Monday, August 1, 2011

GNOME Orca on Slackware 13.37

I am trying to learn more about web accessibility. Since I am a Linux user, GNOME Orca with Firefox is the route to go (right now at least). The only problem with that for me is that I am a Slackware user right now and GNOME is not available out of the box on Slackware. Plus I do not really want a full GNOME install, I would prefer to just install Orca and the components needed by it.

Thankfully, the GNOME SlackBuild project makes this relatively easy to do. The first thing you want to do is to install slapt-get using their manual instructions. I am running Slackware 13.37 but I used the 13.1 64-bit package (I was having trouble getting this going with the work-in-progress that they had for Slackware  13.37). I did not have to worry about any of the configuration, it worked out of the box as is, however you still need to update it:

slapt-get --update
slapt-get --add-keys

Once that is done, you can install Orca itself via slapt-get:

slapt-get --install orca

This installed the following packages:


There is one more package that is needed that was not installed:

slapt-get --install gnome-python

Which will just install gnome-python-2.28.1-x86_64-1gsb. I did have to reboot after all of this to get Orca to run. There was probably something else that could be done but I took the quick and easy route for that part.

Next there is a gconf2 setting needed that I found on the Orca mailing list:

gconftool-2 --set /desktop/gnome/interface/accessibility --type boolean true

Once that is set you should be able to run Orca from a terminal to go through its setup. After that Orca should run just fine if you are running KDE (as I am) due to the dbus dependency. But you can just run Orca with dbus-launch if you are running something like Fluxbox (I am currently testing it in Fluxbox as I type this).

There is one final issue. Orca is relatively useless without applications that provide it the necessary information. Firefox normally would do this but Pat's SlackBuild script configures it with the --disable-accessibility option. So you either need to alter the SlackBuild script to enable accessibility and rebuild the package or just download Firefox from its site (this is what I did as I didn't want to wait for the build) and you will be set.

I don't have much experience at all with using screen readers so I cannot comment on how well Orca works compared to others, but it is reading Firefox for me and should be good enough to validate accessibility techniques for me.

On a side note, I did try Orca on a couple of other distros just in case I wanted to switch for this reason or at least dual boot. I was happy that I got it working on Slackware though. But Orca Ubuntu 11.04 worked great out of the box for me in both fallback and Unity (once again, I don't have experience with screen readers so my assessment may not reflect reality for someone that has to depend on this technology). It worked relatively well on Fedora 15 as well with Gnome 3 but I did have to set the gconf setting manually there.

So I consider this a success for my purposes (a sighted developer looking to learn more about accessibility).

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