OS X. Putting the power in students’ hands.

Every Mac comes equipped with assistive technologies to help students with special needs experience the power and simplicity of OS X. With features like an advanced screen reader, FaceTime and Photo Booth, OS X helps a wide range of learners get more from their Mac.

Bring every lesson into focus.

The Mac has several features designed to help students with cognitive and learning disabilities get organized, stay focused and learn in ways that fit their unique capabilities.

Simple Finder

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.

Safari Reader

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.

MacBook Air showing Finder displaying Simple Finder with easily recognized icons for applications like Garage Band and iPhoto.

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.

Screen shot of the word Tetrahedron with dictionary entry.


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.

Screen shot of the word revelation being completed with a choice of similar words.

Word Completion

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.


Dictation can help students with disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia by letting them speak what they need to write. They can reply to an email, search the web or even write an entire report using just their voice. Students can navigate to any text field, activate Dictation and start talking. Dictation converts their words into text.


Looking at a densely written page can be overwhelming. To help keep the attention of students who tend to lose focus, Summarize 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 summarize the text to a more manageable length — even all the way down to one sentence — so the student can understand the main concepts.

MacBook Pro showing a Pages document with the dictation icon and an essay being dictated about the Grapes of Wrath.

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.

Photo Booth

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.

MacBook Air showing a smiling boy and a girl in different poses.
Icon of Calendar alarm notification: Bonnie - Algebra Tutor in 5 minutes, Tutoring Center, and Close and Snooze buttons.


With Calendar, students can get pop-up reminders so they know when their next band practice is or when their next math assignment is due. Alerts can help busy students keep on track and stay organized.

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 give students the chance to use visual-spatial strengths and develop their storytelling skills. And both iPhoto and iMovie come standard on every new Mac.

MacBook Pro showing the events screen in iPhoto.


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 home- or hospital-bound engage with the rest of the class. Or 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.*

MacBook Air showing a mom and two daughters FaceTiming with an inset shot of their brother.
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Mac lends students a helping voice.

For blind or low-vision 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.

MacBook Pro showing a page about Life near the North Pole and a caption being read out loud: 'Approaching the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is like crossing some unseen frontier of the mind...'


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 in 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.

MacBook Air showing a website navigation bar enlarged.
Microphone icon with 'The battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863.' text.


Dictation lets students talk where they would type. They can reply to an email, make a note, search the web or write a report using just their voice. Click the microphone button and Dictation converts words (and numbers and characters) into text.

MacBook Pro showing the colours of the screen being reversed to improve readability.

Invert Colours

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 systemwide, so students get the same view in every app.

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Mac brings a new perspective to learning.

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.*

Macbook Air showing FaceTime call between a father and his girls.

Closed Captions

Closed captions offer all kinds of visual learners the ability to see captions in video to help with comprehension. Captions appear onscreen in easy-to-read white type on a black background. OS X supports closed captioning — as well as open captions and subtitles — across a wealth of educational materials, from podcasts in iTunes U courses to embedded videos in iBooks textbooks.

MacBook Pro showing captions on the bottom of the screen dictating what is being said aloud.
Screen shot displaying iMessage conversation between friends, discussing plans for the weekend.

Messages with iMessage

Messages is ideal for communication between hearing and nonhearing students. In these situations, typing is the fastest and most universal way to communicate. Students can get one-on-one homework help or send and receive group messages to stay in the loop on group projects. Thanks to its high-quality video and frame rate capabilities, Messages is also a great way to take advantage of hands-on video relay services such as HOVRS.com. Students can clearly see the finger and hand movements of everyone taking part in the conversation. So they can communicate from far away with the same range of emotions as if they were together in the same room. Messages works with AIM (the largest instant messaging community in the U.S.), Google Talk and Jabber.

Icons demonstrating that the left and right audio channels are combined to play on both speakers.

Mono Audio

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 deaf and hard of hearing students — 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 with an audio wave file.

MacBook Pro showing a GarageBand screen of a song being composed.
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OS X makes the keyboard more than a touch better.

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.

Multi-Touch Trackpad

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.

Two fingers about to swipe on the trackpad.
Microphone icon with 'The battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863.' text.


Dictation lets students talk where they would type. They can reply to an email, search the web or write a report using just their voice. Students can activate Dictation when their cursor is in any text field, then speak what they want to write. Dictation converts words into text with minimal physical touch.

Slow Keys

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.

Sticky Keys

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.

Keyboard Shortcuts

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 systemwide 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.