Is macOS fully accessible for visually impaired?

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Low Vision Accessibility on Apple Products

Hi all, I discovered ios accessability several months ago.. Using an iphone 8 has led to some online activity for the first time. There are limitations to using a phone and Ihave been considering a Macbook air. Are these fully accessable for someone with no usable sight? Using the iphone voiceover often loses focus leaving me unable to progress as I am continuously skipping around a page etc. Would a laptop resolve this? I would greatly appreciate peoples thoughts and experiences. I have tried using an Ipad also but found a iphone to be far more accessible due to a smaller screen size.. Thanks for any responses in advance. :)

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Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Monday, February 22, 2021

Hey, excellent that the iPhone 8 opened up the world! This is what good tech does. Regarding Mac, it has very much the same accessibility as the iPhone however, in my opinion, it isn't as good. Apple developed IOS from the ground up including VoiceOver from the very start whereas VO on the Mac was a bit of an afterthought.
If you have a look through the forums here, you'll find many examples of issues with VoiceOver on Mac, in your case, the busy issue might be annoying in safari and mail, both of which I must suffer. Saying that, if you purchase the newer M1 Mac, you might be fine.
Saying all this, the Mac is very usable, it's what I'm replying on and what I use for work, though it does frustrate me. IOS is slicker and quicker in many ways. Could an iPad and something like the magic keyboard work for you? I'd really only recommend the Mac now for someone who has to use Mac specific apps that don't have a viable IOS alternative.
There are many fans of apple on here who will disagree with this, which is fine, even if they are utterly wrong... :P
So, my suggestion, iPad with keyboard > MacBook Air with M1 chip > standard MacBook Air. You'll find all of them very accessible, though the further down that list you go the more frustrations you might face in the long run.
Hope this helps and hope others with their experience chime in.
Good luck.

Submitted by Ekaj on Monday, February 22, 2021

Hello. I'll be brief here as I'm about to take my laundry downstairs and start it so that a neighbor can start his later. I got an iPhone in 2018 and a MacBook Air in 2013. I couldn't be happier with these 2 products. I am a VoiceOver user and have seen Mac bugs squashed here and there. I never thought I could use a smartphone due to the flat-screen nature of these devices, but have been more or less blown away with all that mine has done for me. VoiceOver on the iPhone is just a wonderful experience for me. Having said all that, personal preference is what this boils down to. If you're comfortable with how Apple operates and how they do things, that's great. Otherwise, you've got the freedom to look elsewhere.

Interesting take Oliver.

My last computer was a 2012 MBP that seemed to work well for me, but I sold it because I found that most of what I used it for could be done faster with the OG iPone SE in my pocket, especially since my Mac still had a hard drive. I've gotten by for a few years with just my iPhone, but am considering getting a second device to give my poor 12 mini's battery a break. The things you have to give up to get a smaller phone. lol

Why do you recommend an iPad and keyboard combo over a Mac? I suppose this kind of makes sense, but can you really do everything with VoiceOver with a keyboard that you can do on macos? (iOS has no VO interaction, for example). I would think this might make some apps more difficult to use, like Pages, and of course there's very little information on the iOS versions of creativity apps like GarageBand. It doesn't look like there are near as many VO keyboard commands on iOS as there are in macos. Also, if you look at an iPad Air with decent storage and the new magic keyboard, you're getting very close to if not surpassing the price of an m1 MBA.

What about just getting a regular magic keyboard or other BT keyboard and pairing it with your iPhone? Would the extra things in iPad OS work better than that?

Submitted by Pepper Fox on Monday, February 22, 2021

During my time with Mac OS Catalina on a 16-inch MacBook Pro I found a lot of deficiencies with Voiceover for Mac. Apps which I expected to work (like Audible and Whatsapp) simply didn't. I had to restart Voiceover numerous times a day, Braille support was hot garbage. It's fine for internet browsing, but if I were ever to get a Mac again for anything more productive than typing up a simple document, I'd have to think pretty hard on it. Then again, it's possible that Big Sur fixed some of this stuff, but I wouldn't count on it based on what I've heard. I can nuke the drive and completely reinstall with no sighted assistance, and the continuity was great, but it didn't work for me.

Really appreciate with everyone taking the time to give their views. I've been delayed answering because when ever I came back to this post via clicking on the comments link in the mail on my iPhone only my original post was visible. Every way I tried either by finding the post on the forum etc showed my post only. For now I had this reply typed for me on someone else's laptop.
I do not know why I'm unable to access the reply on my phone ?

Submitted by Jason White on Monday, February 22, 2021

I would suggest trying an M1 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, preferably before you buy it. Also be aware that every operating system and screen reader combination has accessibility bugs. "Fully accessible" with a screen reader doesn't really exist, unfortunately, except perhaps for Linux and UNIX console-based applications that do not use a graphical interface. Linux, Mac, Windows, iOS and Android - all have accessibility-related bugs.

Submitted by Karina Velazquez on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Hi, I have been an iOS user since 2009 and using VoiceOver, first with an iPod touch, then with 3 iPhones , and then with 2 iPads, was awesome and smooth.
Even when I read here a lot of posts telling why not to change a pc for a Mac, I misread the signs and bought a MacBook Air on 2019.
It is beautiful, light and in fact I'm writing this comment from it; but accessibility and functionality is very different from iOS to macOS.
I'm also a windows and JAWS user from more than 22 years ago and I badly thought that my efficiency would be the same with a double-price devise. Mistake...
Microsoft is very very different to use in a Mac, and even when you could write some text here and there, my productivity at work is less than half of my productivity in windows.
Again, as Pepper Fox said, I also would think twice again if I ever cross with the idea of buying a Mac again. For example surfing in the web is very nice with safari, I have to say, but far from that, and maybe playing a little wit garageband, and that, I have no reasons to buy it again.

Best regards.

Submitted by Sronald on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

I will bear in mind everyone’s comments. I hadn’t really considered Jaws and Windows since many years ago, when I tried a free screen reader (NDVA?). Ifound this to differcult to navigate Windows 10. What really changed things for me was this iphone 8. Voiceover has allowed access that I have never had before. This is why I was looking at Mac o/s, thinking the waould be continuity forward. Incidently I amtrying a borrowed ipad to reply. For some reason if i access my posts on my Iphone then all that shows is my post only- no replies? Hs anyone else heard of this problem? Meanwhile I am going to see how well tI manage with this Ipad.

Submitted by Pyro2790 on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

As others have mentioned all computers and combinations of screen readers are going to have draw backs or bugs. OS with VoiceOver is only accessible as much as developers want to make it for application specifics. The same applies to website accessibility. One website may be very good with VoiceOver and Safari and the next completely inaccessible and unresponsive. I have noticed a lot of sites read as busy with VoiceOver on Safari. AS for Apple making the OS itself accessible, I would say yes, but once you get into third party apps and websites the chance of being completely accessible is much less.

Submitted by walkseasy on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Mac is a fully accessable computer. One can even do computer maintenance completely without ssited assistence. I have been a Mac user for ten years now, and find that it satisfies all my computer needs.

Submitted by Justin Harris on Wednesday, February 24, 2021

In reply to by Karina Velazquez

Hi there Karina,
Have you tried pages instead of Word? I have never used Office for mac, but used to use Pages all the time back in college. Got my first MacBook pro in 2009, and that was way before Apple had put much work in to it, but I was still able to get decent documents, and you can export to Word format. Just thought it might be worth mentioning.

My setup is an iPhone 12 Pro and a Satechi X1 bluetooth keyboard. I can do 95 % of things I want on the iPhone easily and do the other 5% with a little discomfort.

It's very much down to use case. If you want to record some voice notes, it is far easier on IOS than on Mac however, if you want to record and mix a band you'll most probably be better off using a Mac, though it is still possible on the iPhone.

I'd suggest that the version of VoiceOver on iPhone is somewhat lighter than its Mac OS counterpart but I'd argue that this reduces complexity. I still struggle with drilling down into tables and menus which isn't very consistent from app to app on Mac but is on IOS.

Another big one, though certainly not the last in favour of IOS or iPad OS is that it is a touch screen. The keyboard is optional and a touch screen gives a far better sense of a page or app than navigating with VoiceOver on Mac could ever do.

I think I'd give the same advice to anyone, whether they are a VoiceOver or not. If you need a device for communication, text editing, games and media consumption, go iPad or iPhone. If you need specialised applications, for example I use a piece of software called PrusaSlicer for 3D printing and am often messing about in terminal talking to servers and raspberry pis, go for a Mac. I'd consider myself as more of a tinkerer and a full computer is needed for that though the gap between functionality of portable devices and computers for both productivity and accessibility is blurring by the day.

In short, VoiceOver works more consistently on IOS but IOS doesn't have access to specialised software.

A couple of years ago someone posted about the iPad being a laptop replacement. At the time it was a bit of a stretch and though it's still not a direct comparison, I find myself reaching for my iPhone more and more these days rather than for my MacBook Air.

Hope this doesn't confuse matters.

this may be the cynical part of me talking but, apple designs each product to excel at a few things and leaves intentional gaps that are filled by other products, or this used to be the case. They want you to buy all of the products. I'm a sucker for it, it looks like Steve Jobs exploded in my house...

My suggestion, minimise complexity, it makes us happier.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, February 24, 2021

In reply to by Sronald

It might be that the iPad is showing the desktop version of this site rather than the mobile version. You can get the desktop version on your iPhone by tapping 'format options' in the top left of Safari and then selecting 'request desktop page'.
I think you can also change this behaviour if you go into settings and safari so that webpages default to the full fat version rather than the one designed for limited screen realesate which doesn't matter so much for us VoiceOver users.

Good luck.

Submitted by Sronald on Wednesday, February 24, 2021

In reply to by Oliver Kennett

I will bear in mind all the information and observations. Many thanks:)

Submitted by Seva on Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hi all,
I am a beginner developer and I will tell that I won't ever buy mac again.
First,
You have to use nuance voices only and nothing else. It is awful for coding purposes. It is impossible to use nuance voices for reading code, at least it is really difficult and slow. You cannot use other preinstalled voices such as Alex too. In my opinion you need to have a choice, I would be so glad to use Espeak as I can in linux and windows, but no, I cannot.
Also VoiceOver is not that configurable on Mac as it is on IOS.
You cannot even speed it up normally as you can on IOS.
Using visual studio code on mac is awful. Yes, it is accessible but it is more convinient to use it on windows/linux.
It is the case when the accessible trackpad makes it worse. Also I don't know if you can find indentations quickly in the code using VO like you can do in nvda for windows and orca for linux.
So, I won't recommend you to buy.
Also apple doesn't fix really important bugs in VO really quickly and they don't update vocalizer voices. So it is possible that you won't have the language you need. Also, there is no automatic language switching which is based on symbols. There is a switching that is based on a document language but no more. So it slows down the working process so much. But there is one plus: using MacOS really helped me to start learning linux systems and terminal, so if you want to start working with the unix system maybe it is a good start before a complete switch to linux.

I would say that you have a pretty specific use case which probably won't apply to many people. None the less, sorry to hear that you have had a bad experience. I do like the way VO switches languages, and if need be, I can also force switch the voice to that of a different language if the language changing doesn't kick in.