CentOS Accessibility for Low Vision

In one of the data science computer labs on my college campus, the default operating system is CentOS, a well-known Linux distribution. While a lot of my professors know the ins and outs of the operating system, they weren't as knowledgeable about configuring CentOS accessibility settings for low vision. Luckily, my professors helped me discover and document accessibility settings in CentOS so that I could complete in-class exercises with no issues. Here is how I configure CentOS for low vision and the accessibility settings that I choose. It's worth noting that I have my own designated computer in the lab and that no one else messes with the accessibility settings.

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Finding the Universal Access menu

To locate the Universal Access menu and configure the accessibility settings, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to the "Show Applications" menu
  2. Open "Settings"
  3. The "Universal Access" button is located between the "Region & Language" and "Online Accounts" buttons

Always show Universal Access menu

Personally, I prefer to always have the Universal Access menu showing at the top of my screen so I can easily adjust accessibility settings as needed. It's also a quick way for me to turn on the Zoom magnifier- more on that later. While not every setting can be configured in this quick access menu, most of the settings I use can be turned on/off.

High Contrast

An on/off toggle for improving the display of icons and other information on the screen. I prefer to use this over adjusting the contrast settings in Zoom magnifier. This is different from the high contrast display I use on my Windows computer, but helpful nonetheless.

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Large text

Self-explanatory, enlarges the system font for improved readability. The font is still not very large, but it is easier for magnification.

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Cursor size

Cursor size can be combined with Zoom magnifier to make it easier to see the cursor on the screen. I use the 4th largest cursor size when I am using Zoom, and the 5th largest cursor size when I'm not.

Zoom

There are several options for configuring the Zoom magnifier for CentOS:

Magnifier

  • Magnification power (up to 20.00x, I keep mine on 2.50x)
  • Magnifier position- follow the mouse cursor or screen part
  • Screen part options- I use the full screen magnification and have the magnifier cursor move with contents, though there are also options to have the cursor centered or have the magnifier cursor push contents around

Crosshairs

  • Turn crosshairs on/off to have lines display across a portion of the screen to help make it easier to focus on the screen

Color effects

  • Turn on white on black (high contrast)
  • Change brightness of the magnifier window (mine is normal)
  • Change contrast of the magnifier window (mine is normal)
  • Color in magnifier window (mine is normal)

Screen reader

Enabling the screen reader in CentOS allows for everything on screen to be read out loud. No additional settings can be configured for the screen reader, only on/off. While I do use the built-in screen reader for simple actions, I typically use the Orca screen reader that was installed by my professor.

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How everything looks together

Here is what my computer looks like with the settings I mentioned, displayed on a standard size Dell monitor. With all of these accessibility settings combined, my desktop is large and easy to navigate with the magnifier or without. For running code in the terminal, I'm using Zoom at 4.00x, which I adjusted within the main Universal Access menu prior to opening the application.

A picture of the desktop with medium sized icons anda large cursor

Desktop- no zoom

A desktop with large icons that take up half of the screen, with a large cursor

 

Desktop with 2.50x Zoom turned on

Python terminal open with the text “Hello World! - @veron4ica” written onscreen

Python terminal with 4.00x Zoom turned on

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Final thoughts

Learning more about the Universal Access settings has helped me to grow more comfortable with learning the CentOS operating system for my data science classes, and I'm glad that my professors were willing to work with me to ensure I had an accessible computer. By enabling these low vision accessibility settings on my CentOS computer, I can work on examples in class alongside my peers without any other interruptions in class.