I love my Macbook Pro; I use it daily for work, school, personal, and social purposes. In addition to all the features I use on a daily basis, one of the things that make me love it so much are the lesser-known accessibility features that come built in to OSX on Macs. Fortunately for me, I do not have a personal need for most of these functions, but in both my personal and professional lives I know many people who do and I’m very grateful that these options are available to them.
Here are some of the accessibility features available on OSX:
VoiceOver – a screen reader that is a text-to-speech tool that also tells you exactly what’s happening on your Mac and lets you fully interact with it using gestures, a keyboard, or braille display.
Zoom – a built-in screen magnifier that allows the screen to be enlarged up to 20 times.
Dictation – speech-to-text tool that lets you talk where you would otherwise type. Dictation supports over 40 languages and 50 editing/formatting commands.
Contrast Options – display settings can be changed to increase contrast, invert colors, or make the screen grayscale to improve visibility.
Cursor Size – OSX lets you magnify cursor size so it’s easier to see and follow as it moves around the screen.
Braille Display Support – built-in support is provided for over 50 USB and bluetooth refreshable braille displays.
FaceTime – video chat feature that is great for people who use sign language to communicate.
Closed Captions – iTunes, QuickTime, and the DVD player on a Mac are all equipped with closed captioning support so that deaf/hard of hearing viewers can access videos.
iMessage – written chat feature that allows for easy text-based conversations between people without needing to be able to hear or speak.
Screen Flash – Instead of playing an alert sound, a Mac will flash its screen when an app needs your attention.
Mono Audio – by default, stereo recordings have separate left and right channel audio tracks, but this can be problematic with deaf/hard of hearing individuals, but OX allows you adjust the balance of audio channels by playing both in both ears.
Keyboard Accessibility Functions – Switch control, Slow Keys, and Sticky Keys allow people with physical or motor skill impairments to interact with the Mac using both onscreen and physical keyboards.
Simple Finder – a Mac can be set up to provider a simpler Finder (home screen) with limited folders, apps, etc. that will help for those with cognitive and/or learning disabilities more confidently navigate the computer.
Word Completion – To help with vocabulary and word-building skills, if you press Escape after typing a few letters, OSX suggests words and completes them for you, which will greatly help those with cognitive and learning difficulties.
It was really interesting to spend some time getting to know all these features of my Mac that I didn’t know existed. Many of these features can be beneficial to all users, not just those with disabilities.