Ubuntu Accessibility Start Guide

Ubuntu provides assistive technology support in the basic boot and install, with further packages available in the repositories. This guide does not provide a complete listing of all the available features, but is a practical guide to getting started with Ubuntu using it's default assistive technology features.

Booting the Live CD

The standard Ubuntu Live CD can accommodate users with a range of disabilities using different boot options. This section explains how to activate these features on the Live CD.

Insert the Live CD and boot the machine to use Ubuntu Live. As the system starts to boot, you must hold right-shift to bring up the boot screen. The first selections on the boot screen are a choice of languages, which defaults to English. The boot screen gives various options for starting the system including special hardware settings and accessibility settings. Pressing F5 produces a menu of accessibility options with the following choices:

  • None
  • High Contrast
  • Magnifier
  • Screen Reader
  • Braille Terminal
  • Keyboard Modifiers
  • On-Screen Keyboard

The options are accessed by using the arrow keys and pressing Enter. The default option is 'None'. So to access the 'Screen Reader' option, press F5, the down arrow three times and Enter. Press Enter again to boot the CD with this option.

The system will now require 2-3 minutes to start from the CD. The assistive technology option selected above will start with the system.

For those who use a USB drive to boot the system, create the live USB image. Then you must edit the syslinux/text.cfg file and add


before  -- on all kernel lines.

For those using PowerPC's, burn the image, insert it into the powerbook, and reboot from the CD by holding the C key while the machine boots. Give the machine 20 seconds to get started from the CD, and then type:


This should boot the CD with speech enabled.

Installation using Screen-Reader

Unfortunately, the audio screen-reader fails when not using the live desktop to perform an installation.

Insert the desktop cd
start the computer

 ** Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS only **
Hold right-shift during the bios checks

Holding right-shift during the bios check will bring up the question:
"Load boot graphics (y/n)?  y"

wait 2 seconds

wait 2 seconds

wait 2 seconds

wait 2 seconds

wait 2 seconds
 ** Above is for Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS only **

(hold right-shift to bring up cd menu)

(Select language; English is default)


down arrow three times



wait for the Screen-Reader to begin
(This step can take up to 8 minutes depending on your hardware)
A few seconds after the system startup sound plays, Screen-Reader starts speaking.

right-arrow two times

down-arrow two times


down-arrow four times

(Install Ubuntu 10.04 LTS)

At this time, the installation setup is on your screen. Please use tab and arrow keys to navigate through the installation procedures.


The Ubuntu CDs can be downloaded from a range of global mirrors, listed here. The Live version is called 'desktop', while the alternate install version is called 'alternate'. See this page for instructions on how to burn an ISO image to a CD. If you want to try the latest experimental version go here.


Installation can be performed with the basic installation CD, or more commonly, starting the Live CD and running the graphical install program. This second approach allows you to test that the software works well with your hardware before installing. In both cases, the assistive technology applications are installed by default, but only the live CD option has assistive technology support during the install process at the moment.

Known limitations

  • Ubuntu 10.10 Screen-Reader no longer reads the screen after selecting language in the installer. You can, however, use the live desktop.
    • work-around: Use the Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS CD to install; you can then upgrade to Ubuntu 10.10.

  • Live CD boot menu: The Live CD boot menu has small print and no audio feedback.

  • Magnifier: The magnifier fails to start automatically on the Live CD

    • work-around: log out and wait to be logged back in.

  • Speech: Firefox and OpenOffice do not generate proper speech output.

Please see Accessibility for more information.


Accessibility/doc/StartGuide (last edited 2010-11-02 14:46:46 by charlie-tca)