My computer of choice is a MacBook Air. I have always preferred Apple products to any other system. As I have not required accessibility features for myself, I never took the time to explore the available features. Apple has numerous accessibility features that will assist users with utilizing the product to its full potential. The Apple site breaks the accessibility features into four categories: vision, hearing, and physical and motor skills. Each category offers numerous accessibility options for each category. All of the information comes from Apple’s website.
The first category is vision. The first tool is called VoiceOver. I did not realize that my computer had this feature. It comes standard with every Mac product. On the surface, it appears to be just another text-to-speech tool; however, it does much more than that. The program tells you exactly what is happening on the computer. Additionally, you can interact using gestures, the keyboard, or braille. After playing with the program, it is beyond what I could believe. The reader, Alex, is very relaxing. It does not have any hint of condescending the user. While I do not know braille, I did feel it would be beneficial to someone using braille. The vision category also includes zoom. Zoom is your typical zoom feature that makes the content on the screen larger. According to the site, the zoom feature can enlarge content up to 20x the original size. Another tool I had not seen before on my computer, but many of my students have used, is the cursor enlarger. The user can make the normally tiny cursor larger to make it easier to see on the screen. Additionally, there are ways to change the contrast to make it easier to see if that is problematic for the user. The final vision component is the diction tool. The diction tool, available in over forty languages, allows the user to speak commands. This is a wonderful tool for someone with a profound vision impairment. The program comes with numerous commands, but the user can also create his or her own commands. All of these tools are wonderful options for individuals with vision impairments.
In addition to having supports for individuals with vision impairments, Apple also has features to assist those with hearing impairments. The first major tool is one that I never thought of as assistive technology. FaceTime is a wonderful tool for individuals with vision impairments. Individuals utilizing lip reading or sign language, for example, can use FaceTime to communicate through their computer. Additionally, the MacBook Air includes Screen Flash. Screen Flash alerts the user to apps that need his or her attention without sound. Screen Flash has the screen flash when an app needs attention. The user does not have to do anything in order to have the alerts work with apps. Once the program is turned on, it works with every app. I tried this program, and it works really well. The only downfall is that you have to be near the computer in order to see the flash. While that is a downfall, it is a wonderful program for people with vision impairments.
Not only does the MacBook Air have programs to assist individuals with hearing and vision impairments, but it also has programs to assist users with physical and motor skill impairments. The programs are switch control, slow keys, sticky keys, dictation commands, mouse keys, and an onscreen keyboard. I tried all of these but the mouse keys option. The switch control is built directly into OS X, and it allows users to use scanning. Users can create custom panels and keyboards. While this may seem frustrating and unnecessary for someone without physical and motor impairments, I see how beneficial it can be to someone with physical and motor impairments. Additionally, users can add a switch, a joystick, and other external devices for additional assistance.
I have never had to use any of these accommodations. These assistive technologies make using the MacBook Air much more accessible for individuals with one or more disabilities. Being able to utilize me gave me a better understanding of the assistive technologies available to those requiring this technology.
“Accessibility – OS X – Apple.” Accessibility – OS X – Apple. Apple, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.