Everybody’s Talking About It!

Nov 18, 2010
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Apple has made a strong commitment to the success of learners of all types with its new Special Education Apps. (www.apple.com/education/special-education) Every new Mac has been equipped with a variety of assistive technology software creating the possibility of universal access to iPod, iPhone and the Mac Computer.

Literacy and Learning are addressed through the Text to Speech (TTS) technology that allows students to hear a selection of text or an entire document read aloud. The Mac TTS feature has a variety of male and female voice options, including one named “Alex” who pauses to “breathe” when reading the longer passages. The TTS feature works not only on documents but also on all of the applications that support the MAC including Mail, iChat, and TextEdit. This feature also is equipped to provide spoken messages from alert dialogue boxes, as well as providing a talking calculator and clock.

Students can avoid spelling mistakes as well as reduce the number of keystrokes they have to make with the new Word Completion tool. After typing a few letter the student can press the ‘escape’ key which will open a menu of word choices to complete the word with fewer letters typed.

In addition to the basic features that allow blind and low vision students to magnify the screen, adjust the display contrast and increase cursor size, Mac offers a “VoiceOver” tool that goes well beyond Text to Speech (TTS). In VoiceOver student are able to hear a spoken description of what is on the screen and they may control the computer using only the keyboard (instead of the mouse). VoiceOver can browse the web, send and receive email, use chat features and edit text documents.

Anyone who remembers having a new computer in 1987 will be amazed at the new refreshable Braille display support offered through Snow Leopard. Through the VoiceOver feature over 40 different models of refreshable Braille displays, including wireless, are programmed to function. The screen will provide spoken voice output, visual word text on the screen, and Braille onscreen. A feature called Braille monitoring allows a teacher to control the displays of a full class of Mac users, so that students can all be lead through the same lesson at the same time. An associated feature is a Multi-Touch Trackpad that acts as the active window on a computer so that students may use one finger to point at and hear read aloud what is on their screen.

Closed captioning, Photo Booth, Garage Band and iChat are features designed to help students who are Deaf or hard of hearing collaborate in real time with their class, as well as working alone on individual tasks. Each MacBook and iMac is equipped with a built-in iSight camera and iChat software that allow students to collaborate with teachers and other students on a real time basis.

A multitude of options are available for students who have difficulty typing and using the mouse. Slow keys, mouse keys, sticky keys, keyboard shortcuts and an Automator are all available to help turn what might seem to be an overwhelming task into a simple process.  Inkwell is a built-in handwriting recognition technology that also supports stylus gestures making it a much simpler task to select, edit and convert text.

The early response from parents is  that they are grateful they no longer have to purchase additional software to perform some of these tasks.  And it appears that these technological advances will not benefit just children. We have heard that adults are buying the Mac for their own access to these  accessible features.

Check it out on www.apple.com/education/special-education/

Author: Tanya