LightHouse Labs talk, 2019.0508

Written by Rich Morin.

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Precis:  introductory talk on Pete's Alley and Perkian

Note: LightHouse Labs (LHL), held at the San Francisco LightHouse, is a monthly gathering that examines emerging technologies of relevance to the blind and visually impaired. This page is adapted from my LHL talk, given on May 8, 2019. See the Perkian and Perkify introduction pages for current information on these projects.


I tend to introduce myself here as a “volunteer developer”, but it may be useful for you to know a little more about me.

This evening, I’d like to tell you about a pair of related projects. I’ll start with Pete’s Alley, a web site for the disabled community. Then, I’ll segue into Perkian, my attempt to make computers and cell phones more useful to blind users.

Pete’s Alley

Pete’s Alley is a web site for the disabled community.

Note: The site is still a prototype, so there are some raw edges. For example, the site passes Chrome’s Accessibility Audit, but there are some problems I’m still discovering. For example, I recently found out that I should be using the aria-hidden attribute on my hide/show links. I expect to fix this quickly, but other problems will no doubt become evident as folks with various screen readers explore the site. So, Your Mileage May Vary…


Perkian is my attempt to make computing devices more useful, particularly for blind, visually impaired, and dyslexic users. The basic approach involves making it easy to install software.

At the same time, we can work on other approaches and targets. For example, the Docker-based approach doesn’t fit every use case.

Because command-line interfaces are based on text, they are inherently more accessible than graphical user interfaces. However, not everyone is a huge fan of the command line. As an anonymous wag put it:

Contrary to popular belief, Unix is user friendly.
It just happens to be very selective about who it decides to make friends with.

Perkian is very much a Work In Progress. I can generate a control file for the build process, but I still need to assemble the corresponding set of Chef cookbooks and recipes. Feedback and offers of assistance are both welcome.