A new beginning

So, I’m writing this from a Windows computer, using Notepad, with WinSCP providing SFTP access to the server. This won’t come as a surprise for those who follow me on Mastodon and such, but I want to put this in the blog, so everything is complete.

About half a year ago, I installed Linux. Sometimes, I get curious as to if anything has changed in Linux, or if it’s any better than it once was. And I want to know if I can tackle it, or if it’s even worth it. Half a year ago, I installed Arch using the Anarchy installer, got accessibility switches turned on, and got to work trying to use it.

Throughout my journey with Linux, I found myself having to forego things that Windows users took for granted. Stuff like instant access to all audio games for computers, regular video games which, even being accessible, used only Windows screen readers for speech. And all the tools that made life a little easier for blind people, like built-in OCR for all screen readers on the platform, different choices in Email clients and web browsers, and even stuff like RSS and Podcatcher clients made by blind people themselves, not to mention Twitter clients. Now, there is OCR Desktop, but it doesn’t come with Orca, and you must set up a keyboard command for it.

But I had Emacs, GPodder for podcasts, Firefox, Chromium when I wanted to deal with that, and Thunderbird for lagging my system every time it checked for email. It was usable, and a few blind people do make use of it as their daily driver. But I just couldn’t. I need something that’s easy to setup and use, otherwise my stress levels just keep going up as I not only have to fight with config files and all that, but accessibility issues as well.

The breaking point

A few days ago, I wanted to get my Android phone talking with my Linux computer, so that I could text, get notifications, and make calls. KDE Connect wasn’t accessible, so I tried Device Connect. I couldn’t get anything out of that, so I tried GSConnect. In order to use that Gnome extension, I needed to start Gnome. I have Gnome 40, since I’m on Arch, so I logged in using that session, and got started. Except, Gnome had become much less accessible since the last time I’d tried it. The Dash was barely usable, the top panels trapped me in them until I opened a dialog from them, and I was soon just too frustrated to go much further. And then I finally opened the Gnome Extensions app, only to find that it’s not accessible at all.

There’s only so much I can take until I just give up and go back to Windows, and that was it. It doesn’t matter how powerful a thing is if one cannot use it, and while Linux is good for simple, everyday tasks, when you really start digging in, when you really start trying to make Linux your ecosystem, you start finding barriers all over the place.

Now, I’m using Windows, have Steam installed with a few accessible video games, Google Chrome, NVDA with plenty of addons, and the “Your Phone” app on Windows and Android works great, except for calls. But it still works much better than any Linux integration I could do. Also, with Windows and Android, I can open the Android phone screen in Windows, and, with NVDA or other screen readers, control the phone from the keyboard using Talkback keyboard commands. That’s definitely not something Linux developers would have thought of.

Devin Prater @devinprater