It would be good for every WebDeveloper to be “blind for a week” and try to navigate his/her sites with a screen reader to get a feeling for what barrier freeness means.

It’s very important for WebSites to be “barrier free” meaning: visually impaired people are still able to navigate the site with help of a screen reader.

Some Programs like Firefox have a AT-SPI support.

“Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI) is, as was the intention from the beginning, a platform-neutral framework for providing bi-directional communication between assistive technologies (AT) and applications.[3] It is the de facto standard for providing accessibility to free and open desktops, like GNU/Linux or OpenBSD, lead by the GNOME Project.”

“The GNOME widget system, GTK+, or Mozilla applications like Firefox and Thunderbird for GNU/Linux implement ATK”

A good example of barrier free design:

barriere freiheit beispiel frankfurt

barrier free example

bad examples:

you can clearly see the the simplifications of the layout and navigation, compared to: EBAY: usability horror

for me EBAY is the worst in terms of usability… but Amazon is catching up 😀

it’s even too complicated for a person with normal vision to navigate and handle tasks.

screen reader software

screen readers are software that will read any text on the screen out loud so blind people can “hear” the text displayed.

one screen reader available for linux-gnome is orca:



setup orca

open the terminal and type:

orca -s; # start the orca config
# old version?
orca -t; # start the orca config

Screen reader setup.
Select desired speech server.
1. Default Synthesizer -> the default speech synthesizer, sounds very robotic but ok.
2. dummy -> a very BRITTISH slang ;)
4. flite
5. cicero
6. generic
Enter choice: 4
Enable echo by word?  Enter y or n: 
Please enter y or n.
Enable echo by word?  Enter y or n: ^C
Please enter y or n.
Enable echo by word?  Enter y or n: y
Enable key echo?  Enter y or n: y
Enable alphanumeric and punctuation keys?  Enter y or n: y
Enable modifier keys?  Enter y or n: y
Enable function keys?  Enter y or n: y
Enable action keys?  Enter y or n: y
Select desired keyboard layout.
1. Desktop
2. Laptop
Enter choice: 1
Enable Braille?  Enter y or n: y
Setup complete.  Press Return to continue.

languages supported by espeak:

Select desired voice:
1. espeak default voice (en)
2. afrikaans (af)
3. aragonese (an)
4. bulgarian (bg)
5. bosnian (bs)
6. catalan (ca)
7. czech (cs)
8. welsh (cy)
9. danish (da)
10. german (de)
11. greek (el)
12. default (en)
13. english (en)
14. en-scottish (en)
15. english-north (en)
16. english_rp (en)
17. english_wmids (en)
18. english-us (en)
19. en-westindies (en)
20. esperanto (eo)
21. spanish (es)
22. spanish-latin-am (es)
23. estonian (et)
24. persian (fa)
25. persian-pinglish (fa)
26. finnish (fi)
27. french-Belgium (fr)
28. french (fr)
29. irish-gaeilge (ga)
30. greek-ancient (grc)
31. hindi (hi)
32. croatian (hr)
33. hungarian (hu)
34. armenian (hy)
35. armenian-west (hy)
36. indonesian (id)
37. icelandic (is)
38. italian (it)
39. lojban (jbo)
40. georgian (ka)
41. kannada (kn)
42. kurdish (ku)
43. latin (la)
44. lingua_franca_nova (lfn)
45. lithuanian (lt)
46. latvian (lv)
47. macedonian (mk)
48. malayalam (ml)
49. malay (ms)
50. nepali (ne)
51. dutch (nl)
52. norwegian (no)
53. punjabi (pa)
54. polish (pl)
55. brazil (pt)
56. portugal (pt)
57. romanian (ro)
58. russian (ru)
59. slovak (sk)
60. albanian (sq)
61. serbian (sr)
62. swedish (sv)
63. swahili-test (sw)
64. tamil (ta)
65. turkish (tr)
66. vietnam (vi)
67. vietnam_hue (vi)
68. vietnam_sgn (vi)
69. Mandarin (zh)
70. cantonese (zh)
Enter choice: