Contributed by marco on from the dept.
The free unix-alikes have done a little to support these enthusiastic users. The best attempts have come from the Linux and Emacs communities, with the various BSDs having paid little to no attention whatsoever. Hopefully, this is due to a lack of awareness.
Though there is a fair variety of text-to-speech screen-readers for Linux, few have been ported to the BSDs, and none of them to OpenBSD. Some of them simply aren't portable, some have restrictive licenses, still others are just so poorly written they'd make an OpenBSD developer cry tears.
So, what can we do to be more welcoming to our fellow enthusiasts? I think that porting and cleaning up what Linux has would be a good start. But screenreaders themselves don't offer much more than the ability to tinker with a new OS, which they can already do through a terminal session from Windows or OS X.
Better that the OS itself becomes (optionally) speech or braille enabled, so that the user is provided with the most important feature: autonomy. Without enabling the OS at the lowest level, the user lacks the ability to install it himself, to see the boot prompt, to know when he's been dropped into fsck or ddb. And he can't call up tech support or a friend; a sighted person must come to his location and read the display.
I've been told a good start would be to provide live CDs, pre-loaded and accessible, that they can carry anywhere. A better way is to provide kernel support for braille displays and speech synthesizers. Well, it takes a downward turn here -- these devices are extremely expensive. Braille displays can range from 4-11k USD in price. Ouch. Speech synthesizers are a little more affordable, with the popular DECTalk running around 1100 USD. It shouldn't be too hard to get some of those into the hands of a few who might enjoy writing a driver or custom kernel to support them. The real, and more interesting challenge is to do it all in free software and with everyday hardware.
Hell, I might even give it a go. :-)
Why not offer a clean, reliable UNIX to those who appreciate it for all the same reasons that we do? How's this for credibility, blind users adore ed(1), and at least one uses OpenBSD/vax. How many sighted UNIX users are that hardcore?
[ Note, OpenBSD does have a brltty port. See comments below. ]
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