Linaccess: GNUX For Low Vision

G Linaccess (Accessible GNU/Linux) is GNUX for the partially sighted or visually challenged. The purpose of the G Linaccess project is to make computers accessible to those with low vision, in a way that does not require the use of a text-to-speech converter or other devices normally used by the blind.

With G Linaccess, those with low vision can still enjoy the visual aspects of computing through the use of enlarged fonts, which are optimally designed in contrast and shape to be readable, despite visual defects that may prevent the person from reading traditional large-print books and the like. Moreover, through the use of OCR, people can acquire the text of articles and consume this material on the screen of a cathode-ray tube or laser EyeTap device by virtue of its much higher contrast ratio than that of paper and other print media used for large-print books.

The first phase of the G Linaccess effort has been the design of an XF86Config file suitable to the visually challenged. Next, I put together a simple set of commands including xterm40, xterm30 and xterm20 to allow for creation of large-font xterms. The window manager is also configured for easy movement from one window to the next without using a mouse. An important consideration was the decision to not use a mouse because of the visual dexterity, visual attention, etc. that pointing devices tend to demand, and also the difficulty of implementing a good pointing device on a wristwatch.

Various window-manager files are included, the preferred being .fvwm2rc for the FVWM2 window manager. Pointerless (mouseless) operation is facilitated in each of these.

An .xinitrc file is also included, which executes FVWM2 in the background. A clock, rather than the FVWM2, is the last item. This makes it easier to kill the window manager and start a different one. It is assumed that if a wristwatch were to have only one window remaining after you killed off all the others, the last to go should be the clock.

The clock is large but transparent, so it is easy to read without blocking too much of the screen (because of its transparency). An exclusive or (EOR) clock is in the works, and will provide for zero occlusion so that users can enjoy a large easy-to-read clock that doesn't consume any workable screen real estate.

The choice of colours has been a white foreground and a black background for best readability.

I have four students now who are helping with this project and re-writing many of the GNUX commands to operate on a reduced-character screen. We're getting these to work nicely on a 30x12 text screen. An accessible FreeSource BIOS is also planned for later.

To use G Linaccess:

Here is a list of the window-creation commands I support and the X window sizes each produces:

x47, x56 and x62 are arbitrary sizes that I created by experimenting with different fonts. On my computer, I found they were very readable on a variety of tubes and eyetap devices. x80 is just a normal window, and is included so that a non-visually-challenged user can use this system, since so much of the world is based on the traditional 80x24 window size.

A number of non-visually-challenged users are using linaccess, simply because it results in less eyestrain and is more comfortable for long-term use. In this case, a mixture of different window sizes are used (x80 where needed, and others such as x40 where there's no particular formatting of text). Presently, most of linaccess is prepared for an x30 window (e.g., 30 letters across and 12 down). If you type the x30 command, you should get a nicely readable window. If the x30 window has strange spacing or doesn't work with all the other programs, try changing the font size by just one number. In particular, change -*-courier-bold-r-normal--32-0-*-*-*-*-*-* to -*-courier-bold-r-normal--31-0-*-*-*-*-*-* or -*-courier-bold-r-normal--30-0-*-*-*-*-*-*. On some systems, the available fonts vary, and certain ones don't produce well-formed letters. You will need to experiment until the letters are well-formed and produce as little eyestrain as possible.