor built-in touchpad works for me. All three require me to twist my elbow and wrist, and at times it can be quite painful. A joystick often works better for me, but it lacks the point control of the mouse.

    Thanks for the advice. I'll look into it, although I'm not that skilled with any system.

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