Macworld - Apple Computer Inc. has introduced a new accessibility solution for visually impaired users that it will integrate with the next major release of Mac OS X. The company took the wraps off of the new technology today: It's called Spoken Interface for Mac OS X. MacCentral recently spoke with Mike Shebanek, Apple product manager for Mac OS X, about the software.
Spoken Interface provides a combination of speech, audible cues and keyboard navigation to help blind users navigate Mac OS X with the same ease of use as sighted users. It offers access to the Dock, menu items, tool bars, palettes and other on-screen objects, pressing buttons, activating sliders and checkboxes, selecting radio buttons and using all the other interface elements of Mac OS X and its applications.
"Apple has a long history of working on solutions for accessibility straight back through the Apple II," Shebanek said.
The company already offers a "Universal Access" system preference pane built into Mac OS X, which enables users with sight, hearing and motor problems to more easily and effectively use a Mac.
Third-party applications have also long been available to assist Mac users. There's a category of software applications called screen readers that attempt to "speak" what's going on on the screen, handy for people who are functionally blind -- but those applications have, by and large, not migrated to Mac OS X.
Apple's solution to the problem is Spoken Interface, which Apple says is a more effective solution than a third-party application.
"Those apps have been after-the-fact solutions," Shebanek said. "They've always been bolted on to the operating system by third parties and have had to play catchup when changes are made. Apple is building this into the operating system instead."
Spoken Interface is being released now as a preview version -- by filling out a form on the Spoken Interface Web site, users can gain access to a preview release build, Shebanek said. When Apple releases its next major revision to Mac OS X, Spoken Interface will be included.
The preview release will also feature applications that have been enhanced for Spoken Interface accessibility, including Safari, Mail, TextEdit and system preferences. Shebanek said third-party support for Spoken Interface is a relatively simple proposition, as well.
"If (developers) have been using the Cocoa frameworks to develop their applications, they're about 90% of the way there already," Shebanek said.
Apple has been working on a special accessibility application programming interface (API) that was introduced with the Panther introduction at WWDC 2003. Shebanek said that Apple has been telling developers to use the technology
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Streamline Data Protection with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) has been an industry-standard data protection solution for two decades. But, where most competitors focus exclusively on Backup...
- Simplify and Consolidate Data Protection for Better Business Results Learn about IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager Operations Center, which provides advanced visualization, built-in analytics and integrated workflow automation features that leapfrog traditional backup...
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data...
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Mac OS X White Papers | Webcasts