Sunday, January 27, 2008

IOSN Accessibility Workshop for the Visually Impaired

Yesterday, I joined Khairil Yusof (Kaeru) for IOSN Accessibility Workshop for the Visually Impaired at Malaysian Association for the Blind, KL. It was organized under Free/Open Source Software Society of Malaysia (FOSS-SM) and United Nation's International Open Source Network (IOSN)

I'm still waiting for Kaeru to post a blog about it as he has the most details. But here's my part of the story.

It was very interesting to be there where we actually get first hand information about the blind's concerns about accessible websites and softwares, income opportunities, technical skills, etc. There are blinds who have a high technical capability but their talent are ignored due to their condition.

Orca works great too, though we haven't field test it yet. The GNOME HIG helps for making applications accessible and that is great. However, as usual, the voices are monotonous. It would be great if we can have clearer and nicer voices.

I tested their braille monitor too on my Fedora laptop. At first it couldn't work, but after a little googling I was pointed to brltty, a tty viewer to braille monitors. Brltty, on text-only linux, works very great!. It's very interesting seeing that Fazlin (one of the blind person who attend the workshop) can explore the shell , as perfect as a sighted person, using the braille monitor!. Kaeru and I was quite excited seeing a great opportunity for them to try to get some income as linux/unix sysadmins or open source developers. Its hard nowadays to find people who appreciate the shell even from the sighted - I blame Windows for that - and seeing how the blinds can benefit from the shell, it made us quite excited and happy. If they can try taking LPI and pass it, I don't see any reason why they couldn't find income from it.

However, I couldn't get the braille monitor to work with Orca, I've launched brltty, yum'ed for brlapi, python-brlapi, Pyrex, configured Orca to use braille output, but still, it could not print the braille characters. The braile monitor printed something on but Fazlin said that it printed (I don't remember the exact sentence) "Terminal is not in text mode". Do anybody know what I missed? Anybody know how to fix this and make stuff works?.

FOSS-SM will continue to work with MAB for this research and try to help the visually impaired to have similar, if not same, opportunities for them in accessing information and knowledge easily , finding employment and income opportunities in the ICT world, help them lead a better life and on the same time, spreading the love of Free/Open Source Software throughout Malaysia and the world. I am looking forward for the next meetup for this project and see how I myself can try utilizing and improving stuff for them and maybe push some stuff back to Fedora upstream (Docs, guide, packages, custom tools etc).

p/s: Kaeru want ubuntu for them, I want fedora for them :P - at least theres already one Fedora spin for the visually impaired - SpeakupModified
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