Is macOS fully accessible for visually impaired?

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. :)



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.
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.

Submitted by Deon588 on Sunday, March 21, 2021

Hi I'm a software developer that completely switched to Mac OS. I think all the people that say No switch to Windows just haven't put enough effort into getting productive with voiceover/mac as I'm way more productive on Mac OS (However this took some effort).... I wrote a post detailing how I go about things so maybe you'll find something useful there...

Take a look at…

Submitted by sonofdiabetesdad on Friday, April 9, 2021

try an ipad? its a bigger device and you can get one with a keyboard. although the keyboard one is a bit expensive. the ipad pro has a better keyboard imho then just using a regular bluetooth one. the pro has a special keyboard connector that snaps onto the ipad like a MS Surface and is far superior than bluetooth. if you are set on a mac an air would be a good choice. no needing vo myself but i know many blind people who love it. apple is definitely the best when it comes to that.

Not sure how jaws would work on a mac if your able to test that out. Microsoft has narrator but voiceover is in my opinion the best.

your use case as a developer isn't typical of most people. if you like being able to customize the voices etc then stick with what you have since it works for you. in giving general recommendations one needs to think of the typical person who's going to be using the computer or whatever.

this is the first time ive ever heard someone say Windows is "easier" to use then a mac. while its probable you are more comfortable with Windows because that is what you know. learning any new skill is harder as you get older and tech is not different. while i learn most of what i know about computers as a younger child now if i try to learn a new programming language its harder because im older.

Submitted by sonofdiabetesdad on Friday, April 9, 2021

In reply to by Sronald

unless you can get a discount or have lighthouse for the blind or some organization subsidize it jaws is 100s of dollars. being a very small market they have to add lots of markup. nvda(non-visual display)is a free program so you get what you pay for. there is a free version of jaws called orca(get it?) however i don't know anyone who uses it so i cannot offer an opinion.

as someone else has said its probably only showing you the mobile version of the site cutting off some content. while it makes sense on an iphone websites really shouldn't be doing that on an ipad and that shows poor programming on behalf of the developer whos making the site.

everyone now makes websites that are screen independent and let the os figure out what size it needs

Submitted by Christopher on Friday, April 9, 2021

I just got a macbook Air 2020 M1 13 inch about 3 days ago. Realize that before this, I'd been a mac user on and off, and had a late 2012 mac mini, but my God that thing was slower than molasses!

That said, I could not be happier with this new mac system. I'm not sure why certain people say the mac doesn't feel natural. OK, if you're coming from Windows, then yes. It's going to feel different. Duh! That's obvious. I mean, it would be like telling a drummer, pick up a fiddle, and try playing the thing. It's not gonna happen... Two totally different animals.

Saying that the mac only supports the Nuance voices is completely inaccurate information, and this comes from me being someone who trains people on using the mac. All that put aside though, I'd even still tell you that is incorrect information, am I'm willing to call out that poster on that publicly. This isn't a matter of opinion. this is fact. Voiceover as well as the mac in general with its text to speech system voice set in system preferences accessibility can be set to things like Alex, or even the Siri designed voices, which neither of those are Nuance. By the way, the voices like Daniel, Samantha, etc. are no longer Nuance. They used to be until Vocalizer took them over. I don't know much about that, but they definitely! are no longer Nuance, and god forbid, they're not Realspeak either, so don't even go there!

What accessibly can I do with a mac. Well, I think more it should be asked, what can't I do, but, I successfully can check e-mail, browse the web, listen to podcasts, watch TV/movies, use social media like Twitter/Facebook, YOutube, Twitch, etc. For business, I am able to successfully use Zoom, and am even starting to learn Microsoft Teams on the mac, which is proving to be a nightmare, but that's for another post entirely. I can do IMessaging, Facetime, etc.

Cloud storage with things like Dropbox or google Drive is a breeze, so is iCloud Drive.

If like me, you're heavily into audio production, both ProTools and also Reaper are great, especially Reaper Listening to music, playing DVD's, burning CD's with an external USB CD superdrive is totally doable. So is ripping CD's.

File management like done on windows with Windows Explorer is extremely nice with the Finder on the mac, and feels very fluid.

I've done some very basic development work with XCode, and though it takes a little getting used to, once you understand about the storyboard, and how that works, and learn the basics of swift, it doesn't seem all that hard.

Peple were talking about using Pages for word processing. Pages is absolutely fantastic! I'm not gonna say it's the easiest app to learn when you first get started, not because it's not accessible, but more, it's just so powerful, that you can really get lost with all of its functionality if you try learning it too quickly. there is a great EBook you can get for about 35 US bucks through, which is an extremely comprehensive guide on using Pages with Voiceover on the mac.

Also, managing contacts, calendars, and notes/reminders is incredibly awesomeness.

Another person mentioned about using Audible being, forget it! Again, wrong! Maybe the Audible app itself is unusable, I don't know, to your defense, but using the natively preinstalled Books at that comes with the OS is totally usable, and it absolutely does support Audible... I do it all the time!

If you're old school, and like using Skype, that's even totally doable!

Need access to a calclulator? Totally natively straight out of the box doable.

I have an app I got from the app store called Checkbook pro, which is 100 percent accessible, and lets me manage my budget. If you're more someone who prefers using spreadsheets, Numbers works wonders on the mac. I've not tried Keynote yet, the Powerpoint equivalent, but I'm told even that is extremely doable.

I even from within Safari's web browser have watched both Hulu and Netflix on demand, and both are beautiful!

If you're more an open source person, then heck! Even VLC media player is totally accessible.

I still have a Windows pc to be fair, using both jfw as well as NVDA, but frankly, now having an up to date portable mac system, I will never look back! It probably sounds like I'm just an old fanboy who'd tell you this regardless the truth, but that's not true. Go back on Applevis and look at some of my other forum responses. You'll see easily that if something is broken, trust me, others up here'll tell ya, I'm one of the first that'll call the wrongness out and complain. So believe me, if this stuff I'm saying here wasn't true, I'd tell you. It's not just me being a fanboy. I really do feel like the mac is an excellent sollution. If it weren't for maybe 1 or 2 very very very specific apps I use for work which only work accessibly with Windows, and even then, I have to have jaws scripts... if it weren't for those couple of apps that I can't do without, I'd be a mac user entirely NHB.


Submitted by sonofdiabetesdad on Saturday, April 10, 2021

once parallels has its virtualization m1 compatible try running windows on the mac. on the intel macs it runs fine totally useable. and we may be able to get you to switch away from windows. when Steven Sinofsky retired from MS he bought a mac!

I doubt that'll ever become accessible, given it hasn't been for over 10 years. Now on the other hand, VMWare Fusion works great!

Submitted by sonofdiabetesdad on Saturday, April 10, 2021

i used parallels all the time when i had my macbook pro. i never really tried vmware my brother works for the company who used to own them before they all got purchased by dell.

Submitted by ming on Saturday, April 10, 2021

I think if you are good using IOS.
then Mac OS is not a quite difficult to use and learn.
that is my opinion