Teacher Review for VoiceOver

Out of the box accessibility for blind users for the Mac

David H. C.
Technology coordinator
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My Rating
Learning Scores
My Students Liked It Yes
My Students Learned Yes
I Would Recommend It Yes
Setup Time More than 15 minutes
Great for Further application
Knowledge gain
Student-driven work
Great with ELL
Low literacy
Special needs
How I Use It
Working with low vision and blind students, for a long time Windows was the only accessible platform due to the availability of add on software, such as JAWS and WindowEyes. In the past few years, Apple has become a major player in the visual Impairment community by integrating VoiceOver and Zoom as part of the Mac OS and iOS. While not as robust as the add on software, the fact that Macs and iDevices are accessible out of the box, without requiring an additional approximately $1000 purchase, really allow those who used to only feel that Windows was a viable option to have a choice in their computing platform. VoiceOver truly allows a blind user to access pretty much all the features of tMac either via audio feedback or with a refreshable Braille display.
My Take
Blind users always had to learn complex keystroke commands to access the computer with screen reading software. VoiceOver is no more complex than JAWs or WindowEyes and students have little difficulty transferring their skills between the software, much like they tend to be platform independent and easily switch between Macs and PCs. While there are a number of major applications that are not VoiceOver compatible (Microsoft Office - I'm looking at you), there are enough alternative applications that do work to make this "oversight" by the developer (and it is the application developer who chooses not to include the VoiceOver compatibility, not Apple) negligible. In fact, Apple's iLife suite, which also comes with new Macs at no additional charge, is incredibly compatible with MS Office formatted documents - able to open, edit, and save in the pretty much universally used .docx, .xlsx, and. pptx formats. VoiceOver also connects with Bluetooth Braille displays pretty much seamlessly. In very few cases have I found there to be any glitch in pairing and using the Braille display in minutes. JAWs and Windows require driver downloads and installation and still can take hours to get a reliable connection via Bluetooth. The common complaint that "Macs are more expensive" is pretty much shot down when you realize that for a blind user, the initial purchase cost doesn't include the extra $1000 they will need for a screen reader plus the cost of Office (rarely included in the lower cost PCs). All this is built in to that "higher" cost of the Mac as is the advantage of being able to go right out of the box.