OS X offers a variety of built-in tools and technologies that help people with vision disabilities get the most from their Mac.
Built-in screen reading.
OS X is the first operating system to include as a standard feature an advanced screen-reading technology that makes it possible for those who are blind or have low vision to control their computer. Called VoiceOver, it describes aloud what appears on your computer screen: text in documents, windows, menus, dialogues and more. But it’s much more than simply a text-to-speech tool. Using VoiceOver, you can control your Mac with a keyboard, a braille display or a Multi-Touch trackpad — instead of a mouse.
Web surfing made easier.
VoiceOver makes surfing the web much easier. It can begin reading an entire web page automatically after the page loads, or it can summarise the page for you, reading only the title, number of tables, headers, links, form elements and other items. OS X also offers a unique virtual control called a rotor. When you turn it — by rotating two fingers on your Multi-Touch trackpad — you control how VoiceOver moves through the page, such as by header, link, frame, table or form element. And because many web pages are difficult to convey through a screen reader, Apple invented new technologies to comprehend and interpret the visual design of web pages, then use the information to assign virtual tags called “auto web spots” to mark important locations on the page.
The voices in VoiceOver use advanced Apple technologies to deliver natural intonation in English even at extraordinarily fast speaking rates. While most text-to-speech (TTS) systems analyse and synthesize text one sentence at a time, OS X analyses text a paragraph at a time and deciphers the context more accurately. In addition, VoiceOver more closely matches the nuances of human speech, so you can more easily understand the meaning of longer text passages in books, articles and news stories.
Controlling your Mac with touch and sound.
Mountain Lion lets you control VoiceOver with gestures on a Multi-Touch trackpad. The trackpad surface can represent the active window on your computer screen. So you can touch to hear the item under your finger, drag to hear items continuously as you move your finger, and flick with one finger to move to the next or previous item. For example, you can drag your finger round the trackpad to learn how items are arranged in a web page, a spreadsheet, a presentation or any document with text.
With VoiceOver activities, you can create groups of preferences for specific uses. For example, you can create an activity to use a certain voice and a faster speaking rate when you’re shopping from online catalogues. Create a second activity to use a different voice and a slower speaking rate when you’re reading online newspapers. You can switch activities manually or have VoiceOver switch automatically based on the applications you use.
VoiceOver in OS X includes built-in voices that speak 22 languages: Arabic, English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French (France), German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, Mandarin (China) and Mandarin (Taiwan).
Screen magnification and more.
OS X allows you to magnify the screen by up to 40x with amazing quality and without affecting system performance. You can also adjust the characteristics of your display, such as switching the screen to white-on-black or black-on-white.
OS X provides a variety of features designed to assist those who have difficulty hearing computer speech, sounds and alerts.
Communicate with Messages.
An Internet-based text, audio and video conferencing application, Messages is included with your Mac and lets you converse and interact with others even when you’re miles or continents apart. It includes iMessage, which lets you send messages to anyone on a Mac or PC — iPhone, iPad and iPod touch too. Messages works with AIM (the largest instant messaging community in the US), Google Talk and Jabber.
Thanks to its high-quality video and frame rate capabilities, Messages is ideal for those who communicate using sign language and is a great way to take advantage of hands-on video relay services. Participants can clearly see the finger and hand movements of everyone taking part in the conversation. This allows you to communicate from afar with the same range of emotions you would use when you’re in the same room together.
FaceTime for Mac and iOS devices.
OS X Mountain Lion includes FaceTime so you can video chat with iOS devices and chat in HD with other Mac computers.*
Physical and Motor Skills
OS X offers features that help you navigate your computer even if you have difficulties using the keyboard, mouse and trackpad.
Simpler keyboard and mouse navigation.
Sticky Keys lets you enter key combinations — such as Command-Q (for Quit) or Shift-Option-8 (for the ° symbol) — by pressing them in sequence instead of simultaneously. Slow Keys helps you avoid typing errors and unintended multiple keystrokes. And Mouse Keys lets you control your mouse pointer using the keys on a numeric keypad instead of the mouse. If you find it easier to use a pointing device than a keyboard, you can use an onscreen keyboard to enter text instead. It floats above other applications, so you can’t lose it, and it can be displayed small or large.
Automating common tasks.
If you often perform complex, routine tasks, such as renaming files or resizing images, you can have Automator do them for you, saving you untold keystrokes and mouse clicks. You simply tell Automator which actions to perform and in which order by dragging them into a workflow, and then Automator will perform your task as often as you want. Or Automator can record your actions as you do them and save them to use later.
Customising your input.
Because OS X supports the USB standard, you can use your favourite USB keyboard or mouse with your Mac even if it was designed for a PC. You can also connect alternative input devices that simulate standard mouse and keyboard input. And you can even customise your keyboard layout — QWERTY, Dvorak or others — and create your own keyboard shortcuts to work exactly the way you want them to. Read about all the accessibility features in OS X