Bristol Braille Technology

Making the Raspberry Pi accessible --- Volunteers & sponsors needed!

append delete Ed Rogers

There's great work being done by members of the Raspberry VI (Visually Impaired) mailing list to redress the lack of accessibility in the Raspberry Pi.

The Pi has mounted the wave of rejuvenated Computer Science study in British schools --- something which, if successful, could be expected to be replicated around the world in short order. But the current state of accessibility software packages for the Pi leaves a great deal of room for improvement. It is highly likely that unless the situation is redressed we could see blind & partially sighted students be effectively barred from taking part in many aspects of this wider movement.

The Raspberry VI group is made up of blind & partially sighted Pi users, many of whom are actively working on such a redress. One very exciting benefit of these changes, should they occur, would be the ability to use the Pi in all sorts of embedded hardware applications with minimal in-house development. It is this aspect in particular which has piqued Bristol Braille's interest.

The active developer elements of Raspberry VI is currently composed of a few dedicated volunteers. However they would benefit greatly from further contributions in man-hours or sponsorship. If you are interested in supporting this effort please get in contact with the group either via the mailing list;

... Or myself;

What follows is a short description of the project's current status from Michael Ray;

I thought I'd summarise the state of what some of us have been doing to
try to improve the accessibility on the Pi since the list was created.
Partly because a number of people have probably joined the list since we
last talked about this and because it seems like very few people read
any of the web site pages.

There are three of us working regularly on accessibility at the moment.
Jason Miller from Michigan, Mobeen Iqbal from the north of England and
me, the list creator.


In February I tried very hard to get yasr (yet another screen reader)
running on the Pi.

While I was able to get it running, it was very unstable and never ran
for more than about ten minutes before crashing.

Back then I had not touched any kernel-hacking and knew very little
about the way the kernel works.


I have managed to get SpeakUp running on Raspbian. However there are
stability issues with this, which I will come to in a minute.

To do this I had to learn how to compile the Linux kernel. This
involved a lot of tinkering, a lot of Googling and a lot of hours spent
burning the midnight oil.

I now know how to compile the kernel with my eyes shut, which of course,
they might as well be all the time.

Now, in the course of trying to understand why SpeakUp crashes the
kernel, I read about the ability of connecting up the UART of the
Raspberry Pi to another machine running a serial comm program. When the
kernel gets a 'panic' or an 'oops', debug data is output on this console.

So I bought a serial cable and connected it to PuTTY.

In doing this I have managed to establish that SpeakUp is producing a
'kernel oops'.

I now need to spend a lot more hours reading about how to use kdb, kgdb
and gdb to be able to debug the error.

I am currently in discussion with folks on the SpeakUp list, including
the SpeakUp developers about the future direction of SpeakUp. I suspect
that in getting it to work on the Pi, if I can, I will understand the
source code more than I do now.

The kernel oops output produces some listings that suggest it might be a
problem in the sound driver. So I would appreciate it if someone with
an HDMI monitor could test the SpeakUp image of Raspbian, which can be
downloaded from the web site, using HDMI audio, to see if the analogue
audio is crashing it.

Jason Miller has got Emacspeak to work on Arch Linux. Unlike yasr or
SpeakUp this seems not to be unstable. Evidence perhaps that it is NOT
the sound driver.

There are a couple of issues with it saving customisations which Jason
is trying to address, and currently the user has to log-in blind, which
is easy. Once in Emacspeak, it is very useful.


I have had brltty running on Raspbian since the middle of January. But
since my Braille is lousy I haven't pursued this.

Since buying my first Raspberry Pi in early January, I seem to have done
very little except try to get some kind of screen-reader running. I
have spent no time as yet doing the things with the Pi which I want to
do. Ham radio projects, Braille note taker etc.

So you see, there are people working their socks off to try to improve
accessibility and stop blind kids from being excluded again from the
revolution in IT teaching which is just around the corner thanks to the
Raspberry Pi.


Reply RSS


append delete #1. Harry Gee

I could test HDMI audio with the Speak Up image if you like (I've been swapping from analogue to hdmi audio for something else) Could you send me a link to the image (wasn't sure which website was being referred to in the above post: "SpeakUp image of Raspbian, which can be downloaded from the web site")
Aside from this I'm interested in access to a PI terminal through a web interface. Perhaps this could also be one way to add accessibility features both to input and output coming from the Pi? Just a thought?!

append delete #2. ed rogers

Hello Harry

I believe the link in question is this one;

However be aware that I've quoted Mike from about a fortnight ago & there have been interesting developments since then. The best thing to do is join the mailing list & take note of the "SpeakUp - Reason for Crash" thread as it continues.



append delete #3. Ed Rogers

An interesting log of one user's experience of the Raspberry Pi's accessibility:


(Leave this as-is, it’s a trap!)

There is no need to “register”, just enter the same name + password of your choice every time.

Pro tip: Use markup to add links, quotes and more.

Your friendly neighbourhood moderators: Ed Rogers, Steph