Introducing F123e

F123e is a diverse group which includes both software developers and non-technical persons who are blind. Since so much of computer-use is done through graphical user interfaces (GUI), we believe that it is important to support the technical development of and be able to use technologies such as the Orca and NVDA screen readers. However, there are times when we can choose how to use our computers, and for those times, we must be able to use technology that truly maximizes our efficiency and effectiveness. Moreover, being extraordinarily productive should not be a privilege available only to those who are technically sophisticated, but to everyone who is willing to invest some time in becoming fluent with their digital tools.

We are impressed with the productivity demonstrated by blind users of Emacs, the efficiency of the VIM interface design, and with the fact that these tools have been under constant development for roughly four decades. Moreover, the evolution of these tools, with recent mutations such as NeoVIM and Spacemacs, demonstrate that the communities of developers responsible for them are as vibrant as ever.

However, there is very little awareness of the existence of these tools among the general blind public, installation procedures are in some cases inadequate or non-existent, there is no training for non-technical users that we are aware of, and the choices of keyboard shortcuts (or key bindings), can be at times unnecessarily arbitrary. However, we believe that these and other obstacles can be overcome by our community.

Just like some of the most talented sighted developers in the world have assumed responsibility for developing, maintaining, and improving tools that they consider essential for their productivity, so can we, the blind, take on the challenge of developing and supporting the adaptations that make such technologies accessible to us. With this in mind, the informal group we are calling F123e (or F 1 2 3 experimental), will work towards achieving the following objectives:

  • making it extremely easy for both developers and non-technical blind users to install ARCH Linux and other needed software on virtual or actual machines in order to test, learn, or use the tools they need to maximize their productivity.
  • Automate the installation process for Emacspeak and make sure it can work with Spacemacs.
  • Develop content to make it easier for non-technical blind persons to install, learn, and use these technologies for work, education, or leisure.

We will have an ISO image that will bring all these pieces together, but most of the automation will rely on BASH scripts, so those interested in other operating systems can also benefit from this work. The choice of Spacemacs can be best understood by reading the description of the project

If you too, would like to have tools that maximize your productivity, please join our group by sending an e-mail message to:

Getting an ambitious project like this one started is not easy, so we want to thank everyone who has already joined our list, as well as Kyle Brouhard, for helping us with our own version of the Talking ARCH ISO; Travis Hartwell, for exploring the Spacemacs + Emacspeak challenges; and Michael Pozhidaev, for helping us spread the word about all this among blind developers. Of course, we are just getting started. Please help us by sharing this with people you think will be supportive.

Best regards, Fernando Botelho.

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