Accessible Live CD update (gfxboot)

Henrik Nilsen Omma henrik at
Thu Feb 2 12:39:02 GMT 2006

Luke Yelavich wrote:

>So how do totally blind people navigate this? Speech is impossible
>at this time I am sure.
Yes, generated speech is impossible in the boot loader, though we were 
talking about using recorded speech files. However, I'm not sure it's 
worth doing, because once you have selected the fact that you want AT 
features, the only thing left to do most often is select you language, 
and so the recorded files would basically be an English voice saying 
'Select language X' where X is one of ~40 languages, most of which are 
not supported in Festival anyway.

Currently the CD works like this: You start it up and you get a welcome 
screen. You can either just press Enter and it will boot completely to 
Gnome, no questions asked. Alternatively you can press F2 to select a 
language, F3 for low-end VGA and F4 for various other HW options. Once 
you have selected those settings, you press Enter and the system boots 
with no further questions asked.

We plan to modify it in the following way: You boot the CD and get the 
greeter screen and a single beep. In addition to the other options you 
can now also press F4 for the AT menu. When the menu opens, you hear 
another beep. On that menu you can select with arrows+enter or simply 
press a number from 1-7+enter. Upon selection an option you would hear a 
double beep as confirmation.

So, a blind user (having read some basic instructions on the web -- or 
in an accompanying letter in braille ...). Would insert the CD, boot and 
wait for the first beep. She would then press F4 (having this 
information ahead of time) and hear the second beep. Then she would 
press 3+enter  and hear a double beep confirming that the AT system has 
been enabled. Finally she would press enter to start the boot. The 
system would then boot completely to Gnome without further questions. 
Gnopernicus would be enabled from start and would read out the contents 
of the screen. I think that's fairly simple, and certainly more 
accessible than any mainstream OS I know of.

Optionally, we can do the same for language, so you could press 'F2', 
followed by 'de'+enter for German. Of course Festival only has support 
for a handful of languages anyway AFAIK.

Also, optionally later on, we could add better support for low-vision 
users at the boot prompt. You could press F4+2 for the low vision 
option, and that could then change the fonts in gfxboot to very large, 
which would then be helpful in selecting language, etc.

>Have you looked at language/keyboard selection to be spoken? Is d-i 
>still doing this, or is this done with gfxboot/UbuntuExpress?
gfxboot will handle the language question and UbuntuExpress will 
remember your choice (but also allow you to change it AFAIR). So if you 
picked the wrong language during boot, you could still change it while 
installing AFAIU.

- Henrik

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