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Re: MATE chosen by default instead of gnome for blind people [Was: Debian Installer Stretch Alpha 6 release]


(sorry, very long mail, but useful to argue and discuss on concrete matters)

Thanks Samuel and Michael for your feedbacks. I defend the choice of
MATE by default in Debian. I'll try to explain why, and I'm ready to
read any reply, test things relying on such replies, and make my thought
change here. Any other feedbacks from other disabled users is welcome to
help us in such thought.

1st of all, I need to say Gnome does a useful effort in accessibility,
thanks! Because even if it's not the default desktop for blind users,
the Gnome work is absolutely great to have Orca, other assistive tech,
and especially, GTK toolkit with a11y bindings, and GTK apps accessible,
at least Gnome ones. For instance, even in MATE, I go on using Evince.

But several problems remain. 1st, Evolution a11y has been broken for a
long and never completely fixed. On Orca mailing list, you will see a
lot of thread last week about problems by users to collect some info in
mails, attached files, etc. As Evolution is the default mail client in
Gnome, dependency of the suite, it would imply to install a parallel
client like Icedove, and explain to blind users that they need to use it
instead of Evolution. It's a confusion for users: I've a full suite, but
need to add stuff and I cannot use default programs. Hmmm. Or "I've no
problem, and I see 2 mail clients, why?" Complicated
free software.

But beyond this "isolated" problem, I think there's a more global design
approach issue. To be understood here, I explain my point of beginning:
I want free software to be used by any user, even those not interested
in philosophy, technical, etc., as I consider that only a full free
software ecosystem can have a
useful impact on computing culture (with service, human as a resource
instead of license, etc). So when I talk to "basic"
user, I don't talk about philosophy, license, but ergonomy. "basic"
blind user is a non-technical, not self-learning, not
computer-interested person. But he/she needs computer given that it
brings a lot of things for disable people. And I think accessibility
means that anyone, not only blind technicians, should access to Debian,
the Universal OS.

Now you know the meaning of words I'll use. Noawaday, when I promote
Debian for "basic" blind users, I explain that:
- Windows isn't accessible out of the box (as you need to create a M$
account from an inaccessible box when you buy the computer). Its
ergonomy is complex as well (Edge, need to install a screen reader, etc).
- Mac is accessible, but complicated to learn even if tutorial is quite
good. VoiceOver approach for Mac (not iOS) is complicated I think for a
"basic" user, who don't want to learn using something during hours and
hours. Just want to have mail, Web, office.
- Debian is simple. Easy to describe MATE desktop, anything accessible
with arrow keys or simple keyboard shortcuts, and its flexibility is
absolutely fantastic: if you prefer menus, use menus; if you prefer
everything on a single space, use desktop, if you prefer bindings,
affect a binding to each app. Not pleased with an app or menu name?
Change it (e.g. change LibreOffice Writer into word processing if you
like). The only missing interaction is: typing keywords to run apps.

Why is Gnome less accessible for a universal prospective?
1. For a "basic" blind user, the interface is very hard to figure out.
I've used GNU/Linux for 10 years and computer for 20 years. I learnt
GNU/Linux myself from doc. I still don't understand how the desktop is
organized. I cannot figure out the apps installed on my system, how they
are classified, and then, my system capabilities. Yes, I can search with
keywords, but results imply I use good keywords. And the "basic" user
has no idea wether he needs a web browser, a mail client, etc. The
"basic" user will start, use arrow keys to search apps (and not
alt-ctrl-tab), or a binding to run the menu, but not much more. Any
other way will seem complicated for him (mouse not always usable, for
blind people or other kinds of disability).
So 1st point: I'm unable to teach someone how to run apps as efficiently
as with MATE, as it's impossible to have accessible representation of
it (the screen, the panels, etc). I'd need a strong learning effort,
that users don't do.
2. "basic" blind users think that Mac, Windows, MATE are still
complicated. Note that most blind people are more 60 old. Hence
alternative system which close them in a specific world. Instead of
this, I prefer installing Debian, universal OS, and customizing the desktop.
While MATE is perfect for this without additional plugins, GNOME doesn't
enable fine-tuning.
Because in GNOME, you cannot rename objects, move/remove panels or
change their form, etc. Because Gnome choosed to priorize
responsiveness. But it's not what we search in a computer 1st when used
by a blind old person.
3. For low-visual impaired people, Gnome developped a good magnification
and colour approach. Aut it's often a theme approach. If you choose
high-contrast themes, I don't find how to change some boxes colours or
size, font size, font, in a GUI. So if some colour, size, font of an
object isn't suitable for someone (e.g. dyslexic person, or light-phobic
person), I need to re-build a new theme. An accessible system implies
that such customization is done fine-tune by user, manually, in a GUI.

For all these reasons, I think that Gnome is technically accessible. But
from an ergonomy point of view, they choosed an approach (based on
mainstream in Mac and Windows) which could exclude a lot of user cases,
and break with universal meaning of accessibility. The way to fix it is,
I think, having a true desktop and adding much more flexibility. But I
know it's not their current approach, even if gnome-flashback where it's
just a "old-school design", not a more flexible design.

So I prefer now uploading Compiz in Debian to have a quite performant
magnification solution, which relies on MATE and its flexibility. It's
the best chance to reach universal.

Happy with reading your feedbacks.


Le 22/05/2016 12:13, Samuel Thibault a écrit :
> Hello,
> Cyril Brulebois, on Sat 21 May 2016 23:13:17 +0200, wrote:
>>  * brltty:
>>     - Install MATE desktop by default when brltty is used in d-i.
>>  * espeakup:
>>     - Install MATE desktop by default when espeakup is used in d-i.
> This change has triggered discussion on the debian-boot IRC channel. To
> summarize, gnome people are surprised that MATE would be preferred by
> blind people and wonder what they need to improve in gnome. I answered
> that it was more a problem of general trend towards visual ways of
> using the desktop, which can't be made really usable, but that's only a
> sketchy answer, they need more precise examples.
> Could blind people here comment on this: why you don't use gnome and
> prefer MATE instead? (or the converse of course, the idea is not to
> blame gnome, we just want to select by default what is best for users,
> according to their situation. Ideally we'd just say "pick whatever,
> they're all good").
> Samuel


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