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Rockbox Open Source Replacement For MP3 Firmware Give Visually Impaired Access to Ipods by Speech Support

24 October, 2006 by Peter Verhoeven

Rockbox Open Source Replacement For MP3 Firmware Give Visually Impaired Access to Ipods by

Rockbox is open source firmware for a range of MP3 players. Started with MP3 players from

Archos, now there are beta versions for iRiver and most Ipods.

While most MP3 players are difficult to access by visually impaired, Rockbox Firmware

alternative, made by users for users, make MP3 players fully accessible for the visually

impaired, because of the build-in speech support.
With Rockbox installed, all menus, directories and files are voiced.

Last week I bought an Ipod Nano. The salesman told me there was just a new one with

increased battery life. I told him to give me the old Ipod Nano first generation, because I

could not install Rockbox at this moment on that 2nd generation Nano.

I bought an Ipod Nano. Not because I like the Apple firmware, or because the Ipod Nano is so

accessible for me as visually impaired. no, because I would an accessible device. A MP3

player on which I could install Rockbox.

With most MP3 players I only can play folder by folder, file by file.
As visually impaired I can not change any setting, without the help of a sighted person. The

only thing a visually ipaired can do is turning on the MP3 player, skipping between audio

files by pressing next and previous buttons and press play, pause and stop.

If you are sighted and are reading this, specially if you are working for Apple, close your

eyes and try to find that special song on your Ipod MP3 player?
Did you find it? Is Apple's firmware realy so good, or do you agree with me that it is

inaccessbile for millions in this world?

Not only the Ipod itself, is difficult to access, also the Itunes software - needed to put

files on the Ipod - has serious accessibility problems.

Another point is the lack of functionality in Apple's Ipod firmware. It includes a resume

feature. But everytime I plug the Ipod into the USB port of my computer to charge battery,

there is no resume anymore.

I use my MP3 player for listening to music and audio books in Mp3 format. For listening

audio books a resume feature, that also works after charging the battery, is essential.
Rockbox does not only give me a good working resume feature, it also stores bookmarks after

stopping listening.

Installation of Rockbox is very easy. There are excelent manuals how to install rockbox on

the different MP3 players supported. It is important to first check if Rockbox runs on your

MP3 player, before starting the installation.

If your MP3 player can run the Rockbox firmware carefully follow the installation

instructions step by step. If you are visually impaired don't forget to add a voice file to

your MP3 player, before rebooting your MP3 player.

I did the installation of Rockbox on my Ipod Nano, after reading the manual and FAQ, in 10

minutes. After the installation my first thought was, that something was going wrong. I

didn't hear the promised audio voicing. That was because after turning on the Ipod with the

Rcokbox firmware, you get the File Browse screen. To get speech in that screen you first

have to enable Voicing files and categories.
You can do this by first pressing the Menu button. If the installation was successful and

you didn't forget to put a voice file in the langs sub-directory of your .rockbox directory,

your MP3 player starts voicing to you.

In the main menu select General Settings and in the General Settings menu select Voice.

After enabling all voice options, everything will be voiced to you.

After installing Rockbox and enabling all voice options I realy was impressed by Rockbox.
Now I have random access to all my audio files. Via de excelent bookmarking features I can

get back to audio files at the point I stopped listening them. Now I can switch fast

between audio books and music. Time and date are voiced to me now. I can change Playback

settings I couldn't do before. I can check the battery level, I couldn't do before.
I can now start playing just that song by browsing through the folders and files, while

Rockbox is spelling them to me.

The open source Rockbox MP3 Player firmware community did what companies with high profits don't do. The Rockbox community made MP3 players accessible for visually impaired. The Rockbox project shows, that it is possible to make mainstream devices accessible to everybody. The Rockbox community shows, that there is no reason for companies like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Sony, iRiver, Archos, creative etc. to make products, that are hard to access by visually impaired.

I hope the above mentioned companies will donate to the Rockbox project and give them information about porting Rockbox to new MP3 palyer models, instead of protecting their inaccessibility!

Visit Rockbox at

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