Eyes-free feedback on Ubuntu 11.04

We have had some feedback on the ubuntu-accessibility mailing list which I would like to bring to a wider audience, Dave Hunt is blind and using an Asus 1015PE (a netbook) as his work-a-day system.

“I am running Ubuntu 11.04, but still with classic Gnome.  Unlike on the live cd, there are no crashes like we saw, now that I’ve installed it to hard drive.  The machine is not vinucized; that is, I did an eyes-free, independent install from the stock 11.04 image.  Orca got screwed up during the animated slide show that runs while the install is in progress.  When I got to the final step, I turned Orca off and hit the ‘install’ button.  Then, I just walked away, and came back to the machine after about a half-hour.  I assumed all was ready, ejected the usb drive, and rebooted.  To my delight, The narwhale came up talking, on the gdm screen.

Access to the Indicator Applet (the thing used for setting up wifi, checking the battery, etc, is a bit flaky, but, fortunately, one doesn’t need to play with the thing often.  I activated keyboard shortcuts for adjusting volume.  Next, I added the apt repositories for the Orca daily builds, installed Thunderbird, Drobbox, and a few other things I like.  In every stock Ubuntu system I’ve ever used, Orca won’t give access to the gui admin apps, unless one runs them from the terminal, with sudo.

The next thing I noticed was that the skype api plugin for empathy and pidgin does not work fully in Natty.  I can make calls, send and receive text messages, but cannot accept incoming calls.  I hear the ring tone, see the ‘accept’ dialogue, but attempts to accept do nothing.

I have about 12 gb of tunes, mostly in ‘mp3’ files.  In prior Ubuntu distros, I could manage this music collection with the Rhythmbox application.  In 11.04, Banshee is the new media player. Before I loaded my music collection, Banshee could open and play streams.  Now that the music is in place, Banshee will not fully open, and attempts to run it result in a frozen X session.  I installed Rhythmbox for comparison.  Rhythmbox will browse my files, create the indices, and play the music.  It will not, however, save  the database for future sessions.

Finally, Something I unwittingly did on Saturday has resulted in a system in which Orca will, sometimes, not start post-login.  I get the login drums and talking gdm screen.  I log in.  I get the post-login music, then, sometimes, nothing.  If I wait a minute or more, then manually start Orca, it still won’t go.  I have to pull the switch and restart; maybe it will work.

Well, there, you have it!  I’m not sure whether I’ll down-grade, change distros, or just make this thing work.  I have a stubborn streak that makes the third option most appealing.”

a few days later Dave updated us with his progress, now with Unity

“I decided to change the desktop, on this trusty netbook, to Unity from Classic Gnome, having remembered decent accessibility when I played with it at a Ubuntu Beta Bug Jam at a Canonical office.

In my previous message, you’ll recall, I mentioned trouble accessing the indicator applet, where one chooses network connection, checks battery, restarts, etc.  I’m happy to report that these menus are easy to find and read when using Unity.  I like how they are attached to the menu strip for the focused application.  Using that filter string to get quickly to a subset of the items found in Preferences, is very nice, too, so long as one knows what she/he is looking for.  For instance, I typed “login screen” into the filter, and found myself right on the “unlock” button.  The shortcuts, ‘super+0’ through ‘super+9’ are very quick and convenient; What a great idea!

Now, here are the things that still need some work, perhaps the team is already aware of these?  Context menus for launcher buttons do not speak.  The speaking of Unity menu names, as one scrubs with left or right arrow is inconsistent.  All Unity menu items (wifi options, volume/mute, etc, are spoken as “checkbox unchecked”; I happen to know what is a checkbox, and what is not, but, this should be fixed.  The new-style “places” options do not speak.  Partial results in the ‘run’ dialogue do not speak.  Finally, when switching applications with ‘alt+tab” or ‘alt+shift+tab’ keys, Orca will not speak while the modifier key(s) held down.  When keys released, Orca, first, speaks the name of the application that had focus, then the name of the newly-focused application.  This requires that user memorize the order of applications in the stack, an unnecessary distraction.”

Accessibility at the Ubuntu Developer Summit

Last week was the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest, this marks the start of the development cycle for the Oneiric Ocelot release of Ubuntu which will be out in October. This is where the strategic discussions take place to decide what work items can be achieved in the next 6 months, and how the work in the next 12 months leads up to the next long term support release. There were four sessions specifically on accessibility, but it was also raised as a consideration in a number of discussions of other subject matters, including a segment of the keynote (audio here, starting around 21:30)

“We made major steps on Accessibility in Unity, we knew we couldn’t move to an entirely Unity based environment until we had accessibility absolutely sorted. Accessibility is one of our core values as a project and so I want to thank Luke and several other people who made substantial contributions to that we have a lot more work to do and that work will get finished in this coming cycle, so Luke and the other folk who led that, thank you very much” – Mark Shuttleworth

On the Wednesday evening about 30 people went on the outing to the Invisible Exhibition, you can read about it on Lyz’s writeup of day 3

Group photo of the people who went to the Invisible Exhibition

All the session notes were made using the collaborative etherpad editor integrated into the summit schedule website, but we are including them below as plain text for ease of reading with Orca, along with link to an audio recording of the session below each heading.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Invisible Exhibition at UDS

Imagine that all the lights go out…The Blogging Against Disablism image, 20 stick figures, some with symbols representing impairments

The Invisible Exhibition is a unique interactive journey to an invisible world, where in total darkness you find your way only by touch, sounds and scent.

Give us your blind trust!

If you join us, you will also be able to understand what life is like without one of the senses that  provides us with the most information, to live without your sight. At this exhibition you will be lead by blind or partially sighted people on a journey that will change perception and possibility even in your mind.

Interesting?
Strange?
Weird?
Or .. perhaps feels natural?
Could an hour of blindness open your eyes?
Could you use your computer running Ubuntu like this?

In the “Meet Daniela” post on April 6 we mentioned the Invisible Exhibition in Budapest which will be going on while many folks are in town for the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS). We have picked up the idea for attending this at UDS and with the Ubuntu Hungarian team have planned an outing open to all UDS attendees to the exhibition on the evening of Wednesday May 11th.

We need to buy the tickets for this exhibition in advance and arrange an English language guide so we request that everyone registers by this Friday the 6th to be guaranteed a spot so we can contact the exhibition with an estimate on the size of our group. However, we will accept registrations through the afternoon of Monday the 9th as we will be purchasing tickets Monday evening.

Registration is being handled through the LoCo Directory here: http://loco.ubuntu.com/events/team/949/detail/

Costs are detailed here, we’re not sure yet whether we’ll meet the group rate and an English-speaking guide costs extra per group: http://www.lathatatlan.hu/en/what-is-it/tickets/ A couple of community members will be handle paying for the tickets up front, and once we know how much final costs are we will let you know and you can pay us (in cash) at UDS.

We must meet directly after the final session of the day as we plan on leaving at 6:15 sharp to catch public transit over to the exhibition. After this exhibition we plan of going out to dinner, but you’re welcome to make your own plans.

If you have accessibility needs or any other questions please don’t hesitate to contact lyz@ubuntu.com as soon as possible so we can be sure to make proper arrangements.