How I use Linux accessibility settings

Various Linux systems handle assistive technologies differently. Here are a few helpful settings for seeing, hearing, typing, and more.
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Person using a laptop

When I started using Linux in the 1990s, I was in my mid-40s and accessibility was not something I gave much thought to. Now, however, as I'm pushing 70, my needs have changed. A few years ago, I purchased a brand new Darter Pro from System76, and its default resolution is 1920x1080, and it's high DPI, too. The system came with Pop_OS!, which I found that I had to modify to be able to see the icons and text on the display. Thank goodness that Linux on the desktop has become much more accessible than in the 1990s.

I need assistive technology for seeing and hearing in particular. There are other areas that I do not use but are useful to folks who need help typing, pointing, clicking, and gesturing.

Various systems, like Gnome, KDE, LXDE, XFCE, and others, handle these assistive technologies differently. These assistive tweaks are mostly available through the Settings dialog box or from keyboard shortcuts.

Text display

I need help with larger text, and on my Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop, I use these settings:

accessibility options - visual

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

I have also found Gnome Tweaks allows me to fine-tune text display sizes for my desktop experience. I adjusted the resolution of my display from its default of 1920x1080 to a more comfortable 1600x900. Here are my Layout settings:

accessibility options - display

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Keyboard supports

I do not need keyboard supports, but they are readily available, as seen below:

accessibility options - keyboard

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

More accessibility options

Accessibility access is familiar on Fedora 35, too. Open the Settings menu and choose to make the Always show Accessibility Menu icon visible on the desktop. I usually toggle Large Text unless I am on a large display. There are many additional options, including Zoom, Screen Reader, and Sound Keys. Here are some:

accessibility options - settings

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Once the Accessibility Menu is enabled in the Settings menu in Fedora, it is easy to toggle other features from the icon in the upper-right corner:

accessibility options - desktop

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are Linux distributions that are designed specifically for folks who need supports. Accessible Coconut is such a distribution. Coconut is based on Ubuntu Mate 20.04 and comes with the screen reader enabled by default. It is loaded with Ubuntu Mate's default applications. Accessible Coconut is a creation of Zendalona, which specializes in developing free and open source accessibility applications. All of their applications are released with the GPL 2.0 license, including iBus-Braille. The distribution includes screen reader, print reading in various languages, six key input, typing tutor, magnification, eBook speaker, and many more.

accessibility options - desktop

Don Watkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Gnome Accessibility Toolkit is an open source software library that is part of the Gnome Project and provides APIs for implementing accessibility. You can get involved with the Gnome Accessibility Team by visiting their wiki. KDE also maintains an accessibility project and a list of applications supporting the project. You can get involved with the KDE Accessibility project by visiting their wiki. XFCE provides resources for users, too. The Fedora Project Wiki also has a list of accessible applications that you can install on the operating system.

Linux for everyone

Linux has come a long way since the 1990s, and one great improvement is accessibility support. It's good to know that as Linux users change over time, the operating system can change with us and make many different support options available.

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Educator, entrepreneur, open source advocate, life long learner, Python teacher. M.A. in Educational Psychology, M.S. Ed. in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator.

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