Over the years that I have worked in an IT support role, I have often had the experience of talking to people who didn’t have perfect eyesight or who might have other disabilities. What might be easy for you or me to do on a computer might be extremely difficult for someone who doesn’t have perfect vision, hearing, motor control, or other disabilities. I have had friends who were completely thrown for a loop when their interface changed — not just because it looked different, but because their screen reader would no longer work or because the interface looked fuzzy because they had to run their desktop at a lower resolution than the LCD.
For example, in the Windows world, there is JAWS which is the standard in screen reading for Windows users. Unfortunately, this $260 dollar program is something a sighted person must install for the blind user after Windows is installed. Blind users who want to upgrade their Windows-based computer to Windows 8 will also have difficulty since the installer is not accessible Even when they buy a new computer, it’s difficult for blind users to get started without some help.
While there’s not much that we can do regarding Windows, there are lots of things we can do to help this be less of an issue with Linux thanks to its open code. My friend, Jonathan Nadeau, is undertaking a project to make using a Linux-based computer less of an issue for those who are disabled with the Sonar Project.
Jonathan also has an ulterior motive. You see Jonathan is blind; he lost his sight in a car accident in 1992. Jonathan cares a lot about this, because he is one of a billion people in this world with some sort of disability. As the march of technology continues, many can get left behind. Jonathan wants to make Linux accessible to all users, whether they are blind, hard of hearing, or lacking fine motor control skills. But that’s’ not all; Jonathan is also making the install program accessible as well. Sonar aims to make easy for a disabled person to use and install, so they won’t have to have the extra help that disabled Windows user might need setting up their system.
Unfortunately, while this distribution will be free and open source, spending the time to make it accessible isn’t free. Jonathan expends considerable effort to advocate accessibility of Linux. He isn’t just working on Sonar Linux either; he also works on many other projects surrounding his advocacy and the Linux community in general with the work he has done on the Northeast Linuxfest. He’s also a husband and father, so he has lots to take care of in addition to his advocacy. It’s because of this that Jonathan started an Indiegogo project with a goal of raising money to support the Sonar project.
Jonathan has a goal of raising $20,000 dollars to support the Sonar Linux project. You can donate as little as $5 dollars. Jonathan is now, as of this writing, sitting at $3,675 raised. There are only 10 days left in his campaign, and any money raised under his goal will still go to make Sonar better.
I supported Jonathan, and I will try to donate some more before the campaign ends. You never know when you or a loved one might need something like Sonar. Jonathan likely never thought about being blind until that fateful day in 1992 when he lost his sight. I hope that even if you don’t donate, that you at least think about accessibility for the disabled in more of the things you do. Be it building a house or starting a web site, there are lots of things that can impede your progress when you are disabled.
We waste so much time and money on things that don’t really matter; please think about supporting the Sonar Linux project to make life easier for someone who really needs it.