Apple’s Snow Leopard operating system is a small upgrade, but features some key improvements to accessibility options, according to MacWorld. The system supports Braille displays, trackpads that register touches or gestures, and controls for speech, voice and audio.
Apple had already introduced VoiceOver, its version of a screen reader, with its Tiger OS. A later version called Leopard added a more human-sounding synthesized voice called Alex. With Snow Leopard, which launched this week, the improvements are small, but crucial. For example, a multi-touch trackpad can now represent the entire active window allowing you to hear what’s on screen by touching specific areas of the trackpad. “Using Trackpad Commander, touch the upper left corner of the trackpad, and VoiceOver will tell what’s in the upper left of the screen. Drag your finger, and VoiceOver will tell you what’s in the frontmost window your finger ‘touches.’ Additionally, you can move to items — cells in a spreadsheet, for example — by flicking the trackpad with a single finger,” the article says.
If you’d rather use a keyboard, you can navigate the screen or click a button or link with the Mac’s arrow keys. Snow Leopard adds support for additional Braille displays, including wireless Bluetooth displays. It also supports multiple simultaneous Braille displays, which is useful in a classroom.
Apple also made some improvements to VoiceOver, which can be navigated with the keyboard and trackpad gestures. A new feature allows you to tell VoiceOver to read a summary of the Web page rather than every single word, which cuts down on time spent navigating to where you want to go.
For the hearing impaired, Snow Leopard has added the ability to play audio as a mono option as well as stereo. This allows people who can hear better through a single ear to combine both channels of a stereo signal onto one side. All in all, these small changes do add up to a big improvement in accessibility and are worth the $29 upgrade.