MAC OSX Accessibility features
Text to Speech
If you don’t use a screen reader but have trouble reading text on your computer screen, you can have your Mac “speak” the text you select. To turn Text to Speech on, open System Preferences, click Speech, then
open the Text to Speech pane. You can even set up a keyboard shortcut to initiate Speech. As an alternative, you can select text you want your Mac to speak, then choose Speech from the application’s Services menu.
Another system preference lets you instruct your Mac to automatically announce the time of day — on the
hour, half hour, or quarter hour. Or you can use a voice command to have your Mac speak the time of day whenever you like.
Enlarge the contents of your display at any time using Zoom, located in the Universal Access pane in System Preferences. Zoom lets you use the scroll wheel on a mouse, a trackpad gesture, or key commands to magnify the entire contents of your screen by up to 40x. Thanks to powerful Quartz rendering, text, graphics, and even video magnify perfectly without affecting system performance.
Use the Zoom dialog to set maximum and minimum values for instant zooming to a particular magnification. A preview rectangle outlines the portion of the screen that will be magnified when not zoomed in. The dialog lets you create custom key commands, and it offers three options for cursor tracking when magnified: keeping the cursor in the middle of the screen, automatically moving with the cursor, or moving only when it reaches the edge of the screen.
In Mac OS X, you can scale the cursor so it's easier to see and follow when you move the mouse. The cursor remains scaled to the preferred size even when the cursor shape changes. The scaling remains in effect until you change it, even when you log out, shut down, or restart your Mac. And cursor scaling works in concert with other Mac OS X screen magnification technologies, allowing you to combine them in unique ways.
Mac OS X includes flexible adjustments for controling the characteristics of your display. These adjustments are systemwide, not application specific, so they provide a consistent view in every Mac application. You can increase or decrease contrast by switching the screen to white-on-black or black-on-white, and you can vary the contrast using a slider control. If you would like to remove all color from the screen, you’ll find controls for displaying everything in black and white or grayscale.
Finder View Options
Use View Options (Command-J) to adjust the text size of icon names (from 10 to 16 points) and their thumbnail previews (from 16 by 16 to 128 by 128 pixels). You can change the background, normally white, to any color to increase contrast. And you can adjust the grid spacing between icons as well. You can apply View Options to the contents of a specific folder or to all folders systemwide. Because they’re independent of other Universal Access settings, such as Zoom, you can combine Finder View Options and Universal Access settings in a variety of ways.
The Dock offers a convenient way to access commonly used applications, files, and folders. Though the Dock can be quite small if you add a great many items, Mac OS X lets you set the default size of Dock icons so they're easier to see. You can also use Dock Magnification to automatically enlarge the icon currently under the mouse pointer.
New in Mac OS X Leopard, Cover Flow provides an ultralarge view of folder contents. Instead of a small, generic "thumbnail" icon, files appear in the Finder just as they appear when opened in an application. You can enlarge this view by stretching the window or adjusting the splitter bar in the window to provide a very large format that's much easier to see and navigate than traditional list, column, and icon views.
Physical & Motor Skills
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard provides built-in and assistive technologies that can help you navigate your computer even if you have difficulties using the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad.
If you have trouble using a mouse or trackpad, you can have Automator perform complex, routine tasks
for you. Using its “Watch me do” feature, you can quickly and easily record what you do on your Mac, save it as a “workflow,” and run the workflow whenever you want to perform the same series of steps.
To run an Automator workflow, you can double-click the saved file, add it to the Script menu, or assign it to a folder and have it run automatically when you drop a file in that folder. Once you create a workflow, you can use it as often as you want.
“Speakable Items,” built into Mac OS X and located in System Preferences, lets you control the computer using your voice instead of the keyboard. And you don’t have to train your Mac to use it. You can use
Speakable Items to navigate menus and enter keyboard shortcuts; speak checkbox names, radio button names, list items, and buttons; and open, close, control, and switch among open applications. If you want to perform speech dictation on your Mac, you can also purchase separately an application from MacSpeech called Dictate.
PC Keyboards, Mice, and Alternative Input Devices
Because Mac OS X supports USB-compliant keyboards and mice, you can use your favorite USB keyboard or mouse with your Mac (desktop or notebook) even if it was designed for use with a PC. Just connect it to your Mac, and it will work. You can also connect alternative input devices that simulate standard mouse and keyboard input.
Mac OS X Leopard comes with built-in handwriting recognition technology called
Inkwell (or Ink). If you connect a graphics tablet to your Mac, you can write on the
tablet using a stylus, and Inkwell translates what you write to typed words in your
Some applications allow you to enter text directly; with others, you first enter the
text into a “scratch pad” (where you can edit or revise it) before bringing it into
the application. Inkwell supports several stylus gestures, making it easy to select,
edit, and delete text. It also understands English, French, and German.
A number of Mac computers, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with its oversize trackpad, now support Multi-Touch technology. This technology lets you use gestures to control the computer. With pinch, swipe, or rotate gestures, you can zoom in on text, advance through a photo album, or adjust an image. iPhone and iPod touch also use Multi-Touch technology.
If you find it easier to use a pointing device than a keyboard, you can use the Keyboard Viewer to enter text. You’ll find this onscreen keyboard in the International pane of System Preferences. Keyboard Viewer floats above other applications (so you can’t misplace it). It can be displayed small or big, and, though you “type” with a mouse or other pointing device, it otherwise works just like a physical keyboard.
Full Keyboard Navigation
In Mac OS X, you can use the keyboard to navigate through a document. The Tab key lets you navigate to lists, text boxes, and other controls, and the space bar and Return key let you interact with them.
Using keyboard shortcuts (or key combinations), you can quickly perform a wide range of tasks. In addition to the large number of predefined keyboard shortcuts included with Mac OS X, the Mac lets you customize existing shortcuts, create your own, or remove shortcuts you don’t use. Shortcuts can be systemwide or made to work only in specific applications. Use the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the Keyboard & Mouse pane of System Preferences to add or modify shortcuts.
If you have motor-skills disabilities, you can use Slow Keys to avoid typing errors and unintended multiple keystrokes.
Adjustable Key Repeat and Delay
If you want to change the Key Repeat or Delay Until Repeat rate to suit your needs, you can do so using the Keyboard & Mouse settings in System Preferences. Used in conjunction with Slow Keys, these settings let you adapt the keyboard to match your abilities and use it more effectively.
Using Sticky Keys, you can enter key combinations (called "chords") — such as Command-Q (for Quit) or
by pressing them in sequence instead of simultaneously. Shift-Option-8 (to enter the ? symbol) —
When Sticky Keys is active, Mac OS X visually displays each key in the sequence in the upper-right corner of the screen, accompanied by a sound effect, so you can verify the sequence and correct it (if needed) before it’s entered. When you press the last key in the sequence, Mac OS X enters the keys as a chord and the visual representation disappears.
If you have difficulty controlling the mouse, you can use Mouse Keys to control the mouse pointer using the keys on a numeric keypad. With Mouse Keys, you can navigate menus, the Dock, windows, toolbars, palettes, and other controls by pressing keys.
Located in the International pane of System Preferences, the Character Palette lets you drag special characters and symbols from a palette instead of typing key chords that may be difficult to remember and even more difficult to type.
Cover Flow View
A new option in Mac OS X Leopard, Cover Flow (like its counterpart in iTunes) lets you browse ultralarge icons and document previews instead of small thumbnails. You navigate Cover Flow by using the arrow keys on your keyboard or by clicking onscreen icons. When you find the document you want, simply double-click it to open it.
Literacy & Learning
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard provides a wide variety of applications and alternative communication methods that offer language and communication assistance.
Built-in Dictionary and Thesaurus
Mac OS X Leopard includes a powerful Dictionary application that provides access to such resources as the New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, Apple Dictionary, and the Internet-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Dictionary also provides additional content from the New Oxford American Dictionary, including grammar, spelling, and pronunciation guides and such reference materials as the chemical elements, weights and measures, and conversions.
Spelling and Grammar Checking
In Mac OS X Leopard, the Apple Cocoa Text engine provides universal spelling and grammar checking. Since all the applications access the same dictionaries, you’re assured of consistency from one application to the next. And if you add a new word to the spelling or grammar dictionary in one application, it’s automatically added to the universal dictionary. Best of all, spelling and grammar checking works the same in every application. Learn it once. Use it everywhere.
To avoid mistakes and reduce keystrokes, you can have Mac OS X Leopard complete your words for you. After typing a few characters, simply press the Escape key. Leopard displays a list of words beginning with the characters you typed. Double-click the word you want to complete your partially typed word. Hear Alex Speak
; Fast (0:38)
; Normal (1:19)
; Slow (1:49)
Text to Speech
Mac OS X includes various male, female, and novelty voices you can use to speak a selection or text or an entire document. A highly useful solution for those with cognitive disabilities, Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology allows them to hear a word as well as see it onscreen. TTS works with all applications that support the Mac OS X Speech engine, including Mail, iChat, and TextEdit.
The latest version of the OS — Mac OS X Leopard — features a new voice called Alex. A human-sounding
voice that sounds just as good at high speed as at normal speaking rates, Alex is so natural that he even breathes when speaking long passages.
Mac OS X lets you adjust the voice and speaking rate for all voices, and you can easily and affordably add non-English voices by purchasing them from third-party vendors.
A full-featured graphic calculator, Grapher enables the real-time analysis and visualization of mathematical equations. It can display single or multiple equations in one graph, and it supports 2D and 3D rendering and animation. Grapher lets you save and export animations as QuickTime files.