My wife has a form of Muscular Dystrophy (Type II SMA for those that care). She only has good use of one arm. There is only one issue holding her back from the desire to really use Linux. This issue is sticky keys. While sticky key support in Linux is much better this year than last year (Check out the Accesible Linux Homepage), such support is well below the support in Windows. Huzzah to the newly updated (September) sources!
For a person with use of only one arm, sticky key is imperative for X applications. One of my wife's hobbies is graphics editing. The Gimp is almost unusable with only one hand to hold down Ctrl while moving the mouse.
What Gnome is currently missing that Windows has in terms of sticky key support:
- GUI configuration program that saves the state.
- Panel applet that visually displays whether or not any keys are currently "sticky"
- Distincive on/off noises
On another front, Linux could really use better voice synthesis. I have been watching the progress of voice synthesis on Linux and I have to admit that I am astonished at the rate of progress it has been making. However, there is still a good way to go.
I have a friend who can not speak and has only limited ability of movement. He was given many years ago a dedicated box that talks. Many years and many beatings, droppings, and dousings later the voice box broke. Price to get a new one: $10k. Price to get a Mac laptop with voice synthesis built in: $2k. The biggest drawback the Mac has is the fear of dropping a $2000 piece of equipment. For not that much more than the price of the Mac laptop, a somewhat ruggedized PC laptop could be bought. But then one also has to buy hardware or software that talks. A $400 laptop from ebay and decent, easy to use for the novice voice synthesis would be a God-send for many, many people. AFAICT, currently emacspeak only supports emacs and voice-synthesis hardware. Folks are working on getting the MBROLA software libraries working with emacspeak. To be honest, I think the biggest obstacles are (like with the sticky keys) ease of use issues.
Judging from the PR for this conference, Sun is as serious as a heart attack about putting resources together to get Linux up to speed in different areas. This is a good thing and I commend the powers-that-be at Sun for being forward looking in this area. I would like to be able to attend the conference, but I can't afford to travel or take time off from work. I'm hoping that as my programming skills and knowledge of X increase that I will be able to contribute to some of these projects. Linux is great for programming geeks like myself. I would like to see Linux easy and welcoming for not only the Grandmas and Grandpas of the world, but for also for those with special needs.