Accessibility issues in Open Source

OATS Meeting Aftermath 1

On the 8th of August 2006 the BCS Open Source Specialist Group and the BCS Disability Specialist Group welcomed Simon Judge to present the work of the Open Source Assistive Technology Software project (OATSOFT).

Simon discussed the aims of assistive technology in general and demonstrated the state of the art using illustrative videos demonstrating some of the assistive technology devices that he helps to deploy in his work. The OATS project was then introduced and the various facilities offered by the project including the Forge, the academic resources, discussion forums and most importantly the list of Open Source assistive technology systems.

Much of the floor discussion during the presentation revolved around the input problems experienced by users of assistive technology systems. Though innovative systems are available, they are often not widely adopted due to issues such as the initial learning curve, the availablity of support and the cost of any specialist hardware required.

The floor were also interested in the possibilities offered by using commodity hardware such as old mice and commodity computing devices in place of expensive dedicated devices. Coupled with the Open Source assistive technology components offered by OATS, this could provide a new route to better assistive technology.


Archived mailing lists

As part of the migration from Plone to WordPress and related pieces of software, the old mailing lists have been extracted from Plone and archived. Hereafter, mailing lists will be organised as follows:
This list is used for discussing committee business. The archives are open but only committee members may join the list.
This is a low-traffic list used for OSSG event announcements. Posting is restricted to committee members.
A members discussion list, though we would prefer members to discuss issues using the blog comment pages.

The old mailing list archives may be found here:

Committee Forum
Committee discussion
Discussion of issues surround business and open source.
Member Forum
Member event announcements
Licensing discussion
eGovernment and Open Source
Discussion of Open Source in eGovernment
Knowledge Management and Open Source
Using open source for knowledge management
Agile Methods and Open Source
Relationship between Agile Methods and Open Source
Legal Issues surrounding Open Source
Discussion of legal issues involvng Open Source
Accessibility and Open Source
Discussion of Accessiblity in Open Source
Education and Open Source
Use of Open Source in Education

Apologies for any duplicate messages etc. The archives were produced by screen-scraping the old Plone site. Not ideal.

Voice control 3

A good number of people who were at the meeting yesterday (14th March 2005 for those reading this sometime after posting) will no doubt have discussed this in the break. It got me thinking a bit since the IBM ViaVoice has been discontinued on the Linux platform and I couldn’t think of any current projects in the field. I had a vague feeling in the back of my mind that I had read something related to one of the desktops, probably Gnome as that’s the one I’ve had most interest in (although I use XFCE myself), but this could easily have been a discussion that there should be something!

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine that there was nothing at all on the subject, even if there was nothing useable, so I’ve delved into Google and my bookmarks and come up with a few useful links – and since I said I’d post anything I found on the site, here’s a new forum as well

OK, starting with the more generic stuff:

First up there’s an old artilce in the Linux Gazette, although this doesn’t get into anything technical and is far to high level to be of any real use:

There’s also an article in Linux Journal on using ViaVoice with XVoice. I’ve not read it yet, but since ViaVoice is no longer available it seems of little use:

There’s some discussion on integrating ViaVoice with KDE as well, but I’ve not found more than some basic discussion of whether it is a good idea so far. I’ve also come across comments on GVoice for Gnome, but nothing particularly useful on it yet, and I think it is basically dictation based.

There’s a links page with various speech related sites, some of which no longer exist, here: (not all voice recognition though, much is synthesis).

Getting into the more specific implementation based sites I have have the already mentioned XVoice:

this looks to me more dictation based unfortunately and also relies on ViaVoice.

The Open-Source Speech Recognition Initiative site looks pretty dead, but the list appears to still be active and may be worth a look:

The FreeSpeech project has renamed itself to Open Mind Speech and looks promising, but is still in the fairly early stages of development:

There’s a site on Automated Speech Recognition that looks to be research based with some code available, although I’ve not quite managed to get my head around exactly what is going on there yet!:

CVoiceControl appears to have taken over from KVoiceControl and then stalled and is looking for someone to take over the project:

There’s a couple of sites on CMU Sphinx which looks interesting, but I’m not sure whether it is able to work with desktop/application control or not – it probably depends how much development work you’re willing/able to put in There’s two links:

Most promising of the lot looks to be PerlBox which acts as a front end to the above CMU Sphinx system (amongst others) and from a reference article looks to be able to control the desktop to some extent with PerlBox Voice. It is customisable, but looks to be mainly application launching based, so what is involved to get more application control I’m not sure. It also looks to be of most use if you are using KDE.

Hopefully the above links will be a good starting point to further investigation. I’ve not delved far into any of them yet, but given time (more elusive than the Scarlet Pimpernel that commodity!) I may. I’ve just got to get sound working on my system first, I’m afraid I’ve never seen it as a high priority and I’m not a boxed Linux user, so its not thrown on by default – my systems are mainly CLI based only or a somewhat customised Debian desktop!