Blind computing

Text of my e-mail to Bong Copuyoc:

Dear Bong,

I’m glad to hear that you’re working on an article focusing on
assistive technology! I started looking into it because I wanted to be
able to use my computer while walking around. Although the
head-mounted display looked really cool, it was heavy and conspicuous.
Fortunately, free and open-source tools such as the Festival Lite
speech synthesizer and the Emacspeak audio desktop made it easy for me
to glue together a system that let me browse, read mail, and do all
sorts of things without looking at my computer.

I’ve Cc:’d Richard Burgos, the IBM guy who told me about their
wonderful Computer Eyes workshop. They gave me an opportunity to help
out before, and I can tell you that it is an amazing experience.
However, the JAWS screen reader costs a lot (USD 895). Richard – IBM
has helped people with disabilities for far longer than I have;
perhaps you can spare time from your Christmas preparations to help
this journalist out? =)

With the increasing interest in Linux as a low-cost alternative even
for sighted users, maybe you can help convince your readers that Linux
training will benefit sighted and visually impaired users alike. I’m
sure that the Philippine Linux Users’ Group (http://plug.linux.org.ph)
and organizations like the Bluepoint Foundation
(http://www.bluepoint.com.ph) would be willing to help out.

You might be interested in the BLinux community
(http://leb.net/blinux/). They have an active mailing list and will
probably answer questions promptly.

Major distributions are beginning to support blind users out of the
box. If I’m not mistaken, you can get a Redhat install CD with speech
support (requires a hardware speech synthesizer). Knoppix comes with
Braille support out of the box.

Smaller distributions also cater to the needs of the visually
impaired. Oralux (http://www.oralux.org/), a live-CD distribution
based on Knoppix, has Emacspeak and the Festival Lite speech
synthesizer – allowing you to use practically any computer with a
supported sound card. Brlspeak (http://www.brlspeak.net/) has Braille
and partial speech support and can be installed on an existing FAT
hard disk without repartitioning.

Good luck and have fun!

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