Though fortunately I am not disabled (at least as far as I know), recently I started to take interest in accessibility of software (you might have noticed that most of my comics have a reasonable alt-text now). We are already an information society, we can send information around the globe in milliseconds. We can share our ideas, and even go beyond reality.
And still, it is a pain in the ass to use a bootloader on an ordinary laptop without having a screen. Debian recommends Petitboot - at least it has some alternative.
In the GRUB Git Repo there is has an unfinished branch for BrlTTY support, and while I understand that for a bootloader it is not a trivial thing to support USB Braille Readers, it has a whole shitload of graphic options which are useless, and only there for eyecandy. If at least they would support a screen magnifier or something.
The whole framebuffer-crap is annoying anyway, especially since most linux distros began to make it their default configuration. The default text interfaces worked everywhere and were simple - of course, this had to be changed, so now you have to sledgehammer the default installers before you can use them on old computers with a low screen resolution. We lost backward-compatibility, but what did we gain except eyecandy and a lot of crashes on old hardware? And how much time that could have been invested in more useful things was wasted for that shit?
So now, back to topic. I was trying to find an accessible way to install Ubuntu 12.04 on an encrypted LUKS-root-partition. While a few years ago this was an exotic setup, having an encrypted LVM including swap and root is a default setup now, in my opinion, and I would recommend it to everyone.
Before I go on, when I was talking about writing this post, I was told to mention that the installation process for Windows is completely inaccessible. And yes, Ubuntu does a lot of things right. My aim is to give constructive criticism! Accessibility is not a feature, not being accessible is a bug.
The default Ubuntu Desktop 12.04 installer appears to ... sort of ... work - as long as you use the default partition layout. The partition editor makes no sense when using Orca. This is a major bug in my opinion. But as it does not support root-encryption anyway, I don't care at the moment.
The alternate installer uses Partman, which is a good piece of software, in my opinion. In theory, the installer should be accessible through BrlTTY, but it always crashes. I guess this is a bug, and I will file it.
The installer bases on Dialog, and for me, using it with a braille line is a pain, and I wonder whether it was possible to write a really accessible version of dialog, but other people using it seem to be satisfied with it as it is now. So be it, there are more important things to do, I guess.
As a conclusion, I can say that I currently could not find any accessible way of doing this installation for Ubuntu 12.04, without changing the installer (using preseed-magic, etc.).
However, the same does not hold for the Ubuntu 14.04 previews I tried.
Debian has a nice installer that uses speakup. There is still a lot of room for improvements, but at least it is there.
So well ... it could be better, but it could also be worse, I guess.
I guess the main problem with the installers can be summarized by one sentence from the presentation "Freedom #0 For Everybody Really?", which is interesting to watch anyway: Don't make software accessible, write accessible software.