Comparison - Mac or PC? DSA and advice and buying guide

I&;ve seen a lot of posts regarding what to do when starting Higher Education, what decision to make when talking to a technology adviser and how to best manage your allowance money.Do you buy a Mac or PC? Screen Readers, magnifiers, productivity, OCR and other accessories must all be on your mind. As a postgraduate student, who is registered blind and has used a made-to-order triple boot Mac to pursue a degree in Computer Science, and research in human computer interaction, I have used most of the screen reading technology on Mac, Windows and Linux, and own a wealth of gadgets. Here as my first contribution to Applevis, I wish to provide you with some matter of fact guidelines that might help you in making the right choices when talking to your assessors.Firstly, remember that you are the one with your sight condition, and you know best what works for you - not anyone else no matter how much of an expert they are. Therefore, you must always plan the day of your assessment, because it will define how the entire time of your university will be managed. Secondly, your expert assessor may not be aware of the best, most cost effective solutions on offer: their knowledge may be slightly out of date, they may forget to ask you a particularly important question you may think is vital to address, they may have another conflict of interest in their role, and they may not have future proofed their final assessment - moral of the story: do your research and ask yourself all the questions you need to explain how you might deal with the absolute worst case scenario and make sure you find out what is available to address it.So is it a Mac or a PC? Firstly, address this question objectively and avoid opinions of people who are commonly referred to as "fanboys" or equivalent. Also remember the following, no matter what you may decide at the end: Microsoft has only a limited accessibility implementation out of the box. Apple&;s accessibility has improved, but by no means perfect. Third party developers and website owners do not always pay attention to accessibility so remember that you will always come across unusable programs and apps no matter what! One accessibility solution does not address all accessibility needs and each technology always interacts in different ways to a given piece of content, so remember to build choice in your worst case scenario.So then, back to the subject, there is no such thing as a perfect computer. The best computer: one that best works for your needs! Here are the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding what to get: What are you going to study? What is your level of sight? What is your experience with assistive technology? How much time and effort you are willing to commit to learning new access technology in addition to keeping on top of your course? (please do remember to have a life! - it is vital if you want to have a good cv, better employment prospects, a social life and even some avenues for stress release and rest). How much IT support is available to your chosen platform and assistive technology within your university? Will your choice reduce the level of human assistance, administration costs, restoration of system if it crashes, security around the university, portability (specially if you have mobility issues or require working in a lot of locations)? How much money is in your kitty? What other tasks you need to accomplish when not in work mode? (social networks, blogs, recreational reading, communication, paperwork and administration and even all the thing your mates like doing.)Although the following is not entirely true, this is how conventionally things have evolved so make up your own mind: Are you a gamer? Do you make, use or engage in a lot of flash content? Do you have a lot of videos in old AVI, WMV or divx format? Do you use a Blackberry or Android device? Are you still using that old Nokia phone with Talks or Zooms installed? If your answer is yes, then you need a PC.Are you into making or editing music? Do you edit and shoot films? Are you interested in photography and photo editing?Do you own an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch? If your answer to the above questions is yes, then you are suited to a Mac.If you want to fiddle with your machine&;s hardware a lot, get a PC. If you want to do old school software development, get a Mac. If you want to have a lean, mean, sleek operating system not bloated with unnecessary software or drivers you may never use, thereby improving your system&;s speed: it&;s a PC. If you want things to just work out of the box for almost all basic tasks from the word go: get a Mac. Productivity (word, excel, powerpoint, pdf): PC is better. Web browsing and creative work flow?: much better on a Mac. Managing and making a website that is cheap and easy to maintain?: PC. Want a stylish, modern standards compliant website? Mac. Want to choose from a range of developers, programs, cost prices, from almost all across the web? PC. Want a one stop shop for all your apps (nearly all your apps anyway!) : Mac. Working a lot with a mouse or keyboard? PC Want a touch screen or trackpad? Mac. Working with other people who may not be techy or comfortable with different technologies? PC. Working alone, or with designers? Mac. Want cheaper costs up front? PC. Want longer lasting hardware with significantly reduced after care costs? Mac. Want an unlimited online resource to almost any program written on earth from a worldwide community? PC. Want excellent personal assistance in a shop setting? Mac.At this point, I will remind you of the following facts: The above are only conventional guidelines, not hard coded facts. You can these days do almost anything on any system, and Windows 8 will probably narrow that gap even further. Also remember that you will always come across programs, apps, web content or other content which is by its very nature not accessible to anyone with sight problems, so you have been warned! Also you will probably find that third party developers do not always provide accessibility in their work, but if you come across this, please report it back to the developer: they have to make their products available to disabled people by law and it only makes business sense for them to make products more people would be likely to buy. Finally, before you do commit or give into pressure from anyone, make sure that the core applications vital for you to successfully complete your degree are accessible on your chosen platform, and that you can obtain support for it at your institution if things do go wrong: talk to your admissions tutor for advice before your assessment, even as far as asking them questions about accessibility of computer based resources. Try out some of them at home, at your nearest Apple store or through a charity like the RNIB or Sight & Sounds UK, or your job centre or school, or ask your careers advisor for assistance with this. If you know that they work sufficiently well on a range of platforms with different access technologies, or you can troubleshoot them in case something goes wrong, you are better informed.If most of your content remains inaccessible, you may need to address the issue of curriculum delivery, human support, your choice of institution or even the choice of course itself before anything else.Always choose the platform where most of your content will remain accessible. Assuming that you find that your major apps are accessible on Windows and Mac both, this is how assistive technology then breaks down: Windows has a lot of third party apps designed for blind and partially sighted people due to a lack of in built accessibility in all Windows versions. The Windows platform has been around for commercial use since the early 90s and still dominates more than 90% of the world&;s computers.Third party vendors have stepped in to fill the void for disabled people, and even after Windows 8 is released, this trend is going to continue as announced on Microsoft&;s Windows 8 blog. All of this development does come at a significantly hefty cost which most people would not be able to afford without subsidised assistance from public money or an employer. Windows also has a range of assistive technology products, from a range of vendors, suited to so many needs, at so many cost brackets. The popular Jaws, is planning to move up to v14 after Windows 8 is released. There is also the free and excellent open source NVDA. You also have a choice of Window Eyes (which has been recommended for iTunes users on Windows by Apple themselves), System Access, Lightning, and the online screen readers Thunder and SATOGO. You also have some magnifiers like the excellent ZoomText, the popular Big Shot, Lunar, Hal, Magic, Supernova and so many more. A lot of these products are designed for a specific level of sight, ranging from partial sight to total blindness, so take your pick, and if you are not satisfied with your choice, just choose another one - problem resolved.Accessibility on a Mac has hugely improved, getting better, but still a bit short. VoiceOver and Zoom are built into the OS, start up from the word go and have a logical, yet different way of interacting with the system. You can set up your machine, reinstall the Operating system and even troubleshoot most problems under the hood using Universal access. What you can do together with VoiceOver and Zoom running simultaneously hugely depends on your system configuration, level of zoom used and the app you are using, so you may be limited with your assistive technology solution. If you don&;t like VoiceOver or Zoom...tough! Although I have used the alternative to VoiceOver: the Natural Speak for Mac with varying degree of success for different things. You can also tweak the Linux solution of Emacspeak, but you do need some programming skills to make it work on your version of the Mac.Many Windows technologies do support Braille displays upon installation. On a Mac, you do not need to install anything for braille displays to work. They work straight away.Similarly for wireless noise cancelling headsets, Windows requires installation of drivers specific to your system. Mac generally connects straight away with most headsets without much effort.Windows assistive tech is well evolved due to a longer presence, and you can generally get support online or from your vendor. There are also a lot of training providers who can train you up on this technology.Mac&;s VoiceOver is well documented with a good help system built in, but not even Apple staff is fully aware of its full functionality and it is difficult to obtain personal support for it at the time of writing.Windows is better on Word, Excel and Powerpoint when using with your assistive technology. Adobe Acrobat is also better on Windows as you can get document&;s content (headings, lists, etc) explained to you with a screen reader. Mac&;s VoiceOver does not work with Office for Mac 2011. The other option iWork, consisting of Pages, Numbers and Keynote, is reasonably accessible, but not intuitive to use. Documentation on using iWork with VoiceOver is extremely rare and I am yet to find a good thorough resource on it.Although Mail on Mac is a good competitor to Outlook on Windows, Preview and Acrobat do not yield formatting of a PDF document and there seems to be no good alternative available to get this information to a blind user, thereby making it difficult to use PDF quickly and efficiently in large documents on a Mac. Notepad and Wordpad are good text editors on Windows. Textedit on a Mac is hugely more advanced, allowing you to compose anything from formatted Word documents to C, Java and even make file source code.Visual Studio on Windows is not very accessible, nor is Matlab - both of which can cost a lot and are industry standard for most development. Xcode on Mac is free, Matlab is so much better now, and both are more accessible using VoiceOver.Open Source software: Open Office is so much more accessible on a Mac than Windows. It is free and a worthy alternative to the commercial Office and iWork.OCR: Windows has a large range of products like Abbyfine, Omnipage, OpenBook and my favourite: Kurzweil 1000. There are some good alternatives on a Mac too: Abbyfine for Mac works with VoiceOver. There is also the versatile and cross compatible Hemrick Vue Scan, the Iris Pro Scan and these days, you can even get scanners with their own OCR software, but don&;t let your life depend on them.iTunes by nature is better on a Mac but Windows support has hugely improved.On Windows, Internet Explorer 8 and 9 are accessible with screen readers and magnifiers. Mozilla Firefox is also very accessible and has a huge range of web development tools available for free. Chrome on Windows is not terribly accessible, and not so intuitive to use with several screen readers. On a Mac, Safari is excellent for web browsing (it is the best thing on a Mac). Google Chrome is also accessible since it was designed using a Mac anyway. Firefox is not accessible straight away without the use of Firevox, but at the time of writing, Mozilla are working towards fixing this.For Windows, the desktop, start button, system tray and menus in applications are not intuitive, and menus vary significantly across apps, but Windows 8 is planning to remedy this.The finder on a Mac is a cleaner interface, and the Doc is a good way to quickly get to your favourite apps efficiently from anywhere anytime.The menus on each app on a Mac have a more consistent feel to them. Just forgot to mention that in Safari, you can even navigate to a word or phrase beginning with a particular letter, not just quick key navigation like in Windows, although this option is also available on a Mac.If you use a screen reader, you can only use a keyboard. On a Mac, you will fall in love with the trackpad or magic mouse when using VoiceOver, as it does make it easier to navigate through stuff if you do not want to stay glued to your machine. If you have already used an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the trackpad gestures will feel similar to what you have been used to on iOS, and much more customisation is possible if you like.You can write scripts for your screen reader to enhance the functionality of otherwise inaccessible programs on Windows. The new Java update on Windows also has Java access bridge built in, making it easier to interact with even more applications. You can also write applescript code to enhance VoiceOver, but I am yet to see scripts that would be as commonly available as they are for programs like Jaws.Flash videos like on Youtube still pose navigation challenges on Windows. On a Mac, a free plugin for Safari, Click 2 Plugin, provides keyboard access via an HTML 5 interface to video controls on many sites such as Youtube, Vimea, TED and many others, and html 5 also improves the battery life.Oracle is better for database management on Windows. Oracle on a Mac is just a nightmare to install, but alternatives do exist. Microsoft Access 2010 is definitely more accessible than Bento using VoiceOver and documentation is scarce and patchy. MySQL on Windows - definitely more accessible than Filemaker Pro on a Mac. Adobe CS still unfortunately remains largely inaccessible everywhere.In terms of hardware, Apple hardware is substantially better, more durable and has a better resale value than its PC counterparts in most cases.On Mac, if you want to use Windows, you can just create a partition for it using Bootcamp Assistant, which does most of the work for you. It provides the drivers, partitions your disk, installs your operating system and therefore you can run Windows natively on a Mac without much hassle. You can also use your favourite assistive technology on a Windows bootcamp partition. Presently I have Jaws, Zoomtext, NVDA, Kurzweil 1000 and Java access bridge installed and it was almost like using a PC with a Mac keyboard when installing this lot.If you do use Bootcamp, your keyboard layout by default will be the best work around on a mac keyboard. You can either remap it in Windows, or use an external keyboard if that is more convenient.Alternatively, if you do not want to waste all that disk space, and are not worried by performance speed, you can always use a tool like VMWare Fusion to install Windows on a Virtual machine, which you can always backup and restore if your Mac ever dies.If you want to have the option of either using Windows apps natively on a Mac, the ability to copy-paste stuff between your partitions, yet retain the ability to use Windows that is not limited by processor or RAM, for resource intensive applications, you can even create a virtual machine out of your Bootcamp partition.A nice feature, familiar to iPad users: Dictate, has arrived on Mac OS 10.8 and it makes it easier to get through large document composition quickly without having to type everything off. In Windows, this feature is still missing.By the way, you can also put Mac OS on a Windows PC either as a virtual machine or via partitioning your drive, but you must have a licensed copy of Mac OS and the end result of Mac on a PC is often buggy and slow, riddled with errors and lacking suitable performance, especially with VoiceOver and Zoom.Whilst on the subject of partitioning, if you do decide to use Bootcamp, you are required to provide a genuine copy of Windows to your machine, and the installation of Windows is not particularly an accessible experience on any machine, so you must have some sighted help if required, and you need an external mouse to perform some of the initial installation steps. You also need to install the required Apple drivers so that your keyboard, trackpad, graphics, audio, camera, CD Drive (if you have one), network card all work. Try doing this before installing anything else on your Windows partition. Although this process is well documented, personal support is not provided byApple or Microsoft in case anything does ever go wrong. You may also find some assistive technology vendors not so forthcoming if you explain to them that you are running bootcamp Windows on a Mac, but this trend is slowly changing as Macs are becoming more widespread. Let me also talk about restore and backup.If you use Windows, you can backup data, but if you want to make sure that all your programs and your setup are available to restore to their original settings before your machine required a clean install of the operating system in case of disaster, you need to include a system image in your backup. Creating system images is time consuming, preferably needs to be on a separate drive from your data, and would require sighted assistance to use for restoration. You cannot create two system images that can easily allow you to take your machine onto an earlier date. Windows system images are difficult and unreliable to use, although Windows 8 will allow cloud backups and easier to restore to an earlier point in time if necessary. Upgrade from Windows XP to Vista or 7 can generally wipe out settings of your system and may even damage some files and data.On a Mac, the best feature is called TimeMachine. It does indexed backups, so you can restore your machine to an earlier point in time very easily. You can also use it to recover everything on a Mac, including your VoiceOver and Zoom preferences, your layout and your passwords. Upgrade of the Operating System is quick, less costly, doesn&;t generally destroy the data or apps. You can even use VoiceOver in recovery to troubleshoot your Mac OS installation, and the operating system can be redownnloaded from the internet when you need to format the whole thing. Download via internet recovery is also compatible with VoiceOver and zoom, so no need to worry if your system has crashed.Most Windows users are advised to have malware protection, antivirus software and other protective measures installed and regularly updated. Windows disks also require the occasional defragmentation to improve performance and gain back disk space. Macs are generally malware free, and even more protected following the Flashback virus, and there are free antivirus available such as Sophas. Mac disks are generally not in need of defragmentation, although you can use something like iDefrag or DriveGenius for Mac if you are really pedantic.Windows has a Command Prompt, Powershell and other utilities like Cygwin or MSYS you can use to install loads of cool free development libraries, but they are not the most accessible tools in the world and do require some learning. On a Mac, you have Terminal, which is like Unix. It is so much more accessible, although slightly buggy with VoiceOver yet still workable.Repositories like Fink, Macports or Homebru can allow developers to download a lot of amazing free development tools that will work with Xcode. That being said, if you want to build for Windows, Office, Windows Phone, Server technologies used by Microsoft, you need a PC. If you want to develop apps for iOS, author books for iBooks, sell your stuff on iTunes, you need a Mac- no question.As a person with sight loss, you may have support staff and you may sometime have to do group work too. Most Windows access technology is workable with a keyboard, but if someone else is working on your machine with you, they can use the mouse without turning off your speech enabled access tech. On a Mac, if you are using a trackpad with VoiceOver or Zoom, you may need to turn it off if you need someone else to interact on your machine. Long story short: account for how much privacy you want and how much can you trust other people using your machine containing your data and personal information.Finally, you may be working with support staff who may have only used a computer for sending emails, using a social network, a bit of browsing or Youtube and a bit of photo upload and music streaming on iTunes. These are the people who may be intimidated with your assistive technology setup, and may find it hard to work within your reference frame. If you have such support staff, your problems may be compounded on a Mac, and even more when using Windows via Bootcamp. If you get a training budget allocated to learn new assistive technology, it will only be for you, not your support staff. However, if you do get a Mac, you must ask (or get it yourself) for an allowance of £79 at the time of writing to acquire Apple One-to-One. This gives you unlimited sessions at any Apple store for a year. This way, you can probably get more assistance and support on VoiceOver, and staff can also research stuff on your behalf if necessary. In my case, my Apple store were even happy to provide a couple of sessions to two of my staff so that they are more familiar with the Mac and able to fix issues where VoiceOver would not function appropriately.Apart from some really specific commands, the keyboard shortcuts are generally similar in both, for example CTRL+P on Windows = CMD+p on a Mac to print a document.In spite of so much similarities, your chosen institution may have varying support for IT platforms. Most universities use Windows and do not officially support Mac or Apple products. Others have Mac support that is more widespread. Yet there are some who support both, but such support is apportioned to different IT teams, dealing with different faculties or departments, or colleges, depending on the nature of the courses and environments, so you must check this with the university, and remember that whatever they say, you will always find people who have the hardware of their choice, so it is your decision how much on the edge you want to live, and if you would have the confidence to obtain support from unconventional sources if really required. If you ever wind up having an assessment at the institution itself, you will generally get an idea of what is on offer simply by what the assessor suggests or hints. However, do listen to them, and do consider their expert advise and ask lots of questions before making the decision. Remember that just by throwing money at a problem, it does not necessarily disappear.So if you want to decide, Mac or PC, or even Linux, choose "personal convenience and greatest accessibility for your needs"!!!I hope that this guide will help you in making a better decision about your DSA and how to best use it. Please feel free to post questions or requests for more specific tutorials and I will do my best to help where possible. Good luck with your future prospects!!



The guide on this page has generously been submitted by a member of the AppleVis community. As AppleVis is a community-powered website, we make no guarantee, either express or implied, of the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this guide.


Well Written.

I just wanted to say that I thought this was very well written and thoughtful. Quite comprehensive. I have been a PC user for over 25 years, and am awaiting a new Mac to replace my current PC. Your essay provided good information I did not consider, and find extremely useful.

Good job! And thank you for sharing.

Hello. very good and well

Hello. very good and well written article. I do have one question for you. So if I understand you correctly you can set up windows bootcamp partition all with using voiceover? Last i heard it did not do windows set up for you and you had to switch to the windows os to complete the set up. Thanks a lot.

I learned a lot from this

Hi! Although I'm unlikely to need to replace my computer for a good while yet, probably not for several years, I certainly learned a lot from reading this guide, especially about the advantages of each kind of computer depending on what exactly you want. Even though this guide specifically mentions the choice of computer for studies, I feel that a lot of the information in it can apply to choosing a computer for personal use as well. If this site and this guide are still around when this PC I'm using now gets old, reading the guide above again, or something similar and equally informative and unbiased, could help me to decide whether to stick with Windows, which I've used for the past 13 years, or whether to get a Mac instead. So thanks for such an excellent comparison of PC's and Macs, what each platform is best for, and what each can and can't do.

Good job

It is a real pleasure to read such a conprehensive, informed and unbiased article on this subject. I agree with everything said and would only have a couple of comments to add.

Firstly, one-to-one training with the Mac is available from providers such as Sight and Sound, Blazie and ILE Consulting in the UK.

Secondly, I think it is also important to think about life after study. Hoepfully at some point your course will finish and you will want to get a job. At that point, for well over 90% of jobs, you will be required to use a Windows-based machine. If you can already use a Widnows screen reader, this will make the transition into work quicker and easier for you. Therefore, all things being equal, I would suggest going with Windows - the added cost of the sreen reader will mostly be offset by the much redued hardware costs.

Of course, you can always duel boot, learn to use two, three or more access products - whatever floats your boat. but your sighted friends won't have to do that, they will have all that extra time to study or more likely party! As the author of this excellant post said, you do need to relax and have a good time to.


Re. VoiceOver and Bootcamp

Hi Austin. Thanks for your question.
As I explained in my original post, Bootcamp setup on a Mac works well with Voiceover...until you get into Windows territory. This is because on any PC at all, in fact almost any hardware in the world, the software is still Microsoft Windows, which was never designed for blind users to install, unless they could work without assistive technology.
You are right about Windows OS requiring assistance due to no VoiceOver support. Here is how the whole process works:
There is a utility on your Mac called BootcampAssistant. It will do the following (all with voiceover and zoom compatibility):
It will allow you to choose how much of your disk space you want to allocate to Windows.
It will also allow you to divide the partitions equally if that is more to your needs.
It will also help you remove a Bootcamp partition if you don't want Windows anymore on your Mac (note that if your Bootcamp partition is also configured to work with VMWare and you remove Windows, your VM is gone and you no longer will be able to use it)
It will allow you to download the necessary Apple hardware drivers that are required to allow Windows to use your hardware's display, CD drive, graphics, USB, touchpad, keyboard, sound, network, bluetooth and all other hardware functions associated with the F1-F12 keys.
BootcampAssistant will not allow the following using Universal Access (VO, Zoom, contrast, mono audio, etc):
It will not format the new partition to the required NTFS which is how Windows uses the disk (Mac OS uses HFS+ or HFS+ encrypted).
It will not allow you to use VO once you are in Windows.
It will not let you easily change the size of your partitions should you decide to change your mind about disk sizes for each partition, so plan carefully.
Once in Windows, on any hardware at all, the OS installation requires good sight as a start.
Here is the whole process from start to finish.

To Bootcamp, firstly for good measure, Empty out the trash
Then use DiskUtility to Erase Free Space
Then use TimeMachine to backup your Mac (just in case)
Then open BootcampAssistant
Read the guide if you like, or Save it for later
Select the Option to Instaall Windows (input either a Windows DVD or an image burnt on a Flash Drive if you do not have a CD drive, and try to avoid external optical drives for this process. Also, make sure you are burnigng your disk at the slowest speed for best results)
Select the option to install the latest Bootcamp support drivers from Apple (do it on a separate USB drive which has been formatted to MS-DOS (fit) on an MBR partition scheme- achieve the right formatting using DiskUtility or Terminal if you are comfortable using it)
Select how much space you want to allow for your partition (plan carefully because this is almost irreversible and changing this may affect your system completely)
Wait for the partition to be created, and the drivers to be installed on the USB as I mentioned above.
Wait for the machine to restart - it will present to you a blue screen, and this is where Universal Access stops being your friend.
Now you are in MS Windows territory, so let someone help you if you require assistance, but try not to do anything incorrectly, or you will spend a lot of time repairing your system.
Coming back to the subject, now select your language, region, currency and time zone (make sure you set the time correctly at this point no matter what is displayed). –
you probably need an external mouse to do this since your trackpad and other hardware may not function properly.
Select new install, or restore from backup if you are restoring from a Windows system image)
It will prompt you that an error has occurred, that Windows can not write to the specified disk... this is because although the BootcampAssistant partitions the drive, it does not automatically format it to NTFS. Just select the drive you had created to use for Bootcamp (which drive? The clue is in the sizes and available space)
Just select the format it asks you to choose, and click Format (don’t format the wrong drive or you will lose your Mac OS too)

After filling in all the info, the installer will begin, and Windows will restart several times to finish the installation.
If at any point it asks you to enter a CD or restart, just hit that power button, and again to reset till you hear that iconic chime sound on your mac, and at this point you can press on the trackpad hard till your machine ejects the DVD (remember, still no Windows drivers are installed at this point, right?)
Insert it again, and let Windows installer proceed, till it is all done (this is standard installation for any PC)
You will now get a really basic version of Windows, which looks blurry, has no useful functionality and is still missing the important hardware drivers.
Once in this vanilla Windows partition, go to your USB drive, scroll down to setup.exe file, annd check on "Install the latest Apple Drivers" or similar message)
There are several drivers, tons of folders and lots of versions on this USB drive, and if you want, you can install them individually as well, but remember which order they need to be installed in, or your system will fail to install them correctly. For most users the setup.exe file makes the whole process painless, so unless you are an advanced user requiring specific configurations, just stick to setup.exe
Accept the license terms, and allow the installation to proceed.
Once all drivers are installed, it will prompt you to restart, so go ahead.
Following restart, the Windows OS will appear, now equipped with all hardwware functions, such as a working touchpad, graphics, and it will now recognise the in built CD drive and the Eject button.
Now configure your network, connect to the internet, and do an update so that your license of Windows is activated and all your hardware and software are up to date with Windows's features, fixes and key security updates.
It will probably do some more restarts again, and then it's all done.
Now go ahead and install whatever Assistive tech you want to use on this partition, be it from a flash drive, a DVD or from a source online, depending on your preference.
Bare in mind that you will need to provide your own copy of Windows, any software you want to put on it, and any assistive technology you wish to use.
Make sure you run the Apple software update utility on your Bootcamp reggularly for any supported fixes. Also, use the Bootcamp Assistant to install any driver updates if required.
If you ever have to reinstall your Mac OS after you have successfully created your Bootcamp partition, the reinstall will not affect the Bootcamp partition unless of course you decide to format the whole drive.
The process is quite seemless and generally works without hassle for most users.
Update your drivers frequently on Windows for best performance.
Use of iTunes on your Bootcamp = one extra authorisation.
Assistive technology solutions generally work without problems on Bootcamp Windows, but remember that if you are using more than one product that can cause conflict with another, use the same installation instructions you might use on a PC.
Windows performs well on a Mac, but the full functionality of the trackpad is not there for Jaws or NVDA users. I may experiment with a utility called Trackpad++ which apparently fixes a lot of trackpad functionality.
Windows 7 works best at the time of writing, with Bootcamp, and I would highly recommend not to boot XP or Vista using Bootcamp because of performance and compatibility issues.
You may also like to change the language to UK, or US, but choose the option which includes the word Macintosh or Apple, e.g. UK Apple or US Macintosh International (depending on your keyboard). Alternatively, use an external keyboard!
If you notice that the (C) drive is labelled as Local Disc, Rather than Bootcamp, just right click and change its name to Bootcamp, and restart in MacOS for changes to take effects, or else it will always appear on your Mac OS as Untitled, and the name change needs to be done on the Windows partition.
I hope this has been of some help to you.
Any questions, just link back.

Re. JT's comments

Thanks for your comments.
You are right about OneToOne. Apple allows you to either choose your nearest Apple store or a partner organisation like the ones you mentioned. It is your choice which one you choose, and you can always change your mind if you change location or need something more specific that someone else can provide. You are not restricted to just one outlet, so the choice is yours in this matter, which is always a good thing to bare in mind.
Secondly, I am not sure where you got that 90% figure. What system is used depends on the employer and job. If allowed, you can always request your employer to adapt your personal machine for meeting your requirements at work, and it may or may not materialise, but as I mentioned, somethings work better on one system than others, and some things are not accessible full stop.
Again as I mentioned, it is up to you to decide how much commitment you want to dedicate in learning something new or you can prefer to just use whatever existing knowledge you have. By the way, the number of employers using iPads is on the up.
One last thing, as I mentioned, make the right choice that will best suit your needs and equip you for the future. Any knowledge you gain beyond the call of duty will only increase your chances of employment and you should never discount the value of education.
You can always learn new access technology yourself, and sometimes, youn can even request your employers to provide allowances to you for training on the necessary technology you need to carry out your job.
Hope this helps.

in clarification

The 90% figure was your own, the number of machines running Windows. Most large employers give you no choice of operating system, a few may give you the choice of access technology, but nerly all large employers will have an approved solution that it supports.

I've not heard of many employers giving allowances for training, but then again, that's what Access to Work is for.

OK. thanks for the help.

OK. thanks for the help. Windows sounds like a lot of fun to install. Note the sarcasism. It's worth it to me to stick with a vm. it's easier to work with. Thanks for all th help but right now it does nto seem worth the trouble.

Re. JT's Comments- Employers and Choice

First of all, I misunderstood your comment about the figures. You are right and I just misunderstood your point, so my apologies about that :) !
Here are a few pointers that may help you make a more informed decision, and please feel free to link back if I can help further.
According to Macworld, the number of iPads sold for educational delivery has outstripped the number of PCs. Also according to CNET, the number of iPad users account for 70+% of the world's tablet users. I think I also read somewhere that iPods account for the majority of the portable music players around the world. Whenever you go for an assessment, these days you will not only be asked about laptops and desktops, but also about phones or tablets. For people with sight problems, a phone is not only a source of safety and a resource for contact in case of emergency, but also a good resource for accessing information on the go, navigation and orientation, plus a good resource for using as an accessible voice recorder, daisy book player and the gateway to a huge range of accessible information available to you which not so long ago was a mere fantasy. All iOS devices come built with Voiceover and Zoom, and over time, Android has also become hugely more accessible out of the box. Windows 8 and Nokia as a combination seems inevitable as announced by Microsoft, and although Narrator and Magnifier in Windows 8 will provide more functionality out of the box, it is not sure how easy, functional or dependable this will be and what other third party vendor would step in to fill the void in this regard, so watch the space, and of course if you have used anything and have a good resource, do please let me know. By the way, if you have used any of the Nuance products on an old Nokia suite, I would highly urge you to upgrade: support for the old simbeon platform is being discontinued in the not so distant future, plus your device is probably a few years out of date and you are really missing out on so much usability, accessibility and available technical support without much cost to you. For Blackberry users, there are accessibility products around such as the Blackberry Orator and Magnifier. They are paid products and I am not sure if I have come across many users of them, so cannot comment on them, but you do have an option here too and if you have a user story or personal experience, please do get in touch.
Coming back to the subject again, about the choice of OS and assistive tech, that is all dependent on the nature of your work, the preference of your employer (normally dictated by their contracts and legal requirements) and also to some extent how your disability fits into the equation. Here is what I mean: I mentioned some old conventional wisdom about choices in my original post, so here is the breakdown of conventional wisdom. Historically, administration and desk jobs have involved using a PC. Engineering issues have generally leaned towards a Mac like environment. Financial products such as SAGE, Stata, SPSS, Quicken, Quick Books - all have centred mainly around the PC. Recording studios, radio and TV stations, graphics designers, film makers, set designers, web graphics developers - have mainly evolved around the Mac. This in modern times is a shifting goal post, and one can do almost anything on any device if they like. I have not even begun to mention Linux and Chrome OS here, and I am not going to for now, but you do have platforms like orca, emacspeak, speak up on Linux, and ChromeVox on Chromebooks.
Also historically, Cisco, the technology behind most of your network cards and routers has supported the Microsoft VB and .net frameworks. Apple and Google generally have had a better working relationship and Google's products work so much better on all Apple devices with Universal Access, even though their accessibility on Windows is a hit and miss as I explained.
You may also would like to consider the following:
Institutions are often partnered with Microsoft under the MSDNAA or Dreamspark agreements. Some are partnered with Apple under the Apple Educational partnership agreement. This means that you will probably be using one of the many costly products on your course and possibly later on in employment as well. If you want to find alternatives to doing your work, funding their costs plus getting them to work with your assistive tech whilst having sufficient technical support, that's your decision and you will not get much sympathy from your peers for making a bad decision.
Also, on a practical note, if you do have to use something different from your peers and run into difficulties, you will be low priority for assistance in house, and you may have to do a lot of internet searches or even contact a third party vendor to fix your stuff, for which you will probably be funding the bill.
The partnership schemes generally give you free or discounted products whilst at university, and sometimes you can even keep some of them post studies for personal use. Apart from these schemes, institutions also have partnerships with other software vendors, which is very useful when trying to get a particular piece of really expensive software to work on your machine and experiment on it with your preferred assistive technology. Therefore do your research, and remember to be flexible, as assistive technology will evolve in the future anyway, and putting off learning the right accessibility tools during education will only take up your time during employment, thereby hampering your career progression.
I did not think about Access to Work, but you are right there as well. I was thinking more along the line of a Personal Development Program (PDP). Some people use it to learn communication skills, others to pursue a qualification, and some even to learn about new technology, and having a PDP is common with big firms, or as you said, there is always AccessToWork.
On the subject of partnerships, employers sometimes too have partnerships with Microsoft or Apple, under the MSDN volume license management or the Apple Business development agreement. Some firms have both, depending on the user group employed and targeted by their goods and services. Then there are others who employ a contractor to manage the bulk software, volume license distribution, tech support, virus protection, backup of data, maintenance and updates, and in a few cases, hardware and even assistive technology. Some firms have a lot of home users and some will also allow you to use your existing personal computer for work provided you meet their privacy and licensing criteria. Moral of the story: if you have sufficient knowledge of how to at least work the core majority of your software and apps on your course, you can always put that info on your cv and apply for appropriate jobs. I’d suggest not to close yourself off from different assistive technology, because platforms, operating systems and even assistive tech software are a moving target, and who knows how things might evolve once you have finished your course, or for that matter, how would trends shift anyway.
That being said, blind and partially sighted students have to cope with the extra responsibility of moving around safely in unfamiliar territory, learn assistive technology, work out the best strategy to stay on top of their work, attend exams and deadlines whilst simultaneously trying to socialise and gain the necessary skills for employment or further studies – there is no escaping this. So in a nutshell: do your research, ask the right questions, make the right decision and be ready to adapt if required. Just keep hold of your priorities and you will not go much wrong.

Re. VM and Windows install - Austin's comments

Hi Austin
Thanks for the comments.
I am not sure why you are contemplating virtualisation in the first place on a Mac. What I mean to ask is your motivation. Some people use virtualisation because they need to run a particular Windows programme not present or too costly on a Mac. Others want to use two operating systems together. For most people they use a virtual machine only because they don’t want to restart their machine when switching operating systems, and wait for all that time Windows takes up to load.
If you are just using the odd Windows programme, you can firstly check if a utility like Crossover will run it on your Mac natively anyway, and avoid the OS altogether. You can always check out Wine as well (32bit only) but these two can run a lot of Windows apps on a Mac, provided they are supported and that you are not trying to run IE for testing, as graphical and web layouts do not always display to the detail you may need, but at least they are worth a try.
If you want to use Windows applications that are incredibly resource heavy or memory intensive, e.g. Autocad 3D or Oracle Enterprise on your Mac’s hardware, or if you care too much about the speed and performance of that app and want to use all your hardware resources, then you may want to use Bootcamp Windows anyway, or you will lose out on the program functionality and your battery life and graphics will be impacted.
I would also like to point out to you that VM creation Z still requires you to provide your own Windows installation media, and therefore if you are trying to use VM just to avoid installing Windows from scratch, then this will not work and you will also require some assistance in installing and configuring Windows on a virtual machine.
Assistive technology on VM is not the most efficient and straightforward, and there are also conflicts between Windows and Mac keyboard shortcuts, compounded beyond belief when using voiceover. You need at least 2GB memory to run Windows with Jaws on a virtual machine, and about another 1GB if you are simultaneously running voiceover and Jaws. All and all, for the ability to use the copy and paste feature as well, about 4GB will work, but I would advise you to use at least 8GB if you don’t want to experience some real issues with performance and be able to work reasonably without interference from your system. A VM that runs out of RAM does crash, like a PC, and would require a restart, so if you do attempt to run a lot of things together on a VM then save your work frequently, because it will either be lost upon restart, or you will experience a lot of delays upon restart because document and system recovery will initiate long before your Windows assistive tech initialise.
Also note that a virtual machine is a growing document, so if you put more data on it, your drive may start to fill up.
If you have created a vm already, writing it to disc is not always straight forward. On the plus side, vm snap shots are indexed by TimeMachine so you can always restore them to a given state. You can also run multiple versions, multiple OS and so many environments independent of each other, and also if you ever decide to buy a new Mac, you can just do a TimeMachine restore and your VM will be up and running straight away.
Choice of VM clients: I have found Parallels desktop to be inaccessible with VO up to version 7 and Apple does not list it as one of the accessible third party apps – in spite of the fact that Parallels is the most expensive product in this category. I am yet to test Parallels 8 on 10.8 but if I get hold of a machine, I will give it a go.
The other alternative is the free and open source VirtualBox, designed by Sun and now under the care of Oracle. It is a good product, has a lot of documentation and is a popular choice for novices. It has a good security mechanism, can support creation of multiple VM partitions. It is pretty customisable, not fully accessible but still workable to a point. Unfortunately there is no direct support available for it from a vendor, so if anything goes wrong, you will need to find your own sources of support through the forums, go to a third party vendor who understands virtual machines, or if you are really stuck, negotiate a service contract with Oracle yourself and hope that your product is covered. I also found it to be lacking in some of the really pedantic customisability I needed, but if you are not worried about COM2COM via a virtual bus, HUB2COM via virtual networking, or any interfaces required for extensive real time multi channel data acquisition via bluetooth, then this free alternative is a good one to at least try, and it is surely getting better and will let you do all the basic things you need to do on a Windows machine.
The one I have found to be the best in fulfilling all my needs is VMWare Fusion. It is reasonably priced at around GBP 40 and is an online download, with a heap of documentation and forums, telephone and online technical support which is included initially within your purchase price, and seems to be the most accessible with VO. Its interface is neat and simple, but not all the areas work with VO and some of the graphics and buttons are not labelled. You can however, get technical support to assist you in remote installation if things really go wrong, but be warned that VMWare remote installation is done via Webex, which is not very accessible, and they will not assist you in installing the OS itself – just the VM tools on your partition.
If you are just using a VM client to have another set of Windows based access tech, be reminded that FS, AI-Squared, Dolphin and Cambium do not support their products when used on a VM, and although you may find an increasing number of people using them this way, official support from the vendor may not be easily forthcoming if things go wrong.
To create a Windows VM:
Open VMWare Fusion (or your client)
Create a New VM, give it some initial memory and processor use, define the guest OS as Windows (it may ask you a version of the OS)
Insert the installation disk when prompted, and let it carry on installing Windows
Your VM will restart a few times to create this setup. You may need some sighted assistance to complete the Windows installation since VO does not interact with the items on the Windows screen.
Once Windows is installed, go to the Virtual machine menu, and select “Install VMWare Tools” – they are the VM equivalent of drivers for sound, graphics, CD drive, network, printers, Bluetooth, etc.
Once everything is done, let your VM restart, and then do everything you would in Windows – first configure the network, then connect online and do an update, and then install whatever assistive technology you require.
I have not yet tried VMWare 5 but I will do so shortly.
If alternatively you want the convenience of VMWare, whilst the performance factor of Bootcamp Windows in one system, you can always create a VM out of your Bootcamp partition, and this way whatever you do in VM will become perminent on your Bootcamp partition, and vice versa. Note that some drivers may not properly install on a Bootcamp partition after installing the Apple drivers, but this is where remote technical support or the online forums are helpful.
If you delete VMWare or do not want to use your Bootcamp partition via VMWare anymore, just delete the snapshot. Deleting the Bootcamp partition itself however, will make the VM image void and if you have to reinstall that partition of Bootcamp again, you will have to create another VM. The advantage is however, immense flexibility and sometimes, an added layer of safety too. This method will still allow Jaws to function correctly. A note on authorisation here:
If you have Jaws or similar products authorised on a Bootcamp Windows partition, you may find that launching the Bootcamp-VM may ask you to update authorisation or run in demo mode. This has been standard until VMWare 4 and may also affect other programs as well, including in some cases Windows itself. You can:
Either unauthorise the troublesome products from the Bootcamp side, restart in Mac OS, open the Bootcamp-VM and reauthorize them that way so that the changes will hopefully become perminent, or,
Contact your vendor for assistance if the problems still persist and ask for additional authorisation
To make the most of VO, Jaws (for example) 2 OS running together, you will need to turn VO off whilst you use a Windows app, and turn it back on when wanting to use a Mac app, and keep up this process.
Alternatively, if you really must pick and match and have a sufficiently large memory, you can always connect a second keyboard, and let it only control the Windows VM. Now you have 2OS, 2 keyboards, 2 assistive technologies, running together. This can work, and in my case, does. You can also attach another display to have a separate outlet for your Windows VM. This method is probably a good one to use if you are using Zoom on your Mac and maybe Zoomtext on Windows.
I hope this has been useful.

A newbies take on PC vs Mac debate

Dear Emperor Muzz and others,

I freely admit that I don't nearly know half of what you and some others on this thread say on advanced computer applications but feel like my contribution is important. Firstly, I gathered from my experience of being a uni student that personal computers are opposite of what they claim they are. I mean to say that Apple is meant for the domain of home and that Windows operating systems are meant for public consumption on large scale by thier natures to me proves this notion. For example, Apple's security is better because their infrastructure is similar to a DOS inranet like network, however, pc computers is the equavalent to what I consider the internet of being now days. Keeping in mind that personal computers provide numerous opportunities but the system as a whole is fraught of dangers like viruses, malware, trojans, etc not unlike Apple's solid security.

Secondly, I agree with your ipragmatic assessment of the current mode of accessibility that I feel is lacking in conversations revolving around in the year 2012. While we as blind people would like to have one source of accessability that simply isn't the case for us as consumers. One of the things that compounds the problem is that blind or visually impaired people that we have very few productive avenues to become productive citizens to demand a equal say in the market place. Meaning that companies can easily ignore us like employers can because to them that we are disposable or a nuisance at worse in the work place or academia as a whole. You have a good head on your shoulders and appear to hit the tone of our age but this in many instances isn't easy to appreciate in the first place. A good piece of advice is trends in technologies with partnerships and companies that have a track record of working with blind people or if not make sure you have 2 or 3 provisional hypothetical steps to ensure that your plans won't get dash also will help with your academic to professional ambitions.

Thirdly and finally, the only way that I feel like anything will happen to change blind people's predictament in life is to work in group coaliation building not as individuals. This means that a new nonprofit should be created to rate or rank sites, software, gadgets or accessories and pc vs mac and other operating systems on their affectiveness on blind people and sighted individuals in all fascets of life. It is obvious that our efforts haven't done nearly enough without frevilious temporary legal fights or regulations that band-aid the issue. All of the legal speech aside that mandates are often stagnant and mechanical without considering new innovations and inventions that have come to pass of the timing of their publication. So, I feel like us as blind people need to form this group to send bulk petittions to get their attentions and to follow it up with research to backup our point on our issues in their products. This is the fundamental problem in all blind consumer groups internationally that they also don't cooperate with one another on a comprehensive and exhaustive source of informational resources. Lastly, I feel like thier needs to be Youube Channel(s) or something to document and to show how to videos on how blind people do certain skills whether personal or professional for other blind people and sighted colleagues to learn from. By the way, I know that such organizations do fill in the voids like the White Stick, RNIB, Vision in Austtralia, American Foundation for the Blind, American Counsel for the Blind, National Federatiton of the Blind,, etc but merely that these aren't universally known or conveyed coherently enough to the overall population.

Peter, U.S.A

An excellent article

This is a very useful checklist of areas to research for both students and assessors. It is the most important research project required before making any final decisions concerning equipment you will need and even what college or university gets into your final list.


Regarding One-to-One Training

Hello. Thought I had already posted a comment in this thread but oh well. I wanted to tell you my experience with One-To-One training. Just after I got my Mac and got relatively familiar with it, my mother and I went to our local Apple store for a One-to-One session. The trainer was great and he answered our questions honestly and to the point. He also showed me how to do a couple things on my Mac which I had asked him to do. I will say though, that the time my mom and I went was probably not ideal, as the store was rather crowded. But our trainer did a very good job. A sister of mine has also gone through this training, along with a life-skills tutor from another organization. But they mainly had this same trainer, and I think this past week they had someone else. I'd suggest getting in touch with your local Apple store to find out when the best time is for training. Regarding other sites here in my area that offer this, I don't know of any but Second Sense here in Chicago does claim to offer VoiceOver training. Whether or not they actually do offer it I don't know.

excellently written, thanks!

your article was extremely helpful for me to choose (just got my Mac last week, it is a Mac air, I'm frightfully excited)!
of course, I jumped with open eyes, without much prior experience of using OsX, but I'm enjoying my adventure with my Mac!
what led me to choose Mac is actually none of the above factors you mentioned, so let me tell you what led me to get my Mac!
1. in Mumbai (India), travelling in local train with more than 2.5 kilo of weight is a hazardous proposition, my Mac probably weighs less than 1.5 kilo!
2. my Mac has a phenomenal battery life, another factor which led me choose it over my windows laptop.
3. other factors you have already mentioned, so I would not reiterate them here, but what I wanted to highlight (with over much emphasis) in your article is your sense of fare play, your evenhandedness and open-mindedness, thank you very much!

Worth Updating this Perhaps?

Let me start by saying how comprehensive and well written this article was.

I think, however, it would be worth returning to this, after a few years now, to update some of the assertions or suggestions based on changes from all the players involved. Accessibility is a continually moving programme and it's almost impossible to be definitive at any one point in time. I'm not suggesting this article is claiming to be definitive, just that people reading such articles must take note of when it was written and what has changed since.

There is also one fairly important error in the original article. It is stated that there is a legal requirement to make apps accessible. In the UK, this is not true at all. In UK law, an employer is required to provide software that is usable by disabled staff. Note that the onus is on the employer, not the software manufacturer or vendor. You cannot sue or make a claim against a software manufacturer for failing to make their software accessible in the UK. You can, on the other hand, take your employer to a tribunal if they refuse to provide you with suitable tools or processes to enable you to do your job, taking account of your disability. I don't claim to know the situation in other countries.

And, as is always going to be the case, there are going to be some differences of opinion on certain specifics. For instance, I disagree that Visual Studio is not very accessible. I use it on a daily basis, and although like many apps, it has a few minor issues, I am able to work as a full time software developer and use Visual Studio as my development tool of choice. I even use it with extensions to enable me to work in other products fromwithin visual Studio, because it is often more accessible than using the native product. Again, not always, and experience will matter in that knowing what to expect is half the battle in accessibility.

Lastly for now, following up on the recommendation to check how things have changed since the article was written, the comment that if you want to use a touch screen or touch pad, then use a Mac, and that you have to use the keyboard for Windows screen readers, this is not true any longer. Most decent Windows screen readers now provide touch screen gesture support, including Narrator since Windows 8. The approach of Windows 8 and the possibility that it would change things was highlighted in the article. But clearly, now that we're approaching the release of Windows 10, there will be things that the original article wouldn't have even known to consider. Just as an example, I currently have a Windows convertible tablet/laptop and am able to use it in tablet mode, even with just narrator. I do also have JAWS and NVDA on there, for the occasions where each has better support for particular software. But it's worth remembering when considering such articles that things move on and very fast these days.

This is in no way a criticism of the original article. It is well written, and makes excellent points and valid comparisons at the time of writing.


Needless to say this is one of the very few articles that looks at system choices in a perspective based on the accessibility factor and performance.
However, it would've been better if yyou could've given a wee bit more exposure to Linux distros and their accessibility as well although this website is about the accessibility of apple products.

Mac VS Window Screen Reader Accessibility and Usibility

Hello, everybody, this is the well-written article which help me decide for future purchase. To tell the truth, I love the build-in screen reader of the Mac, not to mention its stability and security. However, I also love the convenient way to work around most of the major productivity suite which Mac didn't support by the time the article was written. Can anyone tell me the progress of accessibility of PDF document and Microsoft products on the Mac? If the above-mentioned apps are fully support with voiceover, I surely opt for the Mac without question. Thanks.

OFFice For Mac

Office 2016, is compatible with Voice Over For Mac. It is a work in progress though. There aer guides on how to use Office 2016 with Voice Over for Mac.

PC For Work

If you plan on being employed by most corporations, you will have no choice but to use a PC.