Archive for the ‘pc/mac/technology/accessibility’ Category

My Apple Mac

December 19, 2009

With all the choices on the computer market nowadays, the general consumer has more choice than ever before. However, as a visually impaired user, the only option I want to have is mac and Apple products. Here’s why.

On Thursday, I turned my trusty macbook 13 inch, 2008 model white onto to check my email and such to discover it wouldn’t boot beyond the apple logo and timer thing. I was so upset. I love my macbook so much, it recently travelled to the US with me and if I don’t take the time to at least boot it once a day, I’m sick.

Anyway, I called Apple care and booked an appointment to see an Apple genius the next day. The problem I next had was that I had to pull out my old sony Vaio laptop that runs Windows XP and has a version of Jaws for windows running on it. It wasn’t a prospect I was looking forward too, let me tell you. Nevertheless, I loaded it up and encountered twitter issues with the program I have running on that laptop, then had issues setting up my gmail account in outlook express, followed by issues with not only importing music to itunes but getting the damn program to work correctly for me. I was still fighting with Itunes at lunchtime when I left to go to my apple appointment.

I never realized how counter-intuitive windows was, and I missed my specialized features that voice over on the mac offers, such as spelling as I type. I missed hearing, “misspelled” which happens frequently when I’m typing a lot. Itunes was a complete nightmare, how anyone uses that program on windows with a screen reader is beyond me. And the screen reader itself frustrated me beyond belief, freezing on several occasions, jumping on others, it was just a nightmare I do not want to repeat.

Hasten to add, my macbook was fixed and is happily being used again. I know some people prefer windows but for me, it is mac all the way. snow Leopard can keep purring happily inside my pretty white macbook with voice over being its Captain. ☺

My journey from PC to Macs?

October 24, 2008

The 64 Thousand Pound Question is…

This question has been asked a lot I have concluded as I did my travels around the web. I asked myself this question when it came to a point that the equipment I was using was no longer serving me in a way I needed it too. So, I pulled up my favourite search engine and typed in,
“Pc or Mac?”

Yes! I can all hear you yelling, I’ve been asking myself that question for a while also. Well, I am a totally blind person who loves the siber world and had been a faithful windows subscriber since my first laptop back in 1999. I had used apple macs in high school but screen reader software was pretty much non-existent back then so the frustration was across the board. I remember the first time I heard a computer reading text and menus very eloquently and wondered how brilliant it would be if I had one of those talking computers.

That software was Jaws, [job access with speech] and you can imagine my disappointment when I was lumbered with supernova on my first laptop at sixth form college. It was true, Supernova was OK for writing assignments and anything word processor based but as soon as you left the safety of Microsoft word or word pad, you were facing serious confusion. Anyway, i am not here to talk about my bad experiences with Supernova, my journey beings several years later when I finally achieved my goal and landed myself with Jaws.

So, I was able to take home my pretty laptop with Jaws nicely installed on a windows xp operating system. I couldn’t have been happier! i was now able to fully explore the internet to my heart’s desire and maintain contact with all of my online friends. So I was off, right? yes! Absolutely! I had the siber world at my fingertips and nothing could stop me. I was extremely content with my Windows Xp and Jaws and i would have shouted my pride about it to the world, over and over again. I had never used a mac independently and never thought there would be a day I ever could do such a task.

About two years ago, I was approached by my old V>I Service and asked to try out a mac computer for them. I learned that Apple had integrated their operating system with a fully functional screen reader. This software came with the operating system and therefore, the cost effectiveness was far better than using windows with the extra cost of a third party screen reader. However, Tiger and voice Over did not impress me in the slightest. It was clumsy, hard to understand and the screen reader did not seem to work very well for me.

i went away feeling disheartened by Apple’s attempt and was glad to embrace my trusty Jaws and XP.

In the last year or so, while I’ve been getting more creative with my website design, I’ve been on the web more and more. Unfortunately, I’ve been using a screen reader that’s now over 4 years old and so new technologies, for example, Adobe’s flash player, has troubled poor little Jaws. The flash players used to be very accessible with a screen reader until about version 8 and then all went downhill. Jaws would sometimes erratically jump all over the screen and navigating became extremely difficult. And that is just one of the problems. Not to mention the freezing, not always reading what you want it too, etc. I have had at least 4 viruses in the last year and that is with antivirus protection.

Last month, i decided that with my ageing laptop, I needed desperately to invest in a new one. My problem was that I had no intention of upgrading to Windows Vista. I also was dubious about upgrading to jaws 9 after having used it at my college this past year. I found more problems with it than I had with version 7.10 and yet I knew that and upgrade was essential. So I hopped on over to Freedom Scientific’s website and checked out the prices. I knew roughly how much Jaws cost but to be reminded is sometimes a hard nut to swallow. I then had the great idea of looking at window eyes, another screen reader as I had just read about the new ipod nano with speech and decided if I could get a way to work itunes, then I was definitely grabbing one of those. Anyway, Window Eyes was slightly cheaper and yet i still realised that a new laptop with the kind of specs I wanted was still too much to pay. I was looking at around £1000+ to equip myself for the future.

After listening to a podcast done by another user of Macs, on the new Ipod nanos, I contemplated how hard could it be to use one? I was unsure for a while and so put my mind to work and did research online to try and find out the answers I wanted. I typed in that age old question, “PC or Mac?” and got a varied response. I discovered PC users were loyal and not even willing to entertain the idea of a mac computer. I also discovered that mac users raved about the stability of the product and that, I have to say appealed to me.

During the time of my research, I took my very first trip into the Apple store and was allowed access to a laptop. i found it an easy task to enter the store as the sales representatives are so helpful. There’s computers and staff members everywhere and all of my questions were answered. All i needed to do was find the money and plunge into the unknown world of Mac.

Two weeks ago I became a proud new owner of a mac book. I was able to set it up virtually independently. The only thing I needed a visually able person to do was get me past the welcome screen and accept the voice over tutorial to begin.

I admit, I was apprehensive, £820 is a lot of money but I saw it as an investment. If I added my old screen reader software price to the price of a new laptop capable of running a powerful programme like Jaws it would have come to around £1500.

I spent a lot of time learning my way around the mac and voice over in the first few days. I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that it is an easy switch to make but it’s a very easy task once you forget you used to use a PC. Easy to say huh? Well, yeah it is. I was asked to perform a task on a windows p.c. the other day and I kept doing key strokes from the mac. You will be very surprised how quickly you pick things up.

I won’t go into the specifics here. I will do a few tutorials for certain applications at a later time. I just want to let you know how quickly it took for me to transition between the two operating systems.

By the end of the first evening, I’d set up my laptop with wireless internet. I already had a network so all it meant was typing in my network key. Mac comes with this great start up guide through the whole starting up process. For Visually impaired people, if selected, [which I would recommend you have a sighted person at the side of you when you first switch it on and check for things like charging and stuff, just to make life simpler on yourself] mac helps you through the navigation process of voice over. it gives you a chance to practice navigating the screen ad using commands you will not be familiar with. This, I found, was vital later on.

Once your voice over training is over, your mac start up guide will take you through finding your network, registering your mac and so on with voice over to help you all the way.

so your Mac’s set up? Great! Time to get started. I wanted to find my favourite pages on the web, and download programs I use such as messenger and skype. Safari confused me greatly but once you learn the way macs set up then it won’t seem so strange afterall. I managed to find my way around the net and download the programs I needed. I did get rather confused whenever I tried to open them and it would give me a warning. Just check the check box that says don’t warn me when this application tries to open. i figure it’s there because you downloaded it from the web. There’s no dialogue boxes anymore that say run or save so don’t worry when they don’t start up.

Once I was away with skype and messenger, i decided to tackle mail, itunes and Ichat. I wish ichat would work with windows live, that would make my life a whole lot easier! Microsoft messenger is OK once you’re familiar with the navigation tools but it can be very confusing. The window looks nothing like it does on windows live messenger but if you have to talk to your msn friends, then its your only option. Skype is more accessible but that is not what we’re talking about. What I’m trying to say is that within 3 days of owning my macbook, I was chatting again online, surfing effectively, and putting my music onto my hard-drive. had synched my ipod the second night I had got my macbook and itunes does take some getting used to but I plan on doing a tutorial on it for us visually impaired people.

Almost two weeks later, and I have no intention of reaching for my p.c. except to get some files from it that I haven’t had a chance to transfer yet. I am so happy I made this investment and the new voice over default voice is amazing. I love to hear Alex talk. 🙂

I hope this helps any visually impaired people have more of an insight into how it is for a totally blind user to switch from a p.c. to a mac. With no vision, I’ve managed to achieve actions with mac that I found difficult with jaws, I.E. dragging and dropping. So here I am, a very happy mac user. Thank you Apple for making your products extremely accessible. and keep up the excellent work!

so the answer to our question? Mac, all the way!