New documentation project for blind Linux users and all the others

When he realized that custom documentation for Free Software is needed for vision-impaired users, Tony Baechler offered to launch a dedicated service. I asked Tony what exactly he hopes to set up and how it should work.

Tony: I would be happy to host audio tutorials and podcasts that are relevant for the blind using Linux, for example with Speakup or Orca. Provided that it somehow has to do with Linux and the blind and doesn’t contain commercial advertising, I’m willing to host it at .

Stop: Are you looking for recordings about specific applications or functions, and if yes, which ones? Spam filtering, using OpenOffice, Twitter or Facebook interfaces, programming environments, music players...

Tony: Any and all of the above are fine. So long as it runs on Linux and the audio demonstrates how a blind person can use a particular program or app, I have no problem hosting it. It can either be a console mode program such as a mail reader or text editor or a graphical app such as a word processor. It can also be more specific to the blind user, such as demonstrating how to use Orca, the screen reader for the Gnome desktop or Speakup, a set of extra kernel modules to provide speech in the console.

Stop: Great! Do you have any suggestions or requirements for people who would like to contribute recordings? How should they proceed to make really useful ones?

Tony: There is no set structure, style or format. If a recording is very long, people might want to split it into smaller pieces to make them more manageable, but the only hard and fast requirements are as follows:

  • No excessive swearing or strong language. They should be suitable to a general audience of all backgrounds and experience levels.
  • They must be licensed under a license which allows at least free, unlimited noncommercial distribution. I suggest the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial license. I would prefer a less restrictive license, but at a minimum, it must meet at least the above requirements.
  • Do not assume your audience are experts unless you’re specifically recording for an advanced audience. Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Explain things that the new Linux user might not be aware of. Remember, the person listening to this might be seriously interested in switching but might not know anything about it.
  • Provide a brief overview at the beginning of the recording describing what you’ll be talking about. Try to be informal but not too casual.

Stop: Do you have any specific technical requirement?

Tony: For now the MP3 format is preferred, but FLAC and Ogg Vorbis are also acceptable. It would be very helpful if each contributor attached to each recording a text or html file giving a brief description and linking to the license. I have minimal web design skills, so the website will probably consist mostly of automatically generated index listings. Oh, and if you generate the audio with a synthesizer, please set its speech rate to a relatively slow level. Even if the listener is used to synthetic speech, they might not be familiar with the particular synthesizer you're using.

Stop: This idea of yours is too good to restrict it to English tutorials only. Would you also host recordings in other languages?

Tony: The majority of blind users that I know of understand English and I do not understand other languages, so I would rather limit the website to English at this timeI. Of course, the audio tutorials don't have to be in perfect English, provided it can be understood. If the project takes off and I get a lot of interest in some other language, I would look for someone who can understand that language to help out. In other words, I would like to be careful what I publish and I don't want to offer something that I can't verify as topical.

Stop: When I first read Tony's offer, I decided to contact him because I thought that such a good idea deserved as much exposure as possible. After reading this plan and the rationale behind it I'm even more convinced and also have one more reason to invite all readers who want to know more or could help in any way to contact Tony or visit, the website on which he will host these tutorials: follow Tony's guidelines and you'll produce audio tutorials very useful for all potential Linux users, not just those with vision problems!*