Accessibility with Orca under Linux
Vincent Le Goff
vincent.legoff.srs at gmail.com
Wed Aug 2 13:27:33 EDT 2017
I have recently switched to Linux (Ubuntu) and started using Pidgin for
a few protocols. It is very accessible, and some steps have already
been taken to make it really comfortable for screen reader users.
However, I find some strategies to be actually harming accessibility and
I would like to have your opinion, and get first ideas about how to
solve it. If it takes a plugin, despite my lack of knowledge about
Pidgin for the time being, I am quite willing to try and produce it.
First let me remind you of the context. I use Orca as a screen reader
on Ubuntu (the Gnome desktop). I installed Pidgin without any problem
and launched it. My primary need was to be able to talk on IRC, so I
created an account on the Freenode server and joined some channels in
development I have frequented for some time now. Typing text, and
reading the list of answers, is really easy with Orca, and without need
of any special feature. Every message that I send or receive from any
channel no matter in which window I am is spoken by Orca. And that's
where it gets a bit problematic: although it is usually a good thing for
accessibility, on very busy IRC channels, it turns into a practical
nightmare. Reading messages one by one becomes very difficult as they
are interrupted by new users adding in their two cents about the issue.
The user (I, in this case) gets confused on what was spoken first, what
was spoken last, and usually has the most remote concept of message
endings. In fact, on very busy IRC channels, this can prevent being
able to read anything when the audience rises to more than 5-6 users
speaking (with a rate of one message per second, for instance).
I thought, at first, that this was due to libnotify, and I went to
check. I removed all notifications to the system and this, at least,
solved an issue: I don't get interrupted when a new user joins one of my
protocols. However, removing the message notification in libnotify
didn't solve my most important issue. Although it is quite difficult
when you are in an active conversation, this becomes worse if you have
an active conversation in the background and are minding your own
business, coding or writing or reading. Interruptions don't cease with
the change of focus. Again, this can be a good feature for
accessibility, as long as the amount of messages doesn't go too high.
My first question would be: is this a feature or a side-effect? Perhaps
it's something hard-coded into Orca itself. If it's a side-effect, can
something be done about it already? I didn't see "accessibility" tab in
preferences, and I can understand why, the need isn't that great for
most users. I was thinking about adding a plugin with some internal
features to change the TTS (text-to-speech) configuration: do not talk
if I'm outside of the window, for instance. Or do not talk at all. Or
do not talk in this protocol. Or... you could have some interesting
settings there, actually. Of course, doing this as a plugin wouldn't
work if it's a feature that is coded in the main Pidgin client itself.
I would greatly appreciate your ideas and take on this issue. I know
this isn't a "common" issue, and I don't wish to make any developer's
life harder, quite the contrary!
Have a very good morning, afternoon or evening,
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