Compatibility with accessible distros? (Screen readers for the blind and visually impaired)

Ok, im somewhat new to using screen readers (for the blind and visually impaired). I am possibly coming over to HA from Homeseer and want to play around with it for some time before making my decision. I have an old windows server laying around that is really not accessible for the visually impaired. My thought was to try something like Accessible Coconut (Unbuntu based I think), Unbuntu Mate, or Debian in place of the out of date windows server os. The appeal of coco is that the screen reader is ready from go, mate just needs it to be switched on I believe, and Debian would require sighted help for sure to get the orca screen reader going. I’m not 100% on any of that as I’m a total Linux newbie. Any recs from the bvi community on ha accessibility with a screen reader on a server based install? Even with pi as that would be my other option, although I’d have to buy one which I’m not interested in quite yet as it’s just a test for now. Thank you for any guidance!

Home Assistant is meant to be run as a headless server, which means no screen and keyboard.
The access to Home Assistant will usually be done through a browser on a computer of your choice connected to the same network as Home Assistant.

Home Assistant can be installed in different ways.

  • The Core only installation, which can be done on different types of Linux systems and requires administration of the Linux system.
  • Supervised installation, which can only be done on Debian Linux, and currently it is only version 12 (Bookworm). This installation require a good understanding of Linux, because the OS will be managed by the user. On top of that it comes with many restrictions.
  • Home Assistant Operating System (aka HAOS). This is a operating system maintained by the Home Assistant team and on top of that runs the Home Assistant, which is also maintained by the Home Assistant team. This setup only require a little initial setup and then it can be updated from the browser in the future.
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To wallys point where is the low visibility assist necessary?

If it’s from the end user perspective. Your screen reader needs to work with your web browser or the companion app. Prep for those experiences.

If you’re talking about vision assist to the admin building HA you’ll do whatever you do to assist assembly of any other compute devices from scratch, With end game being a headless install you will administer through a web browser. In that case if you have a blind Linux sysadmin being successful I can’t teach them anything they don’t already know. In fact I’d like to watch how they get it done.

Thank you for the reply. I understand the headless operation through a browser concept. The operation, post install, will be easy for me using Mac/iOS with voiceover and/or pc with nvda screen readers. It’s the installation of ha onto a server running Linux that is my challenge at the moment. Not being very familiar with Linux to begin with, but I’m a quick learner. From what I’ve read on the internet, accesible coconut is a Linux distro that has a screen reader switched on by default so that a blind visually impaired person could install and run that easily all on their own. Other versions, it seems, require a screen reader to be activated or enabled which would require sighted assistance to get going. I know that there are restrictions as far as ha compatibility with different distros of Linux so I wanted to check with the community to see if any any blind visually impaired individuals are running ha on an accesible server or pc and what distro they’re running. It sounds like Debian is out as you mentioned that it has restrictions. It looks like a core install is what I’m going for as I’m sure haos is pi? Thank you for your input. I’m still researching this as it sounds like it could be a decent project to occupy my time.

The initial installation required with a Home Assistant Operating System setup is somewhat equivalent to the setup on a Linux distro before you get into the actual setup where a screen reader is enabled.


The screen reader assistance would be at the home server level. Not a plug and play pi that one connects to the lan. I’m coming from Homeseer which I have running on a windows server machine along with several other services for my smart home. I set all this up years back before I lost most of my vision. A few things have happened as of late and the version of windows server I”m running is not very accesible as far as the antiquated screen reader so server maintenance and upgrades are extremely difficult, if not impossible for me to do on my own (my laptop nvda screen reader does not work using the Remote Desktop server connection so I must connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor to the server and use the servers outdated narrator and other lacking accessibility features, it’s not working out for me at all). As I have another windows server machine sitting around gathering dust, I thought this would be a fun project to install/learn Linux and play with home assistant to see if it’s worth switching everything over to. I’m curious to hear from any blind visually impaired people that have installed ha on a home server and what distro version and screen reader they use (orca, speak up, etc,). Operating and programming ha, regardless of installation, will hopefully be easy using Mac/ios and voiceover as that’s my go to for now. Nvda on windows has been buggy for me. I know the simple route would be a pi, but I didn’t really want to throw money at something for a trial, plus the learning experience would be entertaining and I need to be able to manage my other current services that I’m no longer able.

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I settled on a supervised install. I threw Debian 12 on an old windows server today. It took awhile as I had to find a driver for the nic. FaceTime and friends are amazing as I couldn’t have done it on my own. I burned up my allotment of brain power for the day so I’ll try to install ha in the next day or two. I did slice the heck out of my finger on something at the back of the server when I was feeling around for a usb port! I’m thinking it was a sharp edge on a slot blank cover. The joys of vision loss. I’ll try and continue with installing ha over the weekend. Thank you for your help and guidance here. I stumbled across the guide on supervised installation after your response. I don’t know why I didn’t find these guides when searching before. I guess I had to word it exactly as you did in your reply.