GNOME's Orca Screen Reader Receives Major Changes and Improvements

A new development version of Orca can be downloaded from Softpedia

Orca 3.13.3, a free, open source, flexible, and extensible screen reader that provides access to the graphical desktop via speech and refreshable Braille, is now available for download and testing.

Orca works with applications and toolkits that support the Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI), which is the primary assistive technology infrastructure for Linux and Solaris.

The developers are making some very big changes to Orca and it looks like GNOME 3.14 will feature several important new features. This is the second major overhaul done by the Orca devs, but they are not stopping here.

“Orca works with applications and toolkits that support the assistive technology service provider interface (AT-SPI), which is the primary assistive technology infrastructure for Unix-like environments like Linux, OpenBSD or Solaris.”

“Applications and toolkits supporting the AT-SPI include the GNOME GTK+ toolkit, the Java platform's Swing toolkit, SWT, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, Mozilla, and WebKitGtk. AT-SPI support for the KDE Qt toolkit is currently being pursued,” reads the official announcement.

According to the changelog, support has been implemented for presenting color names instead of RGB values, several issues in character echo have been fixed, the same string is now used when presenting U+00A8, the same accent is now being used when typing and reading, the speechdispatcher's KEY command is no longer used for the printable key echo, the punctuation is no longer presented twice when keyecho and character echo are both enabled, and Braille verbosity levels are now respected when presenting widget roles.

Also, the application will fall back on sayCharacter when there is no word for sayWord to present, focus changes are no longer offered when navigating by character or word in Writer, several LibreOffice UI-presentation related issues have been fixed, a regression in changing the rate and pitch on the fly has been corrected, focused scrollbars are now presented, support for ROLE_DIAL has been added, Orca is no longer presenting checked tri-state checkboxes as partially checked, the application now explicitly checks for window-like roles when getting the top-level object, and a non-performant, buggy heuristic hack has been removed.

A complete backlog of updates and bug fixes can be found in the GNOME repository. You can download the Orca 3.13.3 source packages right now from Softpedia, but you won't be able to do anything specific with it. It's best to wait until the final version of GNOME 3.14 is out.

Remember that this is a development version and it should NOT be installed on production machines. It is intended for testing purposes only.

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