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 * Package Anumaan https://sourceforge.net/projects/anumaan/

This page is for internal use by the Debian accessibility team. For user documentation on accessibility in Debian, please look at the accessibility page. For general package maintainer information on accessibility in Debian, please look at the accessibility maintainer page.

Accessibility stack internals

For graphical desktop accessibility to work, three things are needed:

  • the accessibility bus get started,
  • toolkits load their accessibility layer,
  • a screen reader get started.

The first two points, described in details below, can be checked automatically on any desktop with

$ git clone https://salsa.debian.org/a11y-team/check-a11y.git
$ sudo apt-get install build-essential pkg-config libdbus-1-dev libatspi2.0-dev libgtk2.0-dev libgtk-3-dev libqt4-dev qtbase5-dev 
$ cd check-a11y
$ source env.sh
$ make check

This check is also run automatically on several desktops, please see a11y Desktop status Overview. This is currently work in Progress, so please inform Simon Kainz if you have questions/ideas about this.

Accessibility bus getting started

This is provided by package at-spi2-core.

This is automatically started from /etc/xdg/autostart/at-spi-dbus-bus.desktop

On Stretch and later, it is always started, whatever desktop is used.

On Jessie and before, for gnome and Unity, it is started under condition:

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.interface toolkit-accessibility

For MATE, this is automatically started under condition

gsettings get org.mate.interface accessibility

Others don't start it automatically, but it is getting started when running accessible GTK2, GTK3 or QT4 applications with accessibility enabled. QT5 doesn't start it automatically, but can catch up with it afterwards if accessibility is enabled in it, see below.

Toolkits loading their accessibility layer

gtk3 needs libatk-adaptor and libgail-common, no condition.

gtk2 needs libatk-adaptor and libgail-common, loaded when GTK_MODULES=gail:atk-bridge (already set by default from /etc/X11/Xsession.d/90atk-adaptor in Stretch and later) or loaded by /usr/lib/gnome-settings-daemon-3.0/gtk-modules/at-spi2-atk.desktop when gnome-settings-daemon is running and gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.interface toolkit-accessibility is true.

KDE4 needs qt-at-spi, conditionalized by QT_ACCESSIBILITY=1 (already set by default from /etc/X11/Xsession.d/90qt-a11y in Stretch and later)

KDE5 has it integrated, conditionalized by

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled

but starting from QT5.4, it can also be forced with QT_LINUX_ACCESSIBILITY_ALWAYS_ON=1 (already set by default from /etc/X11/Xsession.d/90qt-a11y in Stretch)

See more discussion in 874054

java needs libatk-wrapper-java, conditionalized in /etc/java-*-openjdk/accessibility.properties :


and it can only work with the GTK look and feel, configured in

/etc/java-*-openjdk/swing.properties :


(already set by default in Stretch and later)

If it still doesn't work, debugging help can be obtained via the troubleshoot script from the check-a11y repository.

TODO: mono Winforms ?

screen reader getting started

  • Part of Debian Installer testing: DebianInstaller/Accessibility

  • Under Gnome3, MATE, Unity, Cinnamon, started by /etc/xdg/autostart/orca-autostart.desktop under condition

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled
  • Under Cinnamon, started by /etc/xdg/autostart/orca-autostart.desktop under condition

gsettings get org.cinnamon.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled
  • Gnome2: started under condition

gconftool-2 --get /desktop/gnome/applications/at/screen_reader_enabled
  • XFCE could have it

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p StartAssistiveTechnologies
  • KDE4: started under condition

qdbus org.kde.kaccessibleapp /Adaptor speechEnabled

can be set with

qdbus org.kde.kaccessibleapp /Adaptor setSpeechEnabled true
  • KDE5: started under condition

kreadconfig5 --file kaccessrc --group ScreenReader --key Enabled

can be set with

kwriteconfig5 --file kaccessrc --group ScreenReader --key Enabled true
  • LXDE?

Notes about packaging

  • a11y-team project on salsa, we usually use git repositories.
  • speakup: speakup_decpc is not free, that's why we use a dfsg branch. To release a newer upstream version, pull the upstream branch from the dfsg branch, then pull the dfsg branch from the debian branch, then run git-buildpackage --git-tag --git-upstream-branch=dfsg
  • liblouis*: import tarballs to the upstream-import branch (git-import-orig file.tar.gz --upstream-branch=upstream-import), then pull into the upstream branch and discard the conflicts in generated files which we do not ship in the .orig.tar.gz
  • Some packages (e.g. orca) follow the gnome packaging style, see for instance https://wiki.debian.org/Gnome/Git#Package_new_upstream_version )

    • To get unstable releases, use the experimental branch whose watch file tracks unstable tarballs too.
    • and use e.g. gbp import-orig --uscan --debian-branch=debian/experimental --upstream-vcs-tag=ORCA_3_29_3


Testing scenarii (see explanation on https://lists.debian.org/debian-accessibility/2013/10/msg00026.html)

TODO Packaging


Starting from bookworm, mbrola-enabled debian installer images can easily be created:

  • Add to the sources.list.udeb.local lines contrib/debian-installer after main/debian-installer

  • copy e.g. mbrola-fr4_1234.deb into localudebs/mbrola-fr4_1234.udeb (yes, rename from .deb to .udeb)

  • add mbrola-fr4 to the pkg-lists/base file

  • Rebuild the installer (e.g. make build_netboot-gtk)

More generic details on https://brl.thefreecat.org/wiki/Installer

  • Tune accessibility support in the liveCD.
  • Add brltty/speakup parameters preseed support?
  • Create a webpage that generates preseed files according to the hardware selected by the user in a form.
  • Another way is putting parameters in the iso itself:


  • Add AT-SPI and Orca/gok to debian installer (needs python there first)
  • speakup translations should be loaded automatically according to installation locale, at least
  • Centralize configuration in a common package
    • to expose a debconf question to choose what to enable/disable
      • allows non-disabled people to prepare a machine for a disabled user
      • allows disabled people to prepare a machine for a non-disabled user
    • there are currently bits in at least:
      • brltty-udeb's /usr/lib/finish-install.d/07brltty
      • espeakup-udeb's /usr/lib/finish-install.d/06espeakup
      • rootskel's /usr/lib/finish-install.d/07rootskel
    • additionally we could want to configure:
      • auto-login
      • java accessibility
      • installing better voices
      • installing non-free voices (pico and/or mbrola)


  • Add an accessibility chapter to the developer's reference
  • Add accessibility questions to the NM process.
  • Add an "Accessible Event Howto" for debconf, minidebconf & co.

  • Add an accessibility section to Derivatives/Guidelines and tell debian-derivatives@lists.debian.org about it.

  • Add accessibility questions to the Debian Policy.


Accessibility archive section?

  • braille translation programs (could be text)
    • dots (currently gnome)
    • liblouis*
    • natbraille
  • screen readeers (usually admin)
    • brltty (currently admin)
    • screader (currently text)
    • speakup (currently admin)
    • espeakup (currently admin)
    • yasr (currently admin)
    • console-braille (currently utils)
    • emacspeak (currently editors)
    • speechd-el (currently editors)
  • gnome (could be gnome)
    • libgail-gnome-module (currently libs)
    • gnome-accessibility-themes (currently gnome)
    • gnome-orca (currently gnome)
    • gnome-mag (currently x11)
  • kde (could be kde)
    • kmag (currently utils)
    • kmousetool (currently utils)
    • kmouth (currently utils)
    • kttsd (currently utils)
  • x11
    • big-cursor (currently x11)
    • xzoom (currently x11)
  • input
    • cellwriter (currently gnome)
    • dasher (currently x11)
    • gok (currently gnome)
    • mousetweaks (currently gnome)
    • gnome-mousetrap (currently gnome)
    • mozilla-mozgest (currently web)
    • wayv (currently x11)
    • xvkbd (currently x11)
  • speechrecognition (could be sound)
    • sphinx2-bin (currently sound)
    • gnome-voice-control
    • perlbox
  • speechsynthesis (could be sound)
    • eflite, flite (currently sound)
    • espeak (currently sound)
    • epos (currently sound)
    • festival (currently sound)
    • gnome-speech-*
    • recite (currently sound)
    • saydate, saytime (currently sound)
    • speech-dispatcher, speech-tools (currently sound)
    • speech-dispatcher-festival (currently sound)
    • mbrola (currently sound)
    • gespeaker (currently sound)
    • daisy-player (currently sound)
    • epos (currently sound)
    • libttspico-utils (currently sound)
    • freetts (currently java)
    • sonic (currently sound)
  • devel
    • accerciser (currently gnome)
  • ocr software?
    • gocr (currently graphics
    • hocr-gtk (currently graphics)
    • tesseract-ocr (currently graphics)
    • ttf-ocr-a (currently fonts)
    • cuneiform (currently graphics)
  • magnification
    • vmg (currently utils)


  • brltty for newer hardware support
  • speech-dispatcher with pico support (>> 0.7.1)

  • at-spi stack (at-spi2-core, atk, at-spi2-atk, pyatspi)
  • gnome-orca
  • compiz

Wiki page restructuring

The current accessibility is a monolithic source of information that makes finding the correct information difficult, especially for non-technical users. Instead, the front accessibility page should be short, and only be a point of entry to other pages which go into details; these should nevertheless shortly be introduced on the front page. Sections would include:

  • [ ] installation
  • [ ] live CD
  • [ ] boot accessibility
  • [ ] speech support
  • [ ] braille support
  • [ ] text console accessibility
  • [ ] GUI accessibility
  • [ ] embossing
  • [ ] virtualization

Notably, the troubleshooting and the tips & tricks pieces should go to the corresponding sections so they are easier to find.

Note: please tick sections that you outsource to track the working progress, thanks.