If you are blind or have low vision, a variety of assistive technologies in OS X — a built-in screen reader, screen and cursor magnification — help you get the most out of your Mac.
VoiceOver is the remarkable screen reader that comes as standard with every Mac. But it’s much more than a text-to-speech tool. It tells you exactly what’s happening on your Mac, and lets you fully interact with it using gestures, a keyboard or a braille display. And it uses Alex, the voice of Mac, who speaks to you in a natural tone.
Learn more about VoiceOver
Zoom is a powerful built-in magnifier that lets you enlarge your screen up to 20 times, so you can better see what’s on the display. You can use it full screen or picture-in-picture, allowing you to see the zoomed area in a separate window while keeping the rest of the screen at its native size. The hardware acceleration engine lets you boost the size of everything on your screen — text on a web page, family photos, a place on a map.
If a higher contrast helps you better see what’s on your display, OS X lets you invert colours onscreen. You can also increase and decrease contrast or switch to greyscale. Once you set your colours, the settings apply throughout the system, so you get the same view in every app.
OS X lets you magnify your cursor so it’s easier to see where you are and follow along as you move round your Mac. Set the cursor size once and it stays magnified even when its shape changes. And your Mac remembers your cursor size settings even after you log out, shut down or restart.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you’ll find many things to love on a Mac. Communicate easily with friends and family with FaceTime and iMessage, and use captions to watch your favourite content.
FaceTime video calls let you communicate in more ways than one. Catch every gesture and facial expression — from raised eyebrow to ear-to-ear smile. Thanks to its high-quality video and fast frame rate, FaceTime is ideal for people who communicate using sign language. And because Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch all come equipped with FaceTime, you can talk to iOS and OS X users across the street or across the globe. As if you’re face to face.*
Think of it as a visual beep. Instead of playing an alert sound, your Mac can flash its screen when an app needs your attention. Screen Flash automatically works with every app that uses the system beep. So there’s nothing more for you to do once you set it up.
When you’re using headphones, you may miss some audio if you’re deaf or hard of hearing in one ear. That’s because stereo recordings usually have distinct left- and right-channel audio tracks. OS X can help by playing both audio channels in both ears, and letting you adjust the balance for greater volume in either ear, so you won’t miss a single note of a concerto or word of an audiobook.
If you have difficulties using the keyboard, mouse or trackpad, OS X technologies help you make keystrokes and mouse gestures. You can even control elements of your computer by speaking. The features are easy to access and work across a range of apps.
Slow Keys adjusts the sensitivity of the keyboard to process only the keystrokes you mean to make. It builds in a delay between when a key is pressed and when it’s entered. You can adjust the delay and choose to have a sound play when a key is entered.
Sticky Keys combines your keystrokes for you by letting you press keys one at a time, instead of simultaneously, to enter commands. Enter a key combination — such as Command-S (for Save) — and OS X displays each pressed key, accompanied by a sound effect, so you can make sure the right keys are entered.
With Speakable Items, you can control the computer using your voice instead of the keyboard. And you don’t have to train your Mac to use it. Use Speakable Items to do things like close or minimise windows, navigate menus, open and switch between apps, turn text into sticky notes or start a screen saver. You can even have your Mac acknowledge when it’s heard you.
If you have difficulty using a mouse or trackpad, use Mouse Keys to control the cursor with the numeric keypad. Press a number key as the mouse button, and use other number keys to move round the screen or to drag and drop items. Easily navigate menus, the Dock and all your windows.
Sometimes it’s easier to use a pointing device than a keyboard. The Keyboard Viewer in OS X lets you do exactly that. It’s an image of a keyboard that floats above other applications (so it’s always handy) and you can customise it to fit your screen. Then “type” using a mouse or other pointing device. Turn on Sticky Keys and you can enter keyboard shortcuts via the onscreen keyboard too.
The Mac has several features designed for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Simplify the Finder to improve focus. And use the handy reference tools to improve language skills wherever you are in OS X.
Using parental controls, the Mac can be set up to provide a greatly simplified experience that may be easier for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Simple Finder reduces the Dock to just three folders. Teachers can limit the list of apps a student can open to only the ones they choose, so students can stay focused. Files, folders and apps are displayed in a single window of neatly arranged icons so everything is easier to find.
Say you’re reading an article on astronomy and are stuck on some terminology. Just look it up in the powerful built-in Dictionary app — from anywhere in OS X. Get quick access to definitions and synonyms that help with grammar, spelling and pronunciation.
Hear Alex Speak
Text to Speech
We all learn in different ways. Some of us learn better when more than one sense is engaged simultaneously. With Text to Speech, you can highlight any text, and Alex will read it aloud. Or choose from other male or female voices to do the reading. You can even adjust the speaking rate. And if you speak more than one language, you can choose from over 20 built-in languages.
To help with vocabulary and word-building skills, OS X provides word completion. After typing just a few letters, hit the Escape key and OS X suggests words. Select the word you want, and OS X completes it for you.
Those who have difficulty with expressive speech can also benefit from the assistive features in OS X. FaceTime lets you communicate visually, whether through the use of sign language, gestures or facial expressions. iMessage lets you chat with others via text. And Text to Speech lets you hear words read aloud to help with expressive speech development — or even communicates for you by speaking the words you type.