Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Two Screen Readers for Linux

The Linux Screen Reader (LSR) is an application that transforms the contents of the computer screen to other media, enabling non-visual access to the graphical Gnome desktop environment. The basic function of the screen reader is to report changes in the state of an application as a user interacts with it using the keyboard or other system input device. What is reported to the user and what commands are available for controlling the screen reader are determined by cascading scripts that completely define the user experience. The scripts can be loaded and unloaded by the user at run time, and custom scripts can be written to improve the usability of certain applications and interactions. How information is reported to the user and how the user gives input are determined by one or more configured input and output devices. Like scripts, devices can be loaded and unloaded by the user at run time, and custom device profiles can be written to support new methods of input and output (e.g. Braille, speech, switches, and joysticks).

The current implementation defines a keyboard device for input and a speech device for output using the IBM ViaVoice speech engine. A default script that responds to focus, selection, and caret changes in the active application is included. The default script also defines some basic keyboard commands for navigating applications, setting the speech rate, and reporting where the user focus currently lies. Documentation is included with the source code.

This technology was created by Pete Brunet, Larry Weiss, Peter Parente, and Brett Clippingdale. They can be reached through e-mail. at

Another software speech synthesizer with capability for nine languages is also available for Linux. Click this link to check out TTSynth at http://TTSynth.Com.

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