Accessibility – Getting Started After Installation with Orca

Devin Prater, Ankur Sinha Version F36 onwards Last review: 2022-07-27

Now that the system is installed, you’ll need to log in with your user account password. But, Orca isn’t speaking at this point. To turn it on, press Alt + Windows + S. The Windows key, from now on, will be called the "Super" key. This keyboard command is the usual command for turning on Orca. Orca will say "screen reader on." Now, enter your password, and press Enter.

Nothing will happen, but you’ve been logged in. To start Orca here, you’ll need to press Alt + F2, type in "orca" all lowercase, and press Enter. You’ll hear "screen reader on" again. Now, you won’t have to turn on Orca again during logging in, and we’ll set Orca to turn up automatically after log in as well.

Now, Mate has an applications menu, which lists all applications in a menu, sorted into categories. To get to it, press Alt + F1. Now, arrow to the left to the System menu. Then, arrow down to Preferences, and then right arrow. Now, arrow down to Personal, right arrow, then arrow down to Assistive Technologies, and press Enter.

Here, we can set preferred technologies, and turn on and off Assistive Technologies support. First, let’s turn on Assistive Technologies. Press Tab, and check the box. Now, Shift+Tab back to the preferred applications button, and press that. In this dialog, tab to the Orca combo box, and one more time to the Turn on at Startup check box, and press Space to check it. Now, you can close the dialogs.

Now, let’s turn on a few more accessibility options. The text editor on the Mate desktop is Pluma. Open a Run dialog with Alt + F2, type mate-terminal, which has a dash between the two words, and press Enter. Now, in the terminal, type

pluma .bash_profile

and press Enter. You’ll be in a text area. Press Control + End to go to the bottom of the file, and add the following lines.

export GTK_MODULES=gail:atk-bridge

Now, save the file, and close it. Restart the computer, and Orca should come up automatically, and all apps that are accessible will be accessible.

Configuring Orca

To configure Orca, press Insert + Space. This will bring up a window with several tabs. Spend some time configuring Orca, then you can apply the changes to see how they work, before you close the window. If you want to learn Orca’s keyboard commands, press Insert + H for "help." Then, you can press keys to see what they do, or press F2 to get a list of global commands, or F3 to get a list of application-specific commands.

Other options and notes

To set a keyboard command for turning off and on Orca, go to the Keyboard Shortcuts preferences under Hardware preferences. You can also set the capslock, Windows, Alt, and other keys to act as other keys, like having the Capslock as an additional control. If you close a program, like VLC, and accessibility seems to freeze, press Insert + H, then F2 to bring up an accessible window. You may close the screen reader shortcuts afterwards. If Orca becomes unresponsive, restart it by opening the Run dialog, typing "orca -r", and pressing Enter.