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Installation and Documentation of Gnome Accessibility Support


This documentation was based on Ubuntu 5.10 on an IBM T23 Laptop.


Certain accessibility features will already be present. For example, you will be able to change the font size of the system. Other software you will have to install or activate. This guide is written to support the current version of Gnome (2.12) and the current stable version of Ubuntu (5.10). Steps discussing the keyboard path are not necessary if you are able to run the mouse.

If your are interested in window manager independent accessibility for mobility impaired disabilities, please refere to here.

Configuring Gnome for Low-Vision or other Sighted Disabilities


Gnome provides many accessible solutions for low-vision users. If these configurations do not meet your specific needs, please consult the Assistive Technology section to determine if the magnifier or screen reader is more suitable.


Installation of themes

Gnome has seven official accessible themes for use on the desktop.

  1. Alt + F1 to access the Application menu
  2. Use the down arrow to navigate to Accessories and chose “Terminal”
  3. Type “sudo apt-get update” and enter your password if requested
  4. Type “sudo apt-get install gnome-accessibility-themes” and Type “Y” if any other packages are required.

Overview of Themes

Gnome provides seven themes which can assist users that are low vision or are in need of contrast themes. To access these themes navigate to System>Preferences>Theme

Use the arrow keys to navigate the specific theme that you need. The choices of accessible themes are:

  1. Large Print
  2. High Contrast
  3. High Contrast with Large Print
  4. High Contrast Inverse
  5. High Contrast Inverse with Large Print
  6. Low Contrast
  7. Low Contrast with Large Print

The themes with large print also provide automatic font resizing. To take advantage of this feature use the tab key to navigate to “Apply Font” and use the Space-bar to activate it.

Increasing Font Size

To change the system font Navigate to System > Preferences > Font.

The fonts menu allows you change font and font styles for

  • Applications
  • The Desktop
  • Window Titles
  • Terminals

Screen Resolution

To change the current screen resolution navigate to System > Preferences > Screen Resolution. Here you can set your screen resolution to a smaller or larger resolution with the tab, arrow, and space bar keys.

Toggle Keys

To enable toggle keys for sound notification when a toggle key is pressed navigate to System > Preferences > Keyboard. Use the tab key to navigate to Accessibility.

  • Use the space bar to enable keyboard accessibility features.
  • Use the tab and arrow keys to navigate to Filters.
  • Use the tab key and space bar to turn on toggle keys.

This will provide a “beep” to indicate certain keys have been pressed (such as the Caps Lock key)

Installing Large Mouse Cursors

To Install large mouse cursors which are easier to see:

  1. Type “sudo apt-get install xcursor-themes”
  2. Use Alt + F1 to go to System > Preferences > Mouse

  3. Tab over to “Cursors” to chose the cursor which suits you best.

The Ubuntu Accessibility Team will be working to provide more cursors and high contrast cursor themes in the future

Mouse Preferences

To configure settings relating to the moue navigate to System > Preferences > Mouse

Using the tab, arrow, and space bar keys you will be able to configure:

  • Increased cursor size
  • Highlighting of the mouse by using the Control Key
  • Speed of the cursor
  • Drag and Drop threshold options

Terminal Magnification

The gnome terminal provides magnification to increase the size of the text on the font window. To modify these settings:

  • Use Alt + V to navigate to View.
  • Use the arrow keys to navigate to “Zoom In” or hit the “I” key.
  • Alternatively you can use the “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “+=” key (plus/equals key) to increase the magnification without using the menu.

File Management Settings

If further zooming is needed in the file management (i.e. “Nautilus” file manager) Use the Alt + F1 key and then arrow over to System > Preferences > File Management. Here you can adjust the size of the icons and list view details by zooming up to 400% of the original size.

  • Discuss Open Office
  • Discuss Firefox
  • Discuss Email Client

Configuring Gnome for Blind users

Under construction

  • Refer to Gnopernicus AT
  • Discuss export GTK_MODULES
  • Discuss Firefox caret browsing, Accessibility
  • Discuss Email client
  • Discuss Java-Access Bridge
  • Discuss Toggle Keys

Configuring Gnome for Hearing Disabilities


To increase or decrease the volume use Alt + F1 to navigate to the Application menu, then use the arrow keys to navigate to Sound and Video > Volume Control.

For further documentation on volume settings use F1 to open up Gnome's Volume Documentation

Visual Sound Feedback and Advanced Sound Preferences

Use Alt + F1 and use the arrow keys to navigate to System > Preferences > Sound

This dialog box allows you to adjust advanced sound preferences such as *Enabling sound at startup *configuring sound for events and programs *adding sounds to indicate a keyboard input error

Use the tab and arrow keys to navigate to the System Bell tab. Here you can turn on visual feedback when a keyboard input error occurs. For example if you are in a terminal window and you attempt to use a key that is not accessible in a terminal, the screen will flash or the terminal will blink, depending on your settings.

Configuring Gnome for Mobility Impaired Disabilities


The Gnome desktop has been built to provide complete keyboard accessibility. This accomplishment however means that there are many keyboard associated access keys and combinations to work through the Gnome Desktop. The specifics of these combinations are out of the scope of this document, but can be found at the Gnome Desktop Guide Chapter 3: Using the Keyboard to Navigate toe Desktop. (http://www.gnome.org/learn/access-guide/latest/ch03.html)


To adjust keyboard preferences navigate to System > Preferences > Keyboard. The keyboard properties allow you to change

  • Repeat Keys (holding the key creates multiple instances of that key)
  • Cursor Blink Rate

The Gnome Keyboard also has a button labeled 'Accessibility” which can be found under the Keyboard Tab using the tab key.

AccessX and Keyboard Accessibility

In X windows the modules that affect the keyboard accessibility features are known as the “AccessX” features. These features include:

  • Sticky Keys (allows for keyboard combinations to be activated in a sequence rather than together)
  • Repeat Keys (holding the key creates multiple instances of that key)
  • Slow Keys (A key must be held down for a certain amount of time before its input is accepted)
  • Bounce Keys (multiple keys pressed within a certain amount of time are ignored)
  • Toggle Keys (a sound is issued when modifier keys are initialized (i.e. Caps Lock)
  • Mouse Keys (uses the numeric keypad to move the mouse)

To activate the AccessX controls navigate to System (Alt + F1 + right arrow) Preferences Keyboard. Use the tab keys to navigate to “Accessibility” and check the box (spacebar) which reads “Enable keyboard accessibility features.” You know can use the tab, arrow, and spacebar to change settings for the specific AccessX controls you need.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Gnome allows for the creation and use of keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation. To view or modify these shortcuts navigate to System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts


To modify Mouse accessibility options navigate to System > Mouse. The Mouse accessibility features include

  • Left Handed Orientation
  • Double-Click Timing
  • Cursor Size and location
  • Speed of cursor
  • Drag and Drop Threshold properties

Configuration Editor

The Configuration Editor allows for advanced features and settings of the Gnome Desktop. For example one has the ability to set the default action of the Control and Escape key to open the Application menu. This would allows for easier transition from Windows into the Gnome environment.

Overview of the Gnopernicus Assistive Technology (Magnifier, Screen Reader, and Braille Output).

Installation Review

On a default install of Ubuntu 5.10 the assistive technology is not installed. These instructions describe how to install gnopernicus and the gnome magnifier.

  1. Alt + F1 to access the Application menu
  2. Use the down error to navigate to Accessories and chose “Terminal”
  3. Type “sudo apt-get update” and enter your password if requested
  4. Type “sudo apt-get install gnopernicus” and hit “Y” to confirm additional packages
  5. Type “sudo apt-get install gnome-mag" and hit “Y” if prompted
  6. Note: this step is only required if you want to use the magnification support in Gnome/Gnopernicus

The festival driver that loads with gnopernicus currently has a bug in it preventing you from running the festival driver. To fix it:

  1. sudo gedit /usr/share/festival/festival.scm
  2. find defvar server_access_list '(localhost)
  3. change to “defvar server_access_list '(localhost.localdomain)”

You should now be able to type “gnopernicus –version” in the terminal to receive the version of gnopernicus. The Ubuntu package also loads an Accessibility Menu under “Applications” to run the gnopernicus program.

Enabling the Assistive Technology Support

Once installed the AT (assistive technology must be enabled to be used in the system.

  1. Use Alt + F1 key combination to navigation to System
  2. Use the arrow keys to navigate to System>Preferences>Assistive Technology Support

  3. Use the tab key to bring the focus to 'Enable assistive technologies”
  4. Use the space bar to activate the check box
  5. Check any applications you would like to run when the Gnome desktop is turned on.
  6. Tab to Close and Log Out and hit enter

Upon re-logging into the desktop you will now have the assistive technology support turned on.

Using the Assistive Technology

Note: All menus and widgets are accessible via the “tab” and arrow keys.

To use the assistive technologies:

  1. Use Alt + F1 to access the Application Menu
  2. Use the arrow keys to navigate Applications>Accessibility>Screen Reader and Magnifier

  3. Use the tab keys or arrow down to the menu that you would like to access

Startup Mode

This menu allows you to choose which components you would like to turned on. You can also choose to start Gnopernicus minimized, which will keep the main program out of your way once started.


This will allow you to configure the specific AT that you are using. The options for the AT are only available if the current AT is active.

Default Preferences

This menu allows you to revert to the default behavior of the assistive technology. This is useful if you accidentally corrupt the configuration files.


This minimizes the Gnopernicus Gui.


Gives in depth information about the Gnopernicus modules. Consult this documentation for further configuration of the specific assistive technologies.


Describes the creators and contributors of Gnopernicus


Quit the Gnopernicus application and stop using the assistive technologies that are currently active

Gnopernicus Magnifier


This is an overview of the magnifier capabilities. For in-depth configuration of the magnifier consult the Gnopernicus help files.

Magnifier Preferences

To access the Magnifier Preferences navigate to

Preferences > Magnifier preferences

Use the tab keys to go through the menus and set the configuration files to you needs.

Cursor and Cross-Hair Preferences

The configuration panel allows you change settings on the cursor and cross-hairs. These options include size and color enhancements to the cursor and cross hairs to suit all visual handicaps.

Source, Target, and Scaling

To change advanced and more powerful settings navigate to the Add/Modify button using the tab key and press enter. In this area you have the ability to

  • Chose the source and target window (see Full screen magnification)
  • Chose the amount of space taken by the magnification
  • Chose the magnification level (Up to 16)

Note: the border options are currently under development and are not functional. Note: adding new zoomer lists is currently disabled and is under development

Enabling Full Screen Magnification


Full screen magnification is still under testing in Linux. You may experience significant lag with the current mangifier in Ubuntu. The Accessibility Team is working hard to improve these issues.

Installing a virtual screen for full screen magnification.

  1. Open a terminal (Applicatoin > Accessories > Terminal) and type “sudo cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.bak” to have a backup of your current xorg configuration file

  2. Type “sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf”
  3. Create a new Section “Device”

At the end of xorg.conf create the following section

Section "Device"
   Boardname  "dummy"
   Driver     "dummy"
   Identifier "dummy"
   VendorName "dummy"
  1. Create a new section “Monitor”

Look for the “Section Monitor.” Copy and paste the entire section at the end of xorg.conf.

In the new section change the “Identifier” to “MonitorD”

Identifier “MonitorD”

1. Create a new section “Screen'

Look for the “Section Screen” Copy and paste the entire section at the end of the xorg.conf

In the new section make the following changes, but keep all of the other options the same.

Device “dummy” Identifier “ScreenD” Monitor “MonitorD”

1. Find the section “ServerLayout'

Modify the screen line to the following

Screen “Default Screen” 0 0

Create another screen line which reads

Screen "ScreenD" RightOf "Default Screen"

Restart the current X session by executing “sudo invoke-rc.d gdm restart” in a terminal

This is a SAMPLE list of changes I made to my xorg.conf as a reference. Please note this will not work on most machines. I have commented out each line so that no one attempts to copy and paste this into their xorg.conf file.

#Section "ServerLayout"
#   Identifier   "Default Layout"
#   Screen       "Default Screen" 0 0
#   Screen       "ScreenD" RightOf "Default Screen"
#   InputDevice  "Generic Keyboard"
#   InputDevice  "Configured Mouse"
#   InputDevice  "Synaptics Touchpad"
#Section "Device"
#   Boardname  "dummy"
#   Driver     "dummy"
#   Identifier "dummy"
#   VendorName "dummy"
#Section "Monitor"
#   Identifier  "MonitorD"
#   Option      "DPMS"
#   HorizSync   28-51
#   VertRefresh 43-60
#Section "Screen"
#   Identifier   "ScreenD"
#   Device       "dummy"
#   Monitor      "MonitorD"
#   DefaultDepth 24
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      1
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      4
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      8
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      15
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      16
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection
#   SubSection "Display"
#      Depth      24
#      Modes      "1024x768"
#   EndSubSection

Turning on full screen magnification

Turning on full screen magnification

  1. Open up gnopernicus (Applications > Accessibility > Screen Reader and Magnifier

  2. Chose “Startup Mode” > “Magnifier”

  3. Navigate to “Preferences” “Magnifier”
  4. For better performance disable the cross hair
  5. Chose the “default” under the “Zoomer List”
  6. Modify the source to read “:0.1”

At this point the right side of the screen should be displaying your background and not the magnified portion of the left side of the screen. If this is NOT the case then do not perform the following step

  1. Under Zoomer Placement change the following values

Left = “0” Top =”0” Right = “MAX VALUE” (in my case it was 1023) Bottom = “MAX VALUE” (in my case it was 767) You can use the “up” arrow in the boxes to find the max pixel value you are currently displaying

After enabling this, the screen should take some time to adjust and begin displaying full screen magnification. If it does not use the Alt + F4 keys to close Gnopernicus and attempt to re-open it. The Magnification will begin by default at this point and try to attempt full screen magnification again.

Note: We are currently working on ways to remove the top and bottom gnome panels from the original display. It is “possible” to delete these panels, but they appear to return when logging back in.

Note: You may need to drag the mouse all around the desktop for settings to clean up. For better performance, size down the cursor by making it adjust with different zoom levels than the magnifier.

Gnopernicus Speech


The Gnopernicus Speech tool is useful for navigating the Gnome desktop and using the built in Gnome tools and windows. It is also active in the gnome terminal. However the Gnopernicus tool does not work for Java applications and many other programs.

Initialization and Preferences

The Gnopernicus screen reader can be initialized by checking the Speech box in the Startup mode of Gnopernicus. The preferences can be found in Preferences > Speech. You have the ability to change

  • Punctuation
  • Text options
  • Dictionary additions
  • Voice additions and activation
  • Key bindings and Support

The speech reader including with Gnopernicus features rich configuration and settings similar to Jaws or WindowWise for Windows. Its features are discussed in the Gnopernicus help documentation in great detail.



Braille Support on Linux is still quite limited but can be activated by in the Startup Menu of Gnopernicus. Once activated go to Preferences > Braille to set the device and configuration with gnome. The Braille output will work with the Gnome Desktop but will not be supported in my applications, including Java.


The Preferences menu allows you to modify/change

  • Braille devices
  • Braille Translation Table
  • Braille Styles
  • Cursor Preferences
  • Braille Key mapping

For further support consult the Gnopernicus help documentation for configuration and adjustment of your braille device.

Advanced Preferences

Gnopernicus also allows you to set key mappings, mouse settings, and other advanced preferences. These features are explained in detail in the Gnopernicus help manual. Please note that not all preferences have functionality as Gnopernicus is still in early build stages.

Overview of the GOK On screen keyboard


  • 1.Alt + F1 to access the Application menu 1.Use the down error to navigate to Accessories and chose “Terminal” 1.Type “sudo apt-get update” and enter your password if requested 1.Type “sudo apt-get install gok” and hit “Y” to confirm additional packages

You should now be able to type “gok –version” in the terminal to receive the version of gok. The Ubuntu package also loads an Accessibility Menu under “Applications” to run the On-Screen GOK application.

GOK Overview

Under Construction

Making the Login Accessible


The GDM has been made accessible to the gnome assistive technology. This allows the screen reader, magnifier, and on screen keyboard to interact with the gdm login manager.


  1. Use Alt + F1 to navigate to System > Administration > Login Screen Setup. Enter your password and hit “Enter”

  2. Select “GTK+ Greeter” as the Local Greeter
  3. Navigate to “Accessibility” tab and check
    1. Enable accessibility modules
    2. Allow theme selection in GTK+ Greeter
  4. Make a sound when login is ready
    1. Note you can browse for a sound in the /usr/share/sounds directory
  5. You may elect to chose sound upport for successful login or failed login in the same manner
  6. Navigate to System > Administration > Users and Groups

  7. find user “gdm' and click “Properties” chose the “Advanced” Tab
  8. Chose /bin/bash
  9. save and close

You should now be able to logout, restart gdm, and use the default gesture listeners. Press Ctrl + M for magnifier, Ctrl + S for speech.

Low vision support

The GDM also provides support for themes installed in Gnome to be used. Navigate to the menu “themes” (use alt + T to open this menu) and turn on theme that you would use for the gnome-session. AIX supports the following themes out of the box for gnome and the GDM login manager.

  • Large Print
  • High Contrast
  • High Contrast with Large Print
  • High Contrast Inverse
  • High Contrast Inverse with Large Print
  • Low Contrast
  • Low Contrast with Large Print

Blind user support

A blind user can navigate the GDM by

  1. Listen for the system beep
  2. Enter the username and press enter
  3. Enter the password and press enter
  4. The gnome-session will now run. If the session has been configured to run Gnopernicus screen reader on login it will begin speaking.

Advanced Blind Users should have easier access to the following existing programs (is it possible to have a really easy install option? and some excelletn accessible Ununtu wiki instructions?

  1. Emacspeak --The Complete Audio Desktop
  2. EmapSpeak (MapDog) --- Talking Map Directions From Emacspeak Via Google Map

Also see “Assistive Technology Support” section below for activating gnopernicus speech at login time.

Keyboard/Mobility support

The GDM menu’s are accessible by using the Alt + key combinations corresponding to the underlined letter in the menu. If a user only needs to login to the default session, simply enter the username and hit enter. Then enter the password and hit enter.

Assistive Technology Support

A bug in the current release of the X server of AIX prevents the use of “timed” key bindings. Instead we use a key-binding that will activate a specific command wen pressed. In order for the assistve technology to be supported the GTK+ Greeter must be used and not the Themed Greeter. To activate assitive techonlogy support in the GDM:

  1. Navigate to “System” > “Administratoin” > “Login Screen setup”

  2. Chose GTK+ Greeter as the “Local” option
  3. Navigate to the accessibility tab and chose “Enable accessibility modules”
  4. In a terminal window open edit /etc/gdm/modules/AccessKeyMouseEvents
  5. Comment out all features that you do not need with a #.
  6. Add the following or make the changes to suit your key mappings

# gnopernicus, speech mode
<Control>s 1 0 0 srcore --login --enable-speech --disable-magnifier

# gnopernicus magnifier
<Control>m 1 0 0 srcore --login --enable-magnifier –disable-speech

Note: this is only a sample of what you can add to enable “speech” and “magnifier” If you would like to add other modules, such as gok support consult the GDM documentation. I chose the time to be “0' in this case so simply hitting “Ctrl+S” activates the speech component.

File Version and Author

Version .2.2

This document was written by Jason Grieves PLEASE Add your name if you contribute. Contact me for major changes! Thanks!


Accessibility/doc/Guide (last edited 2010-10-09 23:16:24 by jimlepp)