The Apple Assistive Powerhouse

I can probably consider myself an original Mac guy. My university (New Mexico State) where I attended undergrad dove head first Mac for its publications as early as 1986, and I owned my first Mac in 1988.

Mac went south in 1997, I went Windows a short time later, but returned to Mac in 2005 thanks to my daughter, who bought one for college. But in 2010, upon entering Boise, back to Windows but the stay was short, again thanks to my daughter.

Both have powerful merits, though Apple’s Screenshot 2013-11-24 12.14.03price is always tough. But what might be little used features for some can be powerful features for others. Apple’s standard software can work with students who have cognitive, physical, communication, and intellectual ability difficulties (Roblyer and Doering, 2012).

It is important to know that Windows products are capable, but there may be need to add software, even if it is free.

First, Apple allows for icons to be as large as needed, with readable fonts and the ability to zoom up to 20 times.

Probably one of the biggest assets to the Apple environment is VoiceOver, which is  screen reader. There is a slight learning curve, but I was able to get it to listen to text from the web and from Word.

Screenshot 2013-11-24 22.11.33 Another fun discovery (yes, I did not know my computer could do this) was Dictation and Text to Speech. I had my granddaughter play with Dictation, and the third grader was pretty happy to see her words automatically going onto Microsoft Word. Although Dragon is considered better overall (including students who have some lisps or other speech impediments), it could still be used to help students practice speech and also free write even if they can not write as fast.

Text to Speech connects to Text Edit or Pages, so teachers can put text into Text Edit and students can use the Text to Speech to hear what is read. The biggest discovery for me, however was that Apple’s Preview reads PDF files. Yes. Just go to Edit, scroll down to Speech and then if it is a quality PDF, highlight the section one wants to read and let it go.

This led to the discovery that Adobe Acrobat and AScreenshot 2013-11-24 22.33.20dobe Reader also have a Read Out Loud feature I did not know existed! I have students who need audio support, so this is a major find for me and I will be certain to reveal this to my charges after Thanksgiving break (students are gone all week at my school.

(Another aside: If one adds the Open Dyslexic font, one can give dyslexic students a chance to not only read a story better, but also listen to it via Apple’s Preview (PDF) reader.)

Apple also supports Braille displays, slow or Sticky Keys, provides Facetime instruction, and other visual approaches that can help with a variety of approaches, in addition to a bevy of other items that are standard with the software but I did not get a chance to investigate at this time.

Although the wallet may take an “ouch” when purchased, I am impressed with my laptop can do without having to be overly worried about whether an outside source will work or not.

Apple – Education – Special Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6th ed.).


3 thoughts on “The Apple Assistive Powerhouse

  1. Tyler,

    Really good post. I have inspired me to go look around my Windows PC now. You gave a very honest assessment of the tools that you found. It is interesting to me to see how many tools are already baked into the OS.

  2. You’re right, Apple does have some nice features embedded in the OS. In fact, as you noted, the voice-over function is decidedly better than a similar feature in Windows. I’ve found some issues with Macs in the past, though: screen zoom can be cranked up so high that you get lost in the screen and can’t get out of it easily and the on-screen keyboard is lacking. I worked with a student with Muscular Dystrophy and he couldn’t use a keyboard because of his limited mobility. Though there was an on-screen keyboard, it didn’t have predictive text (though I believe a new version does now) and to get a tool that works as well as the one baked into Windows, he had to pay $200 for a very niche software package.

  3. Cary,

    Very interesting post. My wife has a Macbook that I haven’t played with too much but, there are definitely some neat accessibility features.The voice over feature is great, off the shelf program JAWS does something very similar but costs nearly $900. Having it built into the operating system is so much more cost effective. Also, I love the graphics in your post, very professional looking. Thanks for the great post.

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