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How free software can make portable devices (even more) useful for visually impaired persons

Speaker(s) : Sébastien Hinderer
Language : English Level : Confirmed Nature : Showcase
Date : Wednesday 7 July 2010 Schedule : 09h20 Duration : 20 minutes
Place: ENSEIRB - Amphi E
Transversal topics: AccessibilityIn english

Only few devices sold on the mainstream market are easy to use and accessible by visually impaired persons. Even worse, most of the time only very little can be done to improve the situation once the device has been bought. Fortunately enough, things are different with those devices embedding a piece of software, because this can be changed and replaced by another one which is more interesting in terms of usability and accessibility. Free software are a natural framework for developing solutions that are more and more adapted to the needs of end-users.

We use two examples to show the impact of free software on the usability of portable devices by visually impaired persons. We start with a braille terminal sold by its manufacturer with Windows CE and show the benefits of running it under GNU/Linux. We then present the vocal features of RockBox, a free and Open Source firmware for MP3 players. We conclude that free software makes not only non-specifically designed hardware more usable, but even specifically designed products such as braille terminals may benefit from free software.


Sébastien Hinderer

Sébastien is blind from birth, but that didn’t prevent him from pursuing studies up to a PhD thesis in computational linguistics. He uses and tinkers with libre software since 2001, one of the main reasons being simply their accessibility.