Apple's built-in text-to-speech tool makes Macs accessible.
What parents need to know
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that their kids with visual disabilities can use VoiceOver to interact completely with a Macintosh computer. This solid text-to-speech tool is free (so long as you've already purchased a Mac); it's a part of the operating system that comes with every Apple computer. Kids will have to spend a bit of time memorizing the commands, but they can be learned in steps. There's a lot of motivation to learn quickly, though, as the digital world really opens up to kids who haven't been able to experience it previously. Because VoiceOver is a free part of Apple's operating system, there are no competing or alternate screen readers for the Macintosh, so you're sort of stuck with it for now. However, it gets updated regularly and kids should be happy with its voice options and simplicity.
What's it about?
Kids with severe visual disabilities or blindness can use a Macintosh computer, play online, and do their homework with the use of VOICEOVER, Apple's text-to-speech tool. They'll learn commands using the keyboard or "gestures" that are created by different finger movements on the trackpad. Simple commands read text aloud while progressively more complex keyboard combinations let kids open and close applications, write documents, format text, and use the Internet freely. There's a talking tutorial and verbal help available at any time to help kids learn or to reinforce commands. Output is by voice and/or a refreshable Braille keyboard (purchased separately), enabling kids to work and play on a level comparable to their sighted peers.
Is it any good?
VoiceOver is a great, free program that offers access to the Mac for those who are blind or have reading difficulties. Because it's a part of Apple's operating system, it works very smoothly with all Apple programs, but it's also compatible with an increasing number of outside 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. Kids can start using the basic functions fairly quickly and then learn the more complex ones as they have need for them.
Families can talk about...
- Pick a very basic subset of commands to begin with, such as navigating and listening to a short story once it's on the screen.
- Encourage kids to learn one or two new commands a day until they're successful enough to want to progress faster.
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