As I reported in my previous entry, I recently bought a Macbook Pro. For the past week or so I’ve been learning the essentials of using that system and thus far it has been a pleasant experience. Most applications that are preinstalled such as iTunes, Safari and the email client are very accessible right out of the box. In addition I’ve downloaded Skype as well as some other miscellaneous apps that work really well. Not only is the UI very usable from an accessibility standpoint, but the Mac also provides a very accessible approach for using the power of unix commands in the terminal window. In that sense it really gives the best of all worlds. I’ll just go into a quick explanation of some of the accessibility features on the mac.
Apple has implemented a screen reader called VoiceOver, which is built into OSX 10.4 and higher. The fact that it is built-into the OS has some interesting implications. First, there is no screen reader installation process; you can simply walk up to any mac and press a hot-key and immediately have speech access to the OS. Second, the installation of OSX is completely accessible and there is speech feedback during the entire install if needed. This is something that is long overdue in Windows. Currently there is no way to completely install Windows from start to finish with speech. Some people have found ways around this such as using automated install procedures, but this does not account for the exceptional situations when an error may occur during the install. Unlike windows where there are multiple 3rd party screen readers to choose from, on the mac VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader is the only one currently available.
To tie this into more project-relevant subjects, by the end of the week I was able to test a python script on the mac which worked very nicely. One thing I am interested in is writing scripts for VoiceOver, as I have a few ideas for some useful VoiceOver scriptlets. According to the getting started with VoiceOver documentation, not only is VoiceOver scriptable with apple script but also pearl, ruby and python. I thought this would be a good way to implement some of my ideas as well as practice some python skills. The scripting documentation for VoiceOver however, does not seem very extensive, or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places. If anyone stumbles across some good scripting documentation for VO or the mac I’d definitely be interested.