The Mac has several features designed to help students with cognitive and learning disabilities get organised, stay focused and learn in ways that fit their unique capabilities.
Using parental controls, the Mac can be set up to provide a greatly simplified experience that may be better for students with cognitive and learning disabilities. Simple Finder reduces the Dock to just three folders. Limit the list of apps a student can open to only the ones you 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.
For some students, navigating the web can be a sensory overload. Safari Reader reduces the visual clutter on a web page by removing distractions. It strips away ads, buttons and navigation bars, allowing students to focus on just the content they want. And Safari Reader works with Text to Speech and VoiceOver, so students with print disabilities or vision impairments can get auditory feedback.
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, students can have the word or a paragraph read aloud as they’re reading it onscreen. Choose Alex — the voice of Mac — or other male or female voices to do the reading. Students can also adjust the speaking rate and select from over 20 built-in languages.
Stumbling across unfamiliar words is bound to happen when reading new texts or learning new subjects. With the Dictionary app,† students have quick access to definitions and synonyms to help with grammar, spelling and pronunciation — even if they’re offline.
Word completion in OS X can help students who have print disabilities or cognitive challenges — or are learning English — improve their vocabulary and word-building skills. After typing just a few letters, press the Escape key and OS X suggests words. Students can see the list of all the words that start with certain letters so they can pick the right word. This helps highlight correct word usage and can turn spelling into a more positive experience.
Looking at a densely written page can be overwhelming. To help keep the attention of students who tend to lose focus, Summarise condenses long passages into shorter, more easily digestible segments. Select Summarize in TextEdit or Pages, and a panel pops up that allows the student or teacher to summarise the text to a more manageable length — even all the way down to one sentence — so the student can understand the main concepts.
Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track
Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track converts text to spoken audio and allows students to download tracks to any iOS device. So students who benefit from hearing text rather than reading it can listen to assignments on their own time. And because it’s a service built into the operating system, creating the file takes only three simple steps — so there’s no need for teachers to spend time recording audio.
Students can use Photo Booth to take snapshots and make short videos, giving them another way to communicate. For instance, students who struggle with personal interaction — like answering a direct question — may find it easier to see their own face on the screen in order to begin communicating. And because Photo Booth is integrated with the built-in FaceTime HD camera, it displays photos and videos the moment they’re captured. Students can record a short video with one click, then share it with a second click. And therapists can use Photo Booth to model speech, motor skills or other forms of therapy.
With Calendar, students can get pop-up reminders so they know when their next band practice is or when their next maths assignment is due. Alerts can help busy students keep on track and stay organised.
iPhoto and iMovie
For students who have a hard time communicating their thoughts in written words, iPhoto and iMovie allow them to express themselves through multimedia. With a digital camera and iPhoto, many aspects of learning that are traditionally print oriented can be captured in a concrete, visual way. This can help students who are struggling readers or learning English. And teachers can create photo books to teach social situations and life skills or model appropriate behaviour, so students can refer to these stories for future use.
With iMovie, students may find the process of writing both the visual and the audio elements of a script — and the overall excitement of making a movie — more engaging than other kinds of narrative writing assignments. iMovie can also help strengthen sequential ordering skills, and gives students the chance to use visual-spatial strengths to develop their storytelling skills. And both iPhoto and iMovie come standard on every new Mac.
File structures can be confusing. Spotlight gives students an easy way to track down files, assignments or email. It’s a lightning-fast search technology built into OS X that students can use to quickly pull up what they’re looking for. As students start typing in the Spotlight search field, they get instant results. Spotlight not only finds files, folders and documents, but also contacts, calendars, apps and even dictionary definitions. Students can search other computers on their network too, making it simple to share projects and homework in class.
FaceTime can be a window into the classroom. It lets students who are stuck at home or in hospital engage with the rest of the class. Or it allows a therapist to observe a student in action without disrupting the teacher’s lesson. Thanks to its high-quality video and fast frame rate, FaceTime is also ideal for students who communicate using sign language. Every gesture and facial expression shows in crystal-clear detail. And because FaceTime comes standard on the Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, students can use it to communicate with other OS X or iOS users.*
For blind or vision-impaired students, OS X comes with a variety of assistive technologies — such as a built-in screen reader, screen magnification and Dictation — to help them get the most out of their Mac.
VoiceOver is a remarkable screen reader that comes standard with every Mac. More than just a text-to-speech tool, VoiceOver tells students exactly what’s happening on their Mac, and lets them navigate it using gestures, a keyboard or a braille display. And it uses Alex, the voice of Mac, who speaks the way people naturally talk. Learn more about VoiceOver
Zoom is a built-in magnifier that enlarges anything on the screen up to 20 times. Students can use it full screen or picture-in-picture, which allows them to see the zoomed area in a separate window while keeping the rest of the screen at its native size. So students can better read an essay, view a diagram or focus on maps. Activate it in a variety of ways, from a keyboard command to a trackpad gesture. And Zoom works with VoiceOver, so students can better see — and hear — what’s happening on their screen.
If a higher contrast helps students better see what’s on the screen, OS X lets them change display settings. They can invert colours, increase and decrease contrast or switch to greyscale. Once the colours are set, the settings apply system-wide, so students get the same view in every app.
Students who are deaf or hard of hearing can take advantage of all that the Mac has to offer. FaceTime and iMessage allow for easy communication with teachers and classmates, and captions help students use videos and enhance their learning experience.
Thanks to its high-quality video and fast frame rate, FaceTime is ideal for students who communicate using sign language. Every gesture and facial expression is in crystal-clear detail. And because FaceTime comes standard on the Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, students can talk to OS X or iOS users in a classroom down the hall — or halfway around the world. As if they’re face to face.*
Stereo recordings usually have distinct left- and right-channel audio tracks. So students who are deaf or hard of hearing in one ear may miss some of the audio contained in that channel. OS X can help by playing both audio channels in both ears, and lets students adjust the balance for greater volume in either ear — so they can experience all the audio in a lecture, educational video or musical composition.
GarageBand may help improve auditory comprehension among students who are deaf or hard of hearing — particularly those adjusting to new cochlear implants. Teachers can create podcasts of conversational speech and download them to a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Students use the podcasts to learn inflection and how to differentiate one voice from another. GarageBand comes standard on every new Mac and is great for speech therapy, learning tonal languages like Chinese, or helping deaf students gain an understanding of how loud things sound, using an audio wave file.
For students who have difficulties using the keyboard, mouse or trackpad, OS X technologies help them make keystrokes and mouse gestures. Or students can convert words to text simply by speaking.
The Multi-Touch trackpad is built into every Mac notebook. And the Magic Trackpad is designed to work with Mac desktop computers. These trackpads allow students to tap, scroll, pinch and swipe their way through their Mac. And because Multi-Touch gestures are so precise, it’s the most fluid, natural and intuitive way to control what’s on the screen, or zoom in on text and objects.
Slow Keys adjusts the sensitivity of the keyboard to process only the keystrokes students mean to make. It builds in a delay between when a key is pressed and when it’s entered. Students can adjust the delay and choose to have a sound play when a key is entered.
For students who struggle with pressing keys simultaneously when entering key commands, Sticky Keys combines students’ keystrokes by letting them press keys one at a time. They can enter key combinations — such as Command-S (for Save) — and OS X displays each pressed key, accompanied by a sound effect, so students can make sure the right keys are entered.
Using keyboard shortcuts (or key combinations), students can quickly perform a wide range of tasks — such as capturing a screen (Command-Shift-4) or zooming in (Command-Option-+) — without touching a mouse or opening menus. In addition to using many preset shortcuts, students can create their own. Shortcuts can be made to work system-wide or only in specific applications.
With Automator, complex repetitive tasks — like renaming files or resizing images — that might overwhelm a student who has trouble using a mouse or trackpad can be executed with a single click. Students simply tell Automator which actions to perform and in which order by dragging them into a workflow, and Automator performs the task as often as they want. Or Automator can record actions as students do them, and save them to use later.