04 May, 2008

Mac review part two: Accessibility

A brief note before we begin: once again, I find it necessary to apologize for the fact that this review on the accessibility of my Mac is extremely overdue. And there have been several people ill with bad colds here. I have also had a number of developments in college life that I cannot discuss here. Everything is fine and when college begins again in the fall, I am sure I will have a tremendous success. All of these developments along with some overdue reunions have kept me from blogging. Now that I have explained my situation, let's get on with the topic at hand which is the accessibility of the Mac.

I've been using my MacBook Pro for quite a while now and I still love it! No, I have not given up Windows and because I own a Mac, I will never have to make the choice to give up Windows. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go back to the first part of this review read about parallels.


As all 2 readers of this blog will know :-), I have cerebral palsy which means that when I use a computer, I have to do so in a different fashion from most people. For one thing, my CP impacts the muscles in my eyes. This can make it difficult to read small print. To address this problem on my PC at home, I recently purchased a product called ZoomText for approximately $400. Now this product is absolutely worth it and I could not run my PC nearly as effectively without it. I know this because I did so for years and never realized just how much of my computer I couldn't see. ZoomText is not like the simple magnifier you'll find in Windows. ZoomText can magnify the entire screen, rather than just a small portion. What to do about the Mac? Well it turns out... nothing. That's right, you heard me to achieve the exact same results as in ZoomText, I didn't have to do anything apart from turn on the built-in magnification utility in OS X Leopard and learn the keyboard shortcuts to control the magnification. So to review: on the PC $400 was spent to get a good magnifier. On the Mac, I spent nothing apart from a little time learning exactly how the magnifier worked.


If magnification is not enough for you and you need something read aloud, what we do you plan Windows-based PCs? Yes, it is true that Microsoft has a utility in the accessibility options called "Narrator". In my experience however, the utility can only read selected text. Let's contrast this to the Mac experience. What do I do on my Mac if I want to read the document or an e-mail? I simply click "Edit", "Speech", and "Start Speaking". This functionality is built into any Mac application that supports text. That means you can use it in a word processor, or, e-mail. The only place where the reading utility is not available where it should be is in web browsers. If you still require more expensive audio feedback due to blindness, the Mac has a built-in utility Called "Voiceover. This will read anything on the screen, including menus and dialog boxes. And it's built into the Mac directly. A good voice navigation system/screen reader for the PC such as Jaws for Windows Can cost or $800 for the Standard Edition.