Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apple Helps the Disabled Community

For a good portion of my life I had considered myself to be a “PC person” and never imagined myself going to the “dark side.” However, after I started creating website for work and as a personal hobby I came to realize that switching to a Mac was the only way to compete in the very competitive market of web designing. After purchasing my MacBook I cannot imagine my life without it!

Recently I was reading an article about how Apple over the years have made a commitment to making their products more accessible especially for individuals with disabilities. Apple currently includes assistive technology in its products as st

andard features, which is great news for the disabled community as they do not have to pay extra money for these features. Currently, the iPhone, iPod, and Mac OS X include screen magnification and VoiceOver, which is a screen-access technology for individuals who are blind and/or visually impaired. Every Mac also includes an alternative, simplified user interface for individuals who have cognitive and learning disabilities. Apple included innovative solutions even for individuals who find it difficult to use a mouse as every Mac computer includes Mouse keys, slow keys, and sticky keys that adapt the computer to the user’s needs and capabilities.

Apple unlike many other companies made it a priority to listen to their customers and apply thoughtful solutions to problems. Apple, although for more than 20 years has provided new and innovative solutions for people with disabilities, continues to set a high standard for accessibility. Apple has created inventions like Braille mirroring, which allows deaf and blind kids to work together on the same computer at the same time. They have also invented the world’s first screen reader that can be controlled by using gestures. Also, captioning and downloadable digital movies are good examples of some of the innovations Apple has made over the years.

In addition to their commitment to accessibility, Apple trains its Retail Associated to serve customers who have disabilities. A disabled customer has the option to request help from an Associate if they have trouble viewing a product when they visit and Apple Retail Store. Apple employees are trained to assist these individuals, sometimes even moving displayed products to more accessible locations if possible.

For students with cognitive disabilities, the Mac computer is equipped with Test-to-Speech (TTS) technology that can speak a selection of text or an entire document aloud. Mac Text-to-Speech includes various male and female voices, including a new, more natural sounding voice named Alex. Alex has been programmed to sound almost like a “real” person because he actually pauses to “breathe” when speaking long passages. Alex apparently also sounds great at high speed as well as when he is speaking at a normal speaking rate. The Mac Text-to-Speech technology works with all applications that Mac OS X speech engine, including Mail, iChat, and TextEdit. This allows individuals, especially students who have a learning disability to improve upon their academic performance in terms of reading, math, spelling and more. These accommodations implemented by Apple allow disabled individuals to live more normal and independent lives similar to their peers.

For more information, check out this interesting article:

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