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Apple's built-in text-to-speech tool makes Macs accessible.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Kids can learn to navigate a Macintosh computer with a series of commands. Kids with blindness will need some initial training to begin using VoiceOver successfully, but once that happens, they can progress to more and more sophisticated control of and interaction with the digital world. They’ll be able to communicate and express themselves online, which can bring a new sense of confidence and self-esteem. VoiceOver opens an important door for kids with visual disabilities, who can now navigate a Mac very much the same as their sighted peers.
Violence & scariness
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Sexy stuff
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The program is free -- once you've purchased an Apple computer, that is. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

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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.

Website details

Subjects:Language & Reading: following directions, reading
Skills:Self-Direction: personal growth
Emotional Development: moving beyond obstacles
Communication: multiple forms of expression
Tech Skills: digital creation, using and applying technology

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Kid, 10 years old April 12, 2014

Not Natural

Apple's Voice Over text to speech program is pretty cool. The only thing I don't like about the application is that the voices don't sound natural compared to other services.


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