If There Is To Be The Year of Linux Desktop, Accessibility Must Be a Priority

I would like to share my thoughts regarding the video The Linux Experiment made regarding the year of the Linux desktop.

Here are my comments I have shared for the video that everyone who watched the video seems to ignore:

If you want Linux to be the year of the Linux desktop, then I suggest anyone to take a page from Apple’s accessibility department. For example, wen it comes to GNOME Magnifier and the terminal, if you perform updates to your system, the magnifier will focus on the terminal even if you are browsing the Internet using Firefox. The magnifier will jump left and right regardless of which applications you are using and that can be annoying. If you started the GNOME magnifier and you are using Firefox, the magnifier won’t track what you are typing unless you use GNOME Web instead. To get the magnifier to track what you are typing in Firefox, you need to quit Firefox first, start Orca (Super+Alt+S), launch Firefox, and then turn off Orca (Super+Alt+S).

I recently purchased a Mac Mini so I can gain experience with macOS and let me tell you. Apple’s Magnifier is so buttery smooth. Once I turn on the Zoom feature in the Accessibility panel of System Preferences, I simply hold down the Control key and scroll with my mouse wheel. Keyboard tracking works with Firefox without any problems. Plus, when I’m doing something in the terminal such as updating packages and switch to Firefox or Blender, the screen does not move unless I tell it to. And unlike GNOME Magnifier, an Apple’s zoom feature does not jump to the lower-right corner of the screen if it does not know where to focus.

The reason why developers would say “patches are always welcome” is because of budget. Do you know that if you as a blind user pressed the Super key to open the overview, Orca will announce “window” and does not guide you on how to navigate the GNOME 40+ overview with just keyboard commands. I would like to talk more about the accessibility issues, but I’m going to run out of room for my comment, so let me say that if you care about accessibility as much as I do, you have to write code on Linux. And as long as developers keep saying “patches are always welcome,” Linux will never be the year of desktop.

Oh, and there is a difference between accessibility and usability. Usability deals with user experiences while accessibility deals with making sure an application or website (in this case , a desktop environment) remains accessible for people with disabilities. And until the Linux community has the budget and manpower to make Linux accessible for those with disabilities, both Mac and Windows are two of the best operating systems with accessibility in mind.
Usability and Accessibility: Looking at User Experience through Two Lenses | Usability.gov

And the reason why I purchased a Mac Mini is to help people remotely once I get hired for a remote IT position. I have been a Linux user for a long time but only at home and I’m unemployed for years since October of 2019.

And to add to my own comments I had on Odysee:

As much as I hate to break it to anyone who takes pride on running Linux in their desktops, the macOS accessibility features put Linux accessibility to shame. Because in order for GNOME Magnifier’s tracking can work in Firefox, Orca screen reader must be started first before launching Firefox. If you launch Firefox before you start the Orca screen reader, Orca won’t read what is in a web page until you restart Firefox. And the tracking feature that simply jumps to the lower right corner of the screen or anywhere leaves a lot to be desired. I recently received a Mac Mini this week and I had my Linux desktop computer turned off for two days now. Why? Because the Zoom accessibility along with its tracking feature is that good.

I am going to be using Mac Mini so I can gain experience when it comes to working remotely for an IT position. Hopefully I will get a remote job soon.

Again, I don’t mean to cause any offense to Linux users in general regardless of skill level and skillset. And I do not mean to hurt your pride for running Linux. Still, I would be happy to run GNOME desktop for general-purpose computing along with playing games and making music. As much as I am an associate member of Free Software Foundation and that I love open source, I’m sorry everyone but accessibility is not there yet.

What are your thoughts? Do you think accessibility needs to happen for those with visual disabilities before the year of the Linux desktop becomes a norm?

I don’t think that accessibility needs to be there 100% for desktop Linux to become relatively popular. I don’t think that’s what’s holding Linux back is what I mean. However, increased accessibility is important and I would like to see more of that in the future. If it’s an old project, I don’t think it hurts to start working on that. If it’s a new project, it might be easier to implement accessibility options from the beginning than to try to add that afterwards.

With that said, I think that the same problems that are holding back accessibility in the Mac and Windows ecosystems are exacerbated in Linux. If a company is having trouble learning how to implement a certain feature or facing budgetary or manpower constraints that lead them to cut those features, how much more will most open source projects face that, having much smaller teams and fewer resources on average? You’re also looking at a smaller market share which means an even smaller chance of their being people who need accessibility features. By this I don’t mean to excuse a lack of focus in this space, but of the three platforms, I would expect Linux to be behind and I think it’s important to understand the scope of the problem.

It would be great to see a movement for that to improve, though. From what I understand, Linux has come so far from a UI/UX standpoint that including accessibility seems like a logical next step. If we’re at a point now where depending on your distro you may hardly ever need to open a terminal, it makes sense to me that this could be tackled as well. I’m uninformed, but I hope that the solutions are simple enough that it’s more about just prioritizing it rather than having to figure out a really complicated technical problem.

And if this improved, it would be another reason for people to consider Linux has something they could daily drive.

People would probably describe me as a gate keeper, I personally don’t use any labels to describe myself, I think what I think and believe what I believe.

Anyway, the point is, I think Linux is fine as it is. Linux doesn’t ought to be popular. I don’t see a reason why people must encourage others to use a certain OS. People should use what works best for them. If macOS works for you, then use macOS. Same for Windows. Neither of these work well for me, so I stick to Linux.

Back when I used KDE, the magnifier worked great… as long as I wasn’t using kwin_wayland, in which case it wouldn’t work at all. But when I did use KWin Xorg, the magnifier was great! I hear GNOME Shell has better tools for blind people, to read items on the screen. I am not sure if the magnifier thing is a problem with GNOME Shell on Wayland, or just in general, because if the magnifier works in the Wayland session, then even with all its quirks like having to open it before Firefox, it is pretty amazing that it does work at all.

Now I use sway and I got a monitor pretty close to me, so I only increase the font of my terminal, or scroll inside firefox. The rest of the things are easier to read. It especially got better since I’m not using a 4K 49" TV from 3-4 meters away anymore. Previously I needed to scale sway like 200%, which would make things big, but would use too much screen space, so sometimes I had to bounce between 125% and 200% and use built-in magnifying, like in browsers.

Things may get better once Wayland gets feature parity with Xorg, like being able to use it remotely and be able to access on-screen stuff, for accessibility. And thankfully, we aren’t stuck into one bad option, we got lots of options to choose from, which is what makes Linux attractive for me.

With the GNOME Magnifier in GNOME Wayland, the magnifier does not position itself correctly with the insertion point, making it impossible to see what I am typing in the GNOME Terminal. In Xorg, the magnifier does position the magnified screen at an insertion point in GNOME Terminal correctly. However, if I were to perform updates or execute commands such as make that makes the insertion point go back and forth, it works fine in the GNOME Terminal with Xorg, but if I switch to a different workspace, the screen will go back and forth as if it’s focusing in the terminal.

Honestly, I don’t think Wayland is there yet when it comes to accessibility.

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I still think that if we are going to encourage more people with vision loss to switch to Linux, then we still need to accommodate them whenever possible, but then that means we need more developers who care so much about accessibility in mind. Sure, we could make 2023 or 2024 the year of the Linux desktop, but I don’t like that we would leave out people with disabilities.

1 Like

It’s a fair point. Like Nick says in the video, if Linux becomes more mainstream it will likely be a long-term thing and not all at once. In that sense, if it gradually grows, there could be more focus on accessibility and that could boost it.

Mark Brown has a series on YouTube about accessibility in video games, and I believe in his last big review he talked about how games have successfully moved from bad accessibility to much better. That’s due to awareness. If there can be a similar movement within the Linux community or at least some projects. It’s not like folks are actively against this kind of thing, in my opinion.

If anything, I feel like accessibility kind of dovetails with the ramped up customization that comes with Linux. But it’s easy for me to say as a noob with little technical experience.

1 Like


Just read this interview between a journalist from TechRepublic and the project leader for Fedora. He mentions accessibility as one of the things they’re thinking about in their five year plan!

From the interview in response to the question “what is the five-year plan for Fedora 36?”:

I don’t know what the technology will look like. I don’t think anyone can predict technology trends five years out. But one of the big flags I’m putting on our horizon is that we should double the size of the active Fedora collaborative community. We know our user base is growing, and we need to grow the project to match. To do that, we’re going to focus our investments in mentoring, in accessibility and inclusiveness and generally in community health. That will power success in whatever technology looks like in 2025 or 2027 or beyond.

It’s not much, but it’s something. :slight_smile:

Source: The future of Linux: Fedora project leader Matthew Miller weighs in | TechRepublic


Most people would think that accessibility and usability is interchangeable, so most people would take the word “accessibility” for granted without thinking about people with any forms of disabilities such as visual and hearing disabilities.

I could be wrong, but that is how I see it when it comes to people with no disabilities in general.

I would like to illustrate why accessibility needs to be improved. For my use-case, I am making use of the Zoom feature in the Accessibility section inside the GNOME Settings. When I zoom in and out using Super+Alt+= and Super+Alt± respectively, the Zoom increases and decreases by an increments of 1 while inside the Zoom dialog, to get an increment of 0.25 such as 1.25, I must press the + button in the Zoom dialog. So if I’m at 3x zoom and I want 2.5x, I must go into the Zoom dialog and press the - button twice.

And speaking of increments of 1, I’m talking 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x, 7x, etc. and not like a typical ZoomText when it comes to a factor of two, although ZoomText does support fractional magnification. As for Mac, it’s more like increments of 0.1 when zooming in and out using Control+scroll wheel.

Also, for the “Screen part” where I can select which half of the screen I want magnified (top half, bottom half, left left, and right half), the unmagnified screen does not move depending on the mouse position of the magnified screen. Plus, there’s no way to adjust the blue line that divides between unmagnified and magnified screen, so when having a magnified screen at the bottom half, there is no way for me to adjust the divider so that I can see more of the magnified screen.

Last, but not least, when I use a scroll wheel, I saw that the unmagnified mouse pointer shows up in addition to mouse pointer that is part of the magnified screen.

With all that said, where do I go in order to report an issue regarding the Zoom feature for GNOME? What information will I need for the report to go through with the GNOME Accessibility team? I’m using Xorg, not Wayland and I’m running GNOME 42.

IDK? I found this accessibility resources page for FreeDesktop that has lots of Gnome stuff, maybe something there?


1 Like