A blind person can use the Arduino. Just about.

Continuing on with my Raspberry Pi and Arduino experimentation, I’ve been trying to get a few minutes here and there over the past two days. Christmas is always a very relaxing but very busy time for me. I’m spending time with family and friends and I try to do very little with technology considering I spend so much time in front of a computer during the rest of the year. This year is very different. It’s still as busy as ever but when I get a free moment, I can’t wait to jump back into the RP. RP from here on in will mean Raspberry Pi in case you’re not sure.

Firstly, I had a few questions sent by Email after the last post. All of these questions are asked on the Raspberry Vi website but I’ll briefly give you a few answers here.

  1. Is Speakup supported?
    Technically, Speakup is supported by Raspbian but issues with the sound card integrated with the GPU on the device have caused a lot of problems in relation to software synthesis from ESpeak and other synthesizers. It may be possible to connect something like an Apollo2 to the RP via serial to get that talking. If someone wants to send me over a cable that will connect to the pins on the RP I’d be happy to try this.
  2. Is there any accessibility in the graphical environment?
    Raspbian uses the LXDE Window Display Manager. Orca works with Gnome and the KDE screen reader has a long way to go. Theoretically if Orca is running in LXDE and you start an application written using GDK Orca will work quite happily. However, it is worth remembering that the RP is a low power device. Even with a really good memory card at 96MB read and 92MB write speed the performance will not be nice to work with. My card is 45 write 48 read. Or something close to that.
  3. Is there sound output?
    Yes. Through the line out port and through HDMI if your television supports this.

I think it’s important to understand that the Raspberry Pi is not meant to be a high power device. It is primarily a tool that should promote learning by children. For someone like me, it’s a low cost device that is really useful for experimentation. If I break it, it’s not the end of the world. If I cause the system not to boot it won’t take long to fix.

The great thing for me is I have kind of fallen away from using Linux all that actively at home. I use it on servers a lot but I rarely use it for playing with Python or trying out new packages or configs.

I bought an Arduino a year ago with the best intentions of trying out a few things that I had heard about with the added aim of getting involved with the local maker space. Unfortunately to my annoyance, the Arduino IDE wasn’t accessible to me as a screen reader user. This meant that the kit that I bought has gone on unused for far too long. Thanks to a really brilliant little tool that I found while casually looking around last week, I now have access to compile and upload to my Arduino.

This tool is called Ino. It is exceptionally easy to use. The basic commands are

Ino init Creates a new project.
Ino build Compiles and creates the make file for your project.
Ino upload Uploads the compiled project.
Ino serial Displays the serial output from the Arduino.

You need the Arduino package installed first as well as Python easy_install. There are also a few dependencies listed in the requirements.txt file that will need to be installed before the tool will work.

The great thing is that it allows complete control of the Arduino without ever using the IDE. So, it can all be done using the console via SSH.

All I’ve done so far is use a few sensors and lights to read from the serial port just to get started. I’ve used a few loops, called functions, used include files and set up a few checks using if statements. Nothing too complicated but it’s giving me a starting point. Thanks of course to Emma who is helping me with the very visual side of the Arduino. It’s not possible for me to wire up the board so I need sighted assistance to add new components.

Of course, you would probably get some nice debugging tools using the IDE and the output from ino build isn’t great when it encounters a problem but so far, I’ve been able to debug it manually.

The only terrible thing about the RP and the Arduino is it’s quite addictive when you get stuck into a project. I need to remember that I’ve an 11 week old baby fighting for my attention as well.


4 Responses to A blind person can use the Arduino. Just about.

  1. Hi DigitalDarragh. I’m a Italian blind user and I’m playing with Raspberry Pi for a couple of weeks. I installed ino in this moment, so now I have to find my Arduino Uno, lost somewhere in the house, and then… 🙂 I fought for days and days some months ago with Arduino Eclipse plugin, then I gave it up, so many many many thanks for this post!
    …and, if you’re still interested in electronics, see (I haven’t it yet, but, sooner or later…) 🙂

  2. Hi DigitalDarragh. I’m a Italian blind user and I’m playing with Raspberry Pi for a couple of weeks. I installed ino in this moment, so now I have to find my Arduino Uno, lost somewhere in the house, and then… 🙂 I fought for days and days some months ago with Arduino Eclipse plugin, then I gave it up, so many many many thanks for this post!
    …and, if you’re still interested in electronics, see (I haven’t it yet, but, sooner or later…) 🙂
    (sorry for eventual duplicated comments)

  3. Hmm, problem in HTML tag, here you are the plain text link 🙂
    https://www.getdigital.eu/Circuit-Scribe-Pen.html

  4. Actually I have been able to use the Ardueno IDE 1.6 with Jaws 16 and 17. You need to make sure you enable the access bridge see the help under java in Jaws if you don’t know h ow. After that I had to set the edit control to multi line and open and close both jaws and the ide. I am 100% blind but before I lost my sight I was in electronics in the Air force. I am glad to be able to do it again. Note you also can put these pins in yourself. I have a couple ardueno boards. One actually only has 4 columns of pins with the top pin being pin 13 on the second row so it doesn’t have a lot if your a starter. I can give you a place to buy the nice little kit if you want. It doesn’t really matter though I use a full size proto board to it just takes a lot of counting. Sometimes I lay out my circuit first wwith snap circuits so I only have to build it once with real parts. If you haven’t found snap circuits they are worth a look. We are making labeling kits for the sets at APH but they are not ready yet. Anyway I just wanted to let you know the IDE is accessible it just isn’t when you first install it.