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Call For Help: Accessibility support in d-i


As some of you might know, d-i already has some rudimentary
support for people with disabilities.  That currently
includes speakup, a kernel patch to enable the usage
of hardware based speech synthesizers during installation (connected
via a serial port) and BRLTTY, a user-space solution to
use a braille display (tactile reading) during installation.
Both of those screen readers are currently included
in the "access" floppy flavour.  The boot image uses
kernel-image-2.4.xx-speakup as a kernel, and the root image
includes the brltty-udeb.

Unfortunately, something seems to have broken recently, and
the currently generated access floppy images do not boot anymore.
The boot floppy starts to load normally, and after some time, SYSLINUX reports:
"Boot failed: Please change disks and press any key to continue."

Since this is a syslinux error, I am a bit at a loss as to
how to debug this.  I am calling for help from anyone
who might know why this is happening.  It has definitely
worked in the past, but since I don't have the time
to retest the access flavour every week or so, I do not
know when it actually broke.

How to test?
You might be asking: "How can I help without special hardware?"
You can boot the access floppy flavour without
any special accessibility hardware, just don't specify any
speakup_synth/speakup_ser or brltty kernel boot options,
you should get a normal text-based installation menu which uses
the cdebconf-text frontend.

If you've got any idea why boot fails and how
this could be fixed, please let me know.  It'd be sad
if we would have to drop the access flavour again.

What remains to be done:
Future tasks for improving accessibility of d-i would
be to generate an alternative initrd for CD booting which basically would
mimick the access floppy configuration.  Using image names, the user
would be able to select normal install or accessibility
enabled install from one and the same CD.
I personally don't own a CD burner (yet?), so help
in this direction would be welcome too.  It is also probably
the single most asked question by prospective blind users: "Can I boot from
CD and still get accessibility support?"

Why a special kernel?

I've been asked several times in the past why speakup
needs to be in its own kernel image and why I didn't try
to get it into the standard debian kernel image.  The explanation
is fairly simple: speakup is a quite intrusive patch.  Upstream
has attempted to get it into mainline at several points in time in the past,
but it wasn't accepted.  I wouldn't want the Debian
standard kernel to include the speakup patch because I do not trust
it fully for anything other than desktop machines.

Thanks for your help,
  Mario | Debian Developer <URL:http://debian.org/>
        | Get my public key via finger mlang@db.debian.org
        | 1024D/7FC1A0854909BCCDBE6C102DDFFC022A6B113E44

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