Common Sense Review
Updated February 2014


Excellent Macintosh computer access for students who are blind
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Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 5
  • The speech verbosity selection lets you set levels of speech.
  • Navigation options allow personalized use.
  • Users can select from different voices.
  • The tutorial covers how to make adjustments to the system's voice.
  • The tutorial also offers tips for using the tool to navigate the web.
Powerful free screen reader provides Mac access for students who are blind, or those with severe visual impairment.
Learning the program well can be a complex process.
Bottom Line
An excellent screen reader that rewards training with access to today's digital world.
Adirondack AccessAbility Inc.
Common Sense Reviewer
Assistive Technology Consultants & Trainers
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

There's some training required to get started, but most kids become very engaged and excited once they begin to experience success.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Kids will have to persevere as they memorize commands, but they'll be very empowered by their new ability to navigate a computer.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 5

Support is available in the form of audio tutorials and voiced help screens.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

The goal for all teachers and students should be complete independence in the program, so that students who are blind can access the computer in much the same way as their peers do. For students just getting started, begin with a very basic subset of commands, like listening to, and navigating within, a short story that's already on screen. Staying a step or two ahead of your student can helps them pick up new skills without some of the frustration that comes with trial and error.

​As you encourage your students towards fluency, independence, and equity with their peers, give support by working with them to customize some of the navigation commands and preferences. Encourage kids to learn one or two new commands a day until they're proficient enough to want to progress faster, eventually learning new commands on their own.

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What's It Like?

VoiceOver enables a student with a severe vision disability or blindness to use a Macintosh computer and most of the applications that run on it. As a screen reader, VoiceOver "talks" to the user, interpreting links, icons, menus, and other content that appears on the screen. It can also be used with refreshable Braille displays.

Students must learn to use the program's commands in order to successfully navigate and hear on-screen content. While some commands are quite basic, others require more practice to learn. Help is available in the form of online audio tutorials and built-in help screens. Included as part of the OSX operating system, this utility can allow students with blindness access to content that wasn't previously available.

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Is It Good For Learning?

VoiceOver is a solid, free text-to-speech tool that offers access to the Mac for those with blindness or reading difficulties. Because it's a part of the Mac operating system, it works very smoothly with all of Apple's programs, but it's also compatible with an increasing number of third-party applications. Some of the keyboard commands are complex, and there are a lot of them to memorize, but there are excellent built-in tutorials and help options.

Basic commands can be learned fairly quickly by children as young as 8. Use of all the commands, however, is somewhat complex and requires memorization of combinations of keystrokes. Once students master the basics, they can move on to more complex functions as their needs require. There's a lot of motivation to learn quickly, as the digital world begins to open up to kids who haven't been able to experience it before.

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See how teachers are using VoiceOver