Accessibility for person with a motor disability

Eric Johansson esj at
Wed Mar 21 19:32:44 UTC 2018

On 3/21/2018 3:03 PM, Mats L wrote:
> Eric,
> It's always very good to have a person speaking on behalf of himself
> or herself as a user representing an actual need. There is a lack of
> this for people with mobility based access problems in these forums
> for free software, compared to the areas of low or no vision. Part of
> the problem is the really wide and diverse range of needs regarding
> physical access - disabilities as well as abilities. (Regarding
> cognitive disabilities and needs there is a general lack of people at
> all able and interested in speaking and doing things on behalf of
> those needs in the GNU/Linux world.) So thanks for stepping in! I'll
> be looking at your ideas with great interest.
I also think part of the challenge with providing mobility related
accessibility features is that those of us who are technical enough to
understand what to do no longer have hands to make it happen so we count
on people like you to work with us building prototype features. I did
that with togglename when I had enough money to pay somebody to write
code for me.
>  But remember that speech input is a dead end for a large part of
> users with mobility based access problems, those who have impaired or
> no speech.
Yes. Speech recognition is useful only if the person has a functioning
vocal apparatus. I'm reminded of this every time I get a cold. :-)

> Eye-gaze input is another hot area where it seems unrealistic to
> expect any decently competitive and user-friendly solutions in the
> free software domain in any near future.
> This said, I think it's very good to have Alex ask these questions
> about what's available. A decent awareness about the state of the art
> is always a necessary starting point for some improvement. And people
> have difficulties even finding their way to existing solutions. Things
> like decent head-tracking, on-screen keyboards (OSK) etc are really
> important to have available, and are life savers for some users, even
> though there is a huge potential of improvements.

This is a place where a foundation could really help. Like you point
out, all the accessibility features we have are really important and can
mean the difference between watching the clock tick for the rest your
life and being able to participate in society at some level.

I wish there were some foundation money to help us build new interfaces,
not accessibility tools but different interfaces for using tools like
speech recognition, I tracking, head tracking etc. to operate in larger
chunks and not emulating the fine-grained motions of a mouse or keyboard.

> One thing that makes me frustrated is the sustained tendency of
> unnecessary fragmentation and lack of collaboration even in this area
> of handling basic accessibility needs. Why don't for example the
> people involved in maintaining and developing Caribou and Onboard team
> up and unite on one common OSK with a wider range of functionality and
> options - for all GNU/Linux distros and flavours, and with support
> from them?
> Dasher <>is really an example of
> the kind of needs based, unorthodox and innovative solutions for text
> input that you were asking for. Have you tried it? As a second best,
> compared to excellent speech recognition, I think it could be relevant
> for you? But there I guess we now also have a problem with continued
> maintenance since David MacKay
> <> so unfortunately
> passed away.
> Maintaining decent accessibility for all in an ever changing ICT
> universe is not an easy task, and particularly not on the free
> software platforms it seems, so far ...

You've hit on a really big issue. Too much fragmentation, not enough
concentrated support to solve the problem and use it everywhere.

dasher doesn't work for me because I can't move the mouse fast enough or
accurately enough to pick off letters and I'm terrible at spelling. By
the way, that's a serious side effect of using speech recognition. Your
ability to spell degrades...

For a while, I was going to the local A11y meet up and when I described
my issues, I got back a bunch of blank looks. These people had no idea
how to deal with accessibility needs like mine. part of the challenge of
using speech recognition is not just the speech recognition and the
application modifications but it's that using speech recognition in open
office is kind of counterproductive to other people's work. It's about
as easy to relax and speak as it would be to try to take a pee in a
bucket in an open office.

So if you want, I'll be glad to keep chiming in and be as constructive
as possible. If someone feels like trying to prototype fitting the
Dragon browser extensions into something like electron, I'd be glad to
work with them.

--- eric

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