Install software to help visually-impaired/blind people use Linux

Posted on Fri 29 December 2023 in Linux

بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

This short guide will explain how to install a few pieces of software on Linux to make Linux usable for visually-impaired or blind people. The contents of this guide are meant to be user-friendly.

The instructions should work on most Linux distros.

Install or enable Flatpak

The first step is to install or enable Flatpak. Flatpak is a packaging and software distribution tool that is independent of the various Linux distros.

It can be installed or enabled by referring to this link: Flatpak Linux Install

Install required software

Only two pieces of software are required. The first, Orca Screen Reader, will give system-wide text-to-speech. The second, Pied, is a manager for Piper-TTS models. The models will give us a more human-like text-to-speech in comparison to the robotic ones we are used to.

Open your software manager and install Orca. It might also already be installed on certain distros.

Download the Pied Flatpak app from here: Releases page

Open a command-line app (like Konsole) and run the following command in the directory where the .flatpak was downloaded:

sudo flatpak install com.mikeasoft.pied.flatpak

Open Pied and install Piper-TTS. Thereafter download one of the the voice options.

Restart your computer.


Depending on your situation, I recommend disabling Orca on startup unless needed to login.

If Orca is not enabled on startup, then first start the Pied app and selecting the downloaded voice model. Then start Orca by opening the application manager window and typing the word 'orca'. You should see an option called "Run Orca". Choose that option.

If Orca is enabled on startup, it may complain (via audio repeatedly) of an error after logging in. But you should just start the Pied app, select the voice and then Orca should default to that chosen voice (note that I have not tested this method and it may fail. It is my assumption that Orca would switch to the selected voice after using it in the Pied app).

If Orca does not stop complaining, then run the following command on the command-line:

killall orca # use sudo if killall does not work on its own

and then follow the steps in the previous paragraph where Orca is not enabled on startup.

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