Apple – Mac OS X – Accessibility.
Snow Leopard the latest update to the popular Leopard operating system installed on all modern day Mac computers has got an update, it’s only a little one and mainly focuses around bug fixes, it’s not a complete overhaul of the way the system looks but at less than £30 you would not expect a miracle.
Opinion as I have understood it has been divided, many see snow Leopard as a bit of a waste of money and time, its well documented how it is faster than Leopard (which I have never found slow).
There are a collection of features that have not been spoken about in the public eye that I have seen in any way and that is the updates to the already good accessibility tools.
To put this into context most of the time I use something called Text- To -Speech or more commonly referred to in is easier form of TTS or a Screen Reader. For Mac this is something called Voiceover. Basically a lovely little American man called Alex reads me everything that happens on screen, all the things I would struggle to read. I navigate through different windows and applications with ease and am able to for the majority of my time edit the two websites and one forum which I own and manage solely using this software.
Its hard to explain to a person that has never used TTS but when Apple created Voiceover they took the manual on making TTS engines and threw it off a plane before passing it through a mulching machine and stamping on its mussy remains. Voiceover is unique anyone can use it straight out of the box, no additional software needed.
A blind person can go along to an Apple store and say ‘I would like a MacBook please’, pay for it return home open the box and use it straight off. Apple are the only computer and software developer to do this, they are incredibly committed to accessiblity and see there products as the way forward, even the iPhone3G S now has Voiceover and can be used by visually impaired people.
With the Microsoft counterparts we all know and… hate that is simply not possible, you would have to purchase your laptop then spend an additional £800 on software to make it accessible and then install the software.
Snow Leopard is once again revolutionising the way that blind and partially sighted people use their computers TTS engines have forever relied on the keyboard to allow users to navigate their way around their computer, this is no more.
With Voiceover and Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 users can now not only navigate with the keyboard but also with the touch pad on MacBook’s using gestures. Now that for many people may well be the closest they ever get to using a computer mouse, something that if you have severe visual impairment you are seriously unlikely to ever do! Voiceover is more powerful and better at handling complex web pages with the new release which will be very welcomed by many as there are certain web pages that Voiceover currently just does not have the power to understand. For example the webpage I am writing this on right now, Voiceover cannot cope with all the information and the styling of WordPress, which is as much down to the design faults of wordpress as it is to the lack of Voiceover grunt. With increased power I hope that Voiceover will overcome the WordPress accessibility issues, but time will tell.
I must now buy Snow Leopard and quickly.
Alas I am not the only person jumping up and down giggling with technology fuelled excitement whilst drooling slightly at apples accessibility my freelancer friend Lesley Smith has decided to convert to the ways of apple, mostly because of the accessibility features I have just mentioned and a fair amount of persuading from me.