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This article explains the screen reader Orca for graphical desktop environments such as GNOME, MATE and others. The official documentation is at https://help.gnome.org/users/orca/stable/ .

Setup

Debian installer

If you have enabled accessibility during the Debian installation and also installed a desktop system, accessibility is enabled by default and Orca was installed for you automatically. This only works for GNOME, Mate, Cinnamon and Unity at the moment, but can be activated manually. See the section on autostarting Orca.

Installation on an existing system

If you installed Debian without accessibility features, you should do the following steps:

  1. In a terminal, type sudo apt install orca, to install orca.

    • If you are using one of GNOME, Mate, Cinnamon or Unity, the next steps should not be required for you.
  2. In a graphical session, open a terminal or press Alt+F2 and type orca -s to start the setup. If you are unable to do so, it is best to enable the autostart of Orca and run the setup with Orca support with the command orca -r -s.

  3. In the upcoming dialogs, you can select the options you like, including Orca modifier, etc. After this procedure, Orca should start automatically.

Autostart Of Orca

GNOME

Orca can be enabled to start automatically in the Gnome user session by hand by running these lines as normal user:

eval $(dbus-launch); export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS DBUS_SESSION_BUS_PID
GSETTINGS_BACKEND=dconf gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled true

MATE

Orca can be enabled to start automatically in the MATE user session by hand by running these lines as normal user:

eval $(dbus-launch); export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS DBUS_SESSION_BUS_PID
GSETTINGS_BACKEND=dconf gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled true
GSETTINGS_BACKEND=dconf gsettings set org.mate.interface accessibility true
GSETTINGS_BACKEND=dconf gsettings set org.mate.applications-at-visual startup true

XFCE

The accessibility support for XFCE has to be enabled manually. This can be achieved either by clicking the "Enable assistive technologies" checkbox in the XFCE accessibility settings, or by running this command in an X session:

   xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -n -t bool -p /general/StartAssistiveTechnologies -s true

Alternatively you can put the following into $HOME/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-session.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<channel name="xfce4-session" version="1.0">
  <property name="general" type="empty">
    <property name="StartAssistiveTechnologies" type="bool" value="true"/>
  </property>
</channel>

The file might already exist. If you haven't configured XFCE yet, you can replace the content of this file by the above excerpt. Please note that this will drop your XFCE session configuration. If you don't want to lose your existing XFCE session parameters, just add another "general" property, it will look like this:

<channel name="xfce4-session" version="1.0">
  <property name="splash" type="empty">
    ...
  </property>
  <property name="general" type="empty">
    <property name="FailsafeSessionName" type="empty"/>
    <property name="StartAssistiveTechnologies" type="bool" value="true"/>
  </property>
  <property name="sessions" type="empty">
    <property name="Failsafe"
    ...
  </property>
</channel>

For now, orca will not autostart. The simple workaround is to just drop the "?OnlyShowIn" line in /etc/xdg/autostart/orca-autostart.desktop , or to add XFCE to it.

LXDE and LXQT

For now, orca does not start automatically. The simple workaround is to just drop the "?OnlyShowIn" line in /etc/xdg/autostart/orca-autostart.desktop. Alternatively, LXDE or LXQT can be added at the end of this line.

Magnification

Orca does not offer magnification itself, however a variety of solutions exist, which are documented here.

Browsing

Orca works on multiple browsers with a varying degree of support.

Other speech synthesizers

Orca does not itself interact with the speech synthesizer, but uses a backend service called speech-dispatcher to access various speech synthesizers. If you want to add or configure a synthesizer, please see the Speech-Dispatcher section of the general accessibility page.

Orca plugins

The package orca-sops provides a plugin system together with a selection of default plugins. It also contains a guide to help getting started with plugin development.

Newer, experimental versions of Orca

If you don't want to compile Orca from source but still try a newer version (at your own risk), you can try using the version from unstable (or if available, from experimental). For this, you have to configure apt-pinning. Add a Debian unstable / experimental-source of Debian, update your package lists and run

sudo aptitude -t unstable install orca

WARNING: unstable and experimental don't have their names without reason!

See Also