Flying FlightGear for the blind

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Note: For the time being this article is put together based on a handful of related discussions, so it may seem a little inconsistent, and even random - your help in reviewing/updating and improving the article would be apperciated

FlightGear is considered halfway accessible for people using a screen reader called NVDA. [1]

There seems to be a pretty big blind flight sim community[2]

there is going to have to be work done with the interface of Flight Gear itself to make it screen reader friendly, but that would be a good step in the right direction.[3]

Apparently this all started in early 2008, when a user joined as the first blind user of flightgear, posting "needless to say that i was excited as a kidlet at xmas eve!" it is quite exciting to be able to actually controlling the plane from speech even it is a little harder thanks to ron andersg and jester for helping out with that. This is all good things but as i read about in the forums and archives it is like something is missing. like aren't there anyway we can get more atc interaction than we have now ? I would go a long way to be able to get more info from some of the towers say like round ksfo where i usually fly yes you can have the freqs ready but you can see in the way that ppl interact and fly that they find it more stimulating with more ATC interaction admittedly i have not look deeper in to how it could be done but it seems that when i look at the nasal code that the tower knows quite alot about how the plane is positionned in relation to the airport. Does anyone work on it of if yes how would i go about joining him or her? i imagine a situation like this ... i take of from ksfo i am in a situation where i need the AP'S vor or ndb okay now of course the pilot is from cali right and a spoiled blonde btw this is not repeat not as an unrealistic situation as it may sound "is a blonde too" anyway how woudl one get the freq? Fine if i am the only one who believes that needs a little more so be it but other wise it would eventually be interesting to have :) As we speak flightgear is the only sim you can use as a totally blind person and you can actually fly it so exact so you can fly a normal instructor student program i do it all the time. It sounds more impressing than it really am. Just saw something for FAA and x-plane do we have certifications for that to? [4]

As being one of the only blind female pilots in here voice on that part of the towercommunication would be a good idea instead of as it is now using the synth for it . However there is one thing. If we should have that one would have to make all the words for it and it would have to be called each time as it is for ATIS. It is not a bad idea at all just saying :) As for streaming text to speach i do that all the time with a lot of the instruments dme, vor, gps, rpm for the engine, throttle, heading altitude ground view and so on. Okies when i started in here i had AndersG and Jester helping me making it work that way that it streamed it to the speach that is in my mac but the selution was simply not good and responsive enough. I ended up installing a free speach that i also use on my windows box... could we forget i admitted that ? It really did not work in a fast and mature way til i did. So 2 things are important if you want ot use speach on flightgear. 1: what speach do you like "which one can your brain handle at over 370 words pr minute and yes it sometimes is that hectic round ksfo, cause of all the pilots chittering . 2 how much memory does the speach use from your computer ? well i started with "alex" for mac and as much as i adore him he was simply not good enough for the task, i guess the fact that i fly from a mac book air did not help metters either :)[5]

Blind Pilots? Yes, You read it right! There are a lot of Blind People like Me who Love Airplanes and play Flight Simulators, mainly Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Prepar3d. Of course probably some of You are asking how can a Blind Person use Flight Simulators if They can't see the Screen? How can They read the instruments, perform the various tasks and safely fly a Plane? The truth is We can do all those things thanks to the use of Screen Readers like Jaws For Windows or NVDA which is free and Open Source combined with a few Adons, one of them specifically developed for the Blind called ItsYourPlane. Plus at least 2 other Adons, Multi Crew Experience and FSX Pilot. All of them create a virtual Co Pilot which assists with the different tasks like Checklists and so many others, allowing a Blind Person to use Flight Simulators just like everyone else. There are a few Forums like the ones listed bellow talking about this and there are also some Videos, specially in the ItsYourPlane Page showing how a Blind Person can fly a Plane[6]

FlightGear is apparently considered "accessible" [1].

User Interface

We have this new webbrowser UI, TorstenD is currently working on. In it's current state it is not barrier-free but it should be _very_ easy to add the required features and use many existing tools like screen readers or to give audible feedback use text-to-speech conversion. If someone can guide Torsten to what is needed, he'd be happy to implement it.[7]

Improving accessibility

for one thing make sure you have all alt tags labeled exactly as to what the buttons, edit boxes and labels do firstly. Secondly, I have found that the screen readers happen to get in the way so on the Mac it may be good after you may want to turn off Voiceover but indicating that before you shut it down. Thirdly, maybe we can either have a choice for real files for speech or speak/festival files in the ui and then it downloads those files. This may give you a start if you have more questions let me know.[8]

Customizing FlightGear

scot, anders can properly explain it better, but here goes. think about this, all of our instruments, speed, pitch, bank is numeric variables, it is just these numbers that is send too the speech, really. what can be done as for making flightgear more accessible i have no idea about, i remember that anders and Jester have used many hours making it work, the only thing I've done really is adding more keys for a few things. Having an automated act that could talk the pilot down could be interesting, am not sure how it would work, though. round ksfo you just tune into the Ils. and voyla. Scot, if your friend is on a mac it will take under 10 minutes too set it up, i can send you an Dmg file with all the needed files, but i believe anders have it on his site too.[9]

At the time AndersG made some crude tools, available here but he thinks they have since been tailored and improved by the user in question.[10]

The most useful part is speak.nas and AndersG also got the updated version from Sandi now. I'll compare them and add her file in the same directory ASAP. My version:[11]


It seems to me that a pretty good starting point would be to add simulated no-gyro PAR approaches to FlightGear. These are approaches where ATC essentially talks the pilot down. Some basic information is available here: The above includes the standard phraseology that is used. I believe that blind pilots would likely need additional information beyond what is provided by ATC for no-gyro approaches. To have these approaches in FlightGear would be interesting for all IFR FG users, and would be a good starting point for building a system for blind pilots.[12]