We are a diverse group which includes both software developers and
non-technical persons who are blind. Since so much of computer-use is
done through graphical user interfaces (GUI), we believe that it is
important to support the technical development of and be able to use
technologies such as the Orca and NVDA screen readers. However, there
are times when we can choose how to use our computers, and for those
times, we must be able to use technology that truly maximizes our
efficiency and effectiveness. Moreover, being extraordinarily productive
should not be a privilege available only to those who are technically
sophisticated, but to everyone who is willing to invest some time in
becoming fluent with their digital tools.
We are impressed with the productivity demonstrated by blind users of
Emacs, the efficiency of the VIM interface design, and with the fact
that these tools have been under constant development for roughly four
decades. Moreover, the evolution of these tools, with recent mutations
such as NeoVIM and Spacemacs, demonstrate that the communities of
developers responsible for them are as vibrant as ever.
However, there is very little awareness of the existence of these tools
among the general blind public, installation procedures are in some
cases inadequate or non-existent, there is no training for non-technical
users that we are aware of, and the choices of keyboard shortcuts (or
key bindings), can be at times unnecessarily arbitrary. However, we
believe that these and other obstacles can be overcome by our community.
Just like some of the most talented sighted developers in the world have
assumed responsibility for developing, maintaining, and improving tools
that they consider essential for their productivity, so can we, the
blind, take on the challenge of developing and supporting the
adaptations that make such technologies accessible to us. With this in
mind, the informal group we are calling F123e (or F 1 2 3 experimental),
will work towards achieving the following objectives:
* making it extremely easy for both developers and non-technical blind
users to install ARCH Linux and other needed software on virtual or
actual machines in order to test, learn, or use the tools they need to
maximize their productivity.
* Automate the installation process for Emacspeak and make sure it can
work with Spacemacs.
* Develop content to make it easier for non-technical blind persons to
install, learn, and use these technologies for work, education, or leisure.
We will have an ISO image that will bring all these pieces together, but
most of the automation will rely on BASH scripts, so those interested in
other operating systems can also benefit from this work. The choice of
Spacemacs can be best understood by reading the description of the
If you too, would like to have tools that maximize your productivity,
please join our group by sending an e-mail message to:
Getting an ambitious project like this one started is not easy, so we
want to thank everyone who has already joined our list, as well as Kyle
Brouhard, for helping us with our own version of the Talking ARCH ISO;
Lucas Radaelli, for his work on a new speech server for Emacspeak
written in C++; Travis Hartwell, for exploring the Spacemacs + Emacspeak
challenges; and Michael Pozhidaev, for helping us spread the word about
all this among blind developers. Of course, we are just getting started.
Please help us by sharing this with people you think will be supportive.
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