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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Moron Apple

By BlindChristian, The Apple Moron

 

They fired up the new super collider earlier today and I don’t believe we all got sucked into a newly generated black hole and ripped into zillions of nano bits; meanwhile, Apple announced that the new version of the iPod nano comes with a speech synthesizer and that we blinks can now use it.  As I’ve criticized Apple very heavily for accessibility problems in the past, I now want to celebrate the three accessibility announcements they made yesterday.

 

When I turned on my laptop and retrieved my email this morning, my Inbox lit up with google news alerts regarding Window-Eyes and Apple accessibility.  Most of the articles and blog entries that fit through my information filters talked about Window-Eyes 7.0 beta 3 and its support for Apple’s iTunes on Windows based computers.  Other alerts told me of the newly accessible nano and I received a very nice email from an Apple employee telling me about improvements to Apple’s accessibility web pages and, specifically, some new content regarding applications that now  work with VoiceOver.

 

I continue to learn more and more about the Macintosh and using it with VoiceOver but I still consider myself an Apple moron, hence the title of today’s article.  I want to send out thanks to the Macintosh using friends who have helped me through some problems and provided me with pointers that make the experience as pleasant as possible.  I do seem to have an odd problem with iTunes caused when I try to add a large number (over 3000) songs to my library from an external hard disk all at once.  At first, iTunes seemed to hang while adding a song, yesterday, after a telephone consultation with a Macintosh/VoiceOver expert friend of mine the program got hung up (its menu in the Dock said “not responding” and, just to make sure, I let it run for a couple more hours without any notable progress) while trying to find the album artwork for an Angelic Upstarts record I forgot I owned.  Nonetheless, I still have yet to create an iTunes library from my MP3 collection without allowing the files to be copied from the external disk to the one installed on the laptop.  Today, I’ll install and try again with iTunes 8 and turn off the feature that downloads album artwork as I have no imaginable use for it and don’t want to clog up anything with a pile of pictures I can’t see.  Of course, one man’s iTunes problems don’t add up to a hill of beans in this world so if I don’t get back on the laptop I might not regret it today but will certainly regret it someday.

 

For a long time, iTunes has sort of worked with JAWS with a set of scripts written by a volunteer user but, based on the comments of others, it didn’t work well.  I do not have iTunes 8 or Window-Eyes 7 beta 3 installed on any computer to which I have access so I can’t speak to its performance but if it works anywhere nearly as well as it does with VoiceOver, the most widely discussed multimedia program will have really excellent support on Windows.

 

In the past, I’ve been fairly critical of what I believed was time wasted by screen reader publishers trying to get media players, chat programs and other software supported that do not have a direct effect on employment or education as these, in my mind, represent the most important problems people with vision impairment encounter.  I especially find that Freedom Scientific’s decision to permit some previously supported applications (Microsoft Project, OmniPage, etc.) to stop working, which are important to professionals and students alike while pronouncing with excitement support for yet another chat program especially egregious.

 

Serotek’s approach to the “digital lifestyle” that approaches the screen reading problem with far greater emphasis on home and educational use than on supporting professionals has a lot of merits and does an excellent job of doing what they advertise.  GW Micro seems to be looking for a middle ground and, with the addition of its scripting facility, will possibly become the most comprehensive screen reader for Windows relatively soon.  These are certainly interesting times.

 

I’ve drifted way off from the titular subject of this post, specifically things to do with Apple and accessibility.  In a few minutes I will install iTunes 8 onto my Macintosh and give it a whirl with VO, later, I will go to the newly updated Macintosh accessibility web pages and peruse the list of supported applications but I will not buy nor try the iPod nano as I’m very happy with my Humanware Vic and really do not need yet another gadget bouncing around in my gear bag.

 

I commend Apple for taking these steps to improve accessibility to their programs and look forward to whatever they do next in this market niche.  I continue to think it is in the best interest of both Apple and the community of people with vision impairment to release VO under a libertyware license so the world of hacking blinks can take a whack at adding new features and fixing the odd bug.  For now, though, I will admit that the version of VO that comes with the Leopard operating system releases provides access to virtually all of the application categories that I use with any great frequency and that the development tools that ship with the OS are very cool.

 

-- End

6 Comments:

Anonymous Will Pearson said...

There's also another accessibility related announcement for today. I've started to eat dog food, and it tastes great!

Will

8:31 AM  
Blogger Chairman Mal said...

Howdy Comrades!
Sounds like Leopard can make a PC user change his spots! As to Screen Readers supporting chat rooms and forums, I previously felt it was rather unimportant. I've changed my mind, however, because among younger political activists, this seems to be a very popular way to organize and plan community action. Texas Democrats with Disabilities has embraced this approach because it's a cheap way to connect with the membership.
Regards,
Chairman Mal
Power to the Peeps!

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there. Let me start off by saying I am glad to see a non-Mac-bashing post finally. As far as the NFB and the AFB and their "Macs aren't accesible" BS, well, that is a biased standpoint by people that I believe are totally closed minded (and probably forced to take that standpoint either by their bosses or the screen reader manufacturers). I am a mac user for about 2 or so years now. About 8 months on Leopard (10.5) and the rest on Tiger (10.4) As for using iTunes 8 in Leopard, it seems to run pretty well, but does take a little getting used to. You will find that things can be easier if you take your time the first few minutes and mess with everything a little bit. Along with that, make sure you go into the preferences and set them up with a couple tweaks here and there and it'll run even smoother. I am really glad to hear that iPods are finally getting some accessibility, even though I installed third party apps on my first gen nano to make it talk to me, but that is another story. As for your (and a previous) blog on Apple/OSX/Voice Over accessibility, there are a few things that you are going to notice.

1. It will run circles around Windows (XP for my experiences) and won't really slow down too much minus a couple instances.
2. (Let's start the slow downs) you will notice that if you use iChat, that after a while, the message window start automatically reverting back to "HTML" and you have to interact with it again, and find where you left off. Unfortunately I ahven't called Apple/Voice Over help about it, but I found that I use VmWare running my bootcamp partition as my virtual machine an drun AIM in that.
3. There aren't many IRC clients that are accessible to voice over. The only one that I found that works where you can interact with everything is Collequy (sp?). Unfortunately again, you have to interact with the HTML every time you want to read the chat window (and that gets very time consuming and hard to keep up in conversations with quite a few people). The only other real alternative to Collequy was Conversation for mac which has built in speech output, but alas, that program does not tell you who is speaking but only what has been said (I emailed the programmer for Conversation and he has stated that there will be no more updates to it, and thus far, there are no fixes that I ahve found and I do not know enough about programming to try to fix them).
4. This has to deal with VmWare/AIM/IRC and running JAWS. I currently use JAWS 9 for Windows (I am trying to get away from it as much as possible) and have noticed this issue with it in VmWare. You can't get the screen res high enough on a Macbook , but the MB Pros and desktops should have a nice enough video card in them to take care of that issue,to be able to install the Video Intercept Manager. This ONLY has to do with VmWare, and will install totally fine if you just run separately in Bootcamp. With no VIM, there is no chat window in the IRC client I use, no web addresses, and all "non visible" text (web addresses, form fields, tabs on things , pop up messages, command line readability, hyperterminal readibility,and then some more even after that) do not show up. The more I use my Mac, the more I think about ditching JAWS and moving to System Access (Tried out NVDA and didn't care for it too much).
5. Not all of the Voice Over commands work as they should. Some of them when in certain apps or doing certain tasks you don't need the VO key at all (but they don't tell you that). In other apps, the "normal commands" are different, and I had to figure that out on my own. I am on a search to see if those updates have been posted anywhere easily found.

All in all, I would have to say that Apple did a great job with Voice Over from the start. As the operating systems advance, I can only see Voice OVer advancing, unlike some of the other screen readers where you get them working (finally) with the latest OS but you lose functionality in other programs). If you are anywhere near competent with scripting/coding, then with Automater and Applescript, the Voice Over accessibility can almost be endless.

I was actually going to see if your site could have used a standpoint from a totally blind individual on the Mac laptops/OSX 10.5, but it seems that you have ventured in that realm already. :P I would gladly help yourself out with the fun world of Mac (even though I am not all knowing when it comes to OSX and Voice over) and wish you the best of luck. I can be reached at Hobbgoblin79@gmail.com if you would like any more help.

Jason Miller/Ravager

12:00 AM  
Blogger Accessiblogger said...

I have also used the Apple platform and while it is still developing and isn't quite up to the same access that we have on Windows it is certainly usable. The backlash from the screen reader manufacturers can be quite strong in the blogging community especially where the identity of the author is known. Several bloggers are privately involved with these companies and are afraid of losing their status or support. I've seen many Access Technology companies making donations to organizations and you have to wonder at what cost are those donations made? I'm not saying that any company approached an organization and said, " don't say bad things or else we won't donate", but nobody is going to bite the hand that feeds them. As much as this is true on some level with organizations it is true of individuals as well.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Jake said...

Hello BC. As fond of Windows as I have been now for quite some time, I was listening to an episode of Blind Cool Tech done by Mike Arrigo which covered some stuff about VoiceOver and I think that might've been enough to convince me that the Mac isn't all bad. I doubt at this point whether I'll ever get to try it out with VO, at least not in the foreseeable future. However, if the opportunity ever arose for me to try it out I would gladly accept. It's good to see Apple getting onto the accessibility bandwagon once more. I say "once more" because I used to own an Echo II on an Apple II E computer, or should I say my parents owned it.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Christy said...

As far as supporting chat programs, you might be amazed how much they actually can affect students and professionals. I'm currently working on a IT/programming degree online through Kaplan university, and other than email and the once a week seminars, all communication with instructors is done via aim. Personally I prefer MSN but it makes me forever grateful that the aim support is kept up.
Just thought I'd throw that out there. Btw, love the blog. I saw it on your email signature on a list and thought I'd check it out.
Christy S

3:36 PM  

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