Because accessibility is a core value the GNOME project, GNOME has accessibility "built in" from the very early days versus being "bolted on" as is done on other graphical desktops. On this page is a description of the free open source solutions people with disabilities can use to be successful with using GNOME to accomplish their tasks, from e-mail to surfing the web to chatting with friends, to editing documents, etc.
Please also visit the screencasts page for examples of some of the GNOME accessibility features in action. The GNOME Accessibility Developer's Guide also contains informative sections on "What is Accessibility?" and "Types of Disability."
GNOME provides full keyboard access to the desktop -- you can throw your mouse away and accomplish everything from the keyboard alone. For users who need additional assistance using the keyboard, GNOME has preferences that allow you to make your keyboard more accessible. These include the following:
- Simulate simultaneous keypresses - with StickyKeys, users can enter multiple shift (or other) keys individually but have the system process them as a single combination keystroke.
- Only accept long keypresses - with SlowKeys, keys must be pressed for a given length of time before they are accepted as input.
- Ignore fast duplicate keypresses - with BounceKeys, successive entry of the same key will only have a single instance of that key accepted as input.
- Adjust keyboard autorepeat feature - with RepeatKeys, users can turn keyboard repeat on and off as well as adjust the time before which a key starts repeating and how fast a key repeats.
- Control the mouse from the keyboard - with MouseKeys, users can use the keypad to move the mouse as well as perform click, double click, and drag operations.
Some users cannot use the keyboard at all, but can move (and possibly click) the mouse. GNOME provides several solutions that allow users to have complete access to the desktop via the mouse alone:
- Provide software clicking of the mouse when you hover the mouse - with MouseTweaks, users can position the mouse pointer over something and let it rest there. After a configurable period of time, the system will perform a click, double click, drag, or right click operation wherever the mouse pointer is.
- Enter text quickly - with Dasher, an information-efficient text-entry interface, driven by natural continuous pointing gestures, users have achieved typing speeds of up to 35 words per minute and more.
- Type text using an onscreen keyboard - GNOME's onscreen keyboard (GOK) provides a graphical representation of the keyboard that you can click on to type as well as select from a list of words that GOK predicts you might be typing.
Some users cannot use the keyboard or mouse, but can interact with one or more switches connected to the system.
- Drive GNOME's onscreen keyboard (GOK) using one or more switches - GOK provides a "scanning" mode that allows the user to select items on the keyboard using a switch. It should be noted that GOK also has a "user interface grab" feature that allows GOK to display user elements, such as menu items, push buttons, etc., in its display so that the user can more efficiently interact with these items.
Low Vision Users
Some users can see the screen, but just need to be able to change the fonts, colors, and icons.
- Adjust the fonts, colors and icons - with GNOME's built-in theming mechanism, users can customize the font sizes, colors, and icons used by the desktop and its applications. GNOME also provides pre-defined themes for high contrast, large print, and inverse colors.
- Locate the mouse - users can configure the system to highlight the mouse pointer when the right control key is pressed.
For other users, increasing the font size is not enough and the user might need magnification instead.
- Magnify the display - GNOME provides a trivial magnifier that follows mouse position as well as a more sophisticated magnifier that follows mouse position and keyboard focus as well as use speech synthesis to reenforce what is on the display. Both magnifiers can operate smoothly and quickly full screen mode.
Some users have difficulty seeing the screen at all.
- Use a screen reader - with GNOME's Orca screen reader, users have access to speech synthesis, magnification, and braille representations of the graphical desktop.
- Hear when locking keys (e.g., CapsLock and NumLock) are locked and unlocked - the Orca screen reader speaks and braille notifications when locking modifiers change. In addition, the ToggleKeys functionality of GNOME emits an audible beep when locking modifiers change.
While not a solution that users interact with directly, GNOME's accessibility infrastructure, the "Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI)", is a built-in component of GNOME that provides rich information for assistive technologies to use. With the AT-SPI, screen readers such as Orca and on screen keyboards such as GOK get direct access to the components that make up the display of a graphical application. This includes access to the menus, buttons, text areas, etc.