Librem 5 Accessibility

Hi all,
I’m extremely interested in the M5 phone, as I’m feeling a little disenfranchised by other smart phone manufacturers, and the smart tech industry at large.

Add to that that me and my wife help out at a workshop teaching blind and visually impaired people how to use smart technology, and it is becoming apparent that there is a cross section of users for whom smart technology is more of a hindrance than a help, and it all adds up to me wanting to try something new.

As I myself am blind, and the people we work with are all blind or visually impaired, I am looking into other solutions that might be better (or at least another choice) for everyone.

It has been my dream for a while to create my own mobile phone, one with buttons, and no smarts whatsoever, but it’s becoming abundantly clear how difficult that is.

So here I am at the M5, wondering how Orca - which I’m pretty sure doesn’t support touch screens - works in this context.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Are there any blind / VI folks using the M5 phone?

Normally I’d just buy one and try it, but it’s quite a lot of money to shell out for something which might not work now or ever.

Not really sure what I’m asking specifically, just throwing it out there so the community knows there’s interest from at least one blind user who’s more than happy to help out in whatever way he can! :slight_smile:
Cheers, and hope you’re all having a lovely day.



Hi Chris,

note that the Librem 5 is at a very early stage. Hopefully the first real backer will receive one in the coming weeks. Obviously, it is not very polished yet.
You could try to get some idea with the virtual machine image (Link to VM Documentation).

Do you happen to know if Orca supports Wayland? Or rather, if Wayland has a screenreader API? As you might know, Wayland wants to be more secure than X11 by not exposing window contents to other processes. So, that might be the main problem, but either it’s already solved or it has to be solved anyway as X11 gets replaced by Wayland more and more.

The harder part would most likely be navigation and Orca activation without a physical keyboard. But of course, all the sensors (touch, microphone, gyroscope) open up interesting possibilities.
I personally would assume the most promising way to bring the necessary changes about would be to hire a couple of developers who help to incorporate them into Gnome and PureOS. And for that, you’d probably need a group of hundreds of people willing to invest in that.

Out of curiosity, is your screen reader butchering Librem? Because you spell it as M5, and it should be Libre plus M as one word :slight_smile:


I’ll admit, this isn’t an area I’m very familiar with but I see a couple of questions in there just to continue what Caliga said.

L5 doesn’t have mechanical / physical keyboard. On that front, you’d have to consider plugging a device to the USB-c port. On the other hand, it does have audio port (and blue tooth), so earbuds and listening to screen reader is easy. In addition to Orca, would any of the web-browser plugin readers help - especially, are there any that plugin to gnome-browser? Unfortunately, for now, there is no idea how those work on L5 - no one has tested them. And the first step would be to try the virtual machine.

According to what I’ve seen, the user interface has been designed to be graphical but as it’s linux based, there shouldn’t be any problem for pure text based use as well. However, I have no idea what that entails in practise for phone use, even if you would use Lynx or what ever.

But more importantly, perhaps, the Librem 5 is distro agnostic, so you could maybe have one of the designated speech distros intalled. Sonar, Trisquel, Speech Arch and maybe any other Debian based special linux distribution that you might know about, since PureOS is Debian based. Although those might need some work on the interface front as it is thouch screen by default (again, maybe additional keyboard might help, even if it’s not as handy as a phone with built in keyboard).


Sorry, I did know it was Librem 5, although yes, my screen reader says Libre M 5, and by the time I noticed the difference, I’d already started thinking of the phone as M5.

So I have very little idea about Orca honestly. I used it occasionally, but Linux just doesn’t offer as polished an accessibility experience as either Windows or Mac OS X.

I’ve never heard of Wayland, so that’s something else I’ll have to look into.


OK, not sure how to directly reply to the other post, so I’ll answer here.

Modern smart phones all have screen readers. There’s VoiceOver on the Apple front, and [Talkback](] on Android. Chrome OS has it’s own, as does Windows (although the Windows one is not to the same standard as the others mentioned here).

All these offerings work with a touch screen, so the Librem 5 could use the same idea, of course assuming that Orca could be made to work with a touch screen.

I’ll look more into the subject. At least there’s a topic where accessibility-related stuff can be posted now.

Thanks for the input, it’s very much appreciated.

Have fun,



Yes! The person you want to pitch the idea of a “Adriane Edition” of the Librem 5 is Klaus Knopper.. I’m not visually impaired and don’t know the guy at all but I’m a big fan of his Knoppix distribution and applaud his work on the A.D.R.I.A.N.E. system. He’s a perfect fit for your complimentary project…oh, btw, it sounds as if you’re starting a project/initiative :slight_smile:


i love you ! i’m “blind” as well …

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I’m visually impaired and although I don’t need a screen reader, I do see myself using Android’s magnifier from time to time when I have trouble reading small font even at 1" from my right eye (I’m blind in my left eye with optic nerve hypoplasia). What I would want to see is the option for having an accessibility button either to the left or right of the “multitask” button for activating zoom function in a smartphone.

For my laptop running GNOME 3 (I assume PureOS is no different in a desktop/laptop), touching different parts of the screen while zoomed in will move the zoomed in area to a different area where my pointy finger is touching, so the touchscreen behaves similar to a mouse cursor.

So, in a Purism smartphone, it makes sense to use two fingers to scroll all around the screen which will behave similar to Android and pinch in and out while the Zoom feature is in use.

Do note, though, that with a high-DPI display, the zoom feature of GNOME magnifier does not take into account the DPI it’s in, so the zoom feature will scroll as you type as if the scale feature is set to 100%. The zoom feature does not know the scale factor is set to 200% or higher, so when typing in the terminal, someone who is visually impaired cannot see what he or she is typing. Granted, I went too far off-topic. But I can imagine this will happen in a Librem 5. The keyboard will need to stay fixed to the screen when zoomed in similar to Android.

Now, for Orca in a Librem 5, how about using two fingers to scroll up and down the list? Or how about moving the finger around to see what’s in a screen? And then double-tap to execute the function?

Has my post gotten to long for anyone to comprehend?

Oh, and another thing to note is Orca is not properly formatted for small screen. Orca is more of a traditional GTK2 application with tabs at the top below the title bar. Plus, there will need to be on/off switches in place of check boxes to make it touch-friendly.

I do not need zoom but I hate the grey colors used for text. I need BLACK text with good contrast to the back color (which should be WHITE). In Firefox you can change the colors but at the same time the whole page goes nuts. But zoom is also a useful feature.