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Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: new iOS-style Accessibility

post #1 of 15
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In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple is radically improving the layout of Universal Access features for users who are sight, hearing or motor impaired, and changing the name of its portfolio of features to match iOS: "Accessibility."

Apple has long been associated with making technology easy to use, and a significant part of that commitment has applied to users with special challenges in seeing, hearing or physically interacting with the company's devices.

The company pioneered many early concepts to help disabled users gain expanded access to computers, including features such as Mouse Keys and Sticky Keys on the original Macintosh.

In OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple added a spoken interface called VoiceOver, which built a screen reader (previously an expensive third party option) into the operating system to allow sight impaired users to navigate windows and menus via auditory cues. VoiceOver has since been incorporated into iOS for use on Apple's mobile devices, as well as on the iPod Shuffle.

In 10.5 Leopard, Apple added the advanced Alex voice to make VoiceOver even more useful, and it has further expanded its voice selection since, using RealSpeak voices licensed from Nuance. VoiceOver currently supports over 30 different languages and dialects.

Along with VoiceOver, screen zoom, contrast, cursor size and related features for making the desktop easier to use by people with visual impairments are currently squashed, "Panther Era style," into the Seeing tab of the Universal Access preferences pane (below). Other tabs contain Hearing, Keyboard features and Mouse and Trackpad options related to accessibility.



In Mountain Lion, these features are given a facelift for the new Accessibility pref pane, which presents a more modern looking, graphical menu of options related to the Display, Zoom, VoiceOver, Audio, Keyboard and Mouse & Trackpad (shown below).








The new pane also presents the Speakable Items section that has been removed from the Speech pref pane to make way for Dictation features. Once referred to as "Speech Recognition," the Speakable Items features are now most applicable to users who rely on them for accessibility features.



This revamping of the user interface isn't the only new accessibility feature in Mountain Lion; Apple says it is adding support for 14 new braille displays (on top of the 40 USB and wireless devices Apple already supports out of the box), and Mountain Lion's VoiceOver now supports press and hold buttons, dragging items to hotspots, and drag and drop modifier keys (such as Command and Option). The Accessibility pane also now has a universal keyboard shortcut: Option+F5.

Late last year, blind-from-birth musician Stevie Wonder praised Apple for its pioneering efforts in making its devices accessible to users with disabilities. "I want you all to give a hand to someone that you know whose health is very bad at this time," Stevie Wonder said to his audience. "His company took the challenge in making his technology accessible to everyone. In the spirit of caring and moving the world forward, Steve Jobs."
post #2 of 15
Strange that the occasional 'Open bladiebla Preferences...' button is smaller than the others. I know it is now, but would've made more sense. Certainly hope the Help in all the Pulldown menus will be the same font and size as the rest; right now it's... off.
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“A PC is no bargain when it doesn’t do what you want.” - Apple 2009
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post #3 of 15
I find the juxtaposition of the changes to System Preferences, and the changes to the Finder over the last few OS revisions very interesting. Shows a bit of a schizophrenic Apple.

System Preferences continues to move away from text on ly labels, adding colorful, and even realisting icons for finding the Preference you want. Finder, OTOH, has constantly been dropping color, and been making distinguishing between stuff even harder.

I hope Apple, over the next few OS revisions, decides on a common design language. They badly need to update, and adhere to the HIG.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I find the juxtaposition of the changes to System Preferences, and the changes to the Finder over the last few OS revisions very interesting. Shows a bit of a schizophrenic Apple.
System Preferences continues to move away from text on ly labels, adding colorful, and even realisting icons for finding the Preference you want. Finder, OTOH, has constantly been dropping color, and been making distinguishing between stuff even harder.
I hope Apple, over the next few OS revisions, decides on a common design language. They badly need to update, and adhere to the HIG.

You're right. It's odd. But maybe it reflects the different intents of the teams. If we look at iOS for reference, Settings has become deeper and more complex, adding more application-centric stuff in there (apps at the bottom, though usually about/info now, notifications, location, storage, docs/data, backed-up data). Whilst the file system is... Well non-existent apart from the weird "Open with..." which seems to duplicate files between apps (makes no sense to us mac users IMO).

Point was, they are making the ridiculously complex simpler, and where they have a simple format that people understand (SysPrefs) to build on, they are doing so.

Finder is mmmm... not making people as happy as he would have you believe. I've always thought he has a smile so uncomputery users don't hate the mac in frustration. I don't know any "regular" (non-programmy, non-obsessive) users who have treated the file system with anything but disdain or used it only begrudgingly (Desktop & Downloads, before Downloads... what a mess!). Even "techy" users without a programming background tend to order stuff in some odd, opaque ways. I can see Apple hating this. Even spotlight and the "smart searches" (which often turf up terrific amounts of crap), the weird recents menus that are dotted around in various places (holdovers from < X), launchpad, the windows-esque groupings and sortings (or is it arrange by, I forget); Nothing has really made The Mighty Finder usable (or perhaps rather understandable) to the majority.

So they're paring it down. Further and further until they can work out what can replace it. Msft are doing the same thing. They've come up with libraries. We have photobooth's photos, iPhoto, iTunes in the "Media" browser and Open/Save, but what about graphics, screenshots, text docs, MS Office, random videos, pictures of kittens etc? They just don't all belong in iPhoto, iTunes & iWork. How many people can remember whether it was pure text or pages or PDF that they had open? They remember the title or the subject or the category or the first line. Spotlight does this. Badly. iOS has Spotlight. For a few things. Siri, for a few more. Everyone wants to keep stuff. And be able to Find it again. Come on Apple, we know you can revolutionise this too.
post #5 of 15

Holy cow, had to read this to realize that there was already a way to lock dragging with the trackpad (which by default is annoying as hell).

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I find the juxtaposition of the changes to System Preferences, and the changes to the Finder over the last few OS revisions very interesting. Shows a bit of a schizophrenic Apple.

 

Reminds me of this paradigm:

 

System6ControlPanel.jpg

post #7 of 15

Although I'm not impaired, I love many of these features.  I always set the screen flash on and use zooming frequently.

 

I'm hoping the zoom function will finally zoom in on the screen rerendered at the better resolution.  On the rMBP, the zoom looks clearer under SL, but still reaches the pixel level once zoomed in far enough.  ALthough the rMBP is close to resolution independence, it won't be fully until it is perfectly crisp when zoomed in.  Not sure if that will ever happen though.

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I find the juxtaposition of the changes to System Preferences, and the changes to the Finder over the last few OS revisions very interesting. Shows a bit of a schizophrenic Apple.
System Preferences continues to move away from text on ly labels, adding colorful, and even realisting icons for finding the Preference you want. Finder, OTOH, has constantly been dropping color, and been making distinguishing between stuff even harder.
I hope Apple, over the next few OS revisions, decides on a common design language. They badly need to update, and adhere to the HIG.

Yeah, I don't care for many of the changes over the last several systems. It seems like style has slowly taken precedence over consistency and ease of use.

 

One thing in particular — Keyboard navigation has become weird. It could be way simpler, especially in all preference panes.

I really liked the old Adobe preference convention (long abandoned, I believe) where on opening the preference pane (e.g. for Photoshop) one could quickly navigate the different sub-panes or tabs using the arrow keys (or click on the tabs or list vies.) My guess is that this would be great for voice over users, and I found it very fast and effective. Once in the sub-pane tabbing quickly moved you into and among the choices, highlighting them as you navigated. Any highlighted choice could easily be adjusted incrementally with the arrow keys or in larger steps with a shift-arrow, or by keying in values. Enter to back out. etc.

It was incredibly fast and easy. I don't understand why this did not become a standard part of the HIG. Instead keyboard nav (and other conventions) have become gradually more complex and arcane.

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The Accessibility pane also now has a universal keyboard shortcut: Option+F5.

 

Errata: The Accessibility Options shortcut is Command+Option+F5.

post #10 of 15

It doesn't show up in the new screenshots, so can anyone tell me of control+option+command+8 still inverts colors? I use that shortcut all the time in Lion.

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav View Post

 

Reminds me of this paradigm:

 

System6ControlPanel.jpg

 

Yeah, I thought the same thing. Not sure how "more modern looking" it is when this style has been around 25+ years now!

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
Reply
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by macosxp View Post

It doesn't show up in the new screenshots, so can anyone tell me of control+option+command+8 still inverts colors? I use that shortcut all the time in Lion.

Same here.  In the beginning I found inverted colors to be uncomfortable and didn't really get the point, but then I started to customize everything to have a white background (which includes reversing the colors on Terminal so that they look right when colors are inverted and properly contrasted when they aren't), and now I use inverted colors all the time, only reverting to normal when I need to see images or watch videos as it's a lot easier on the eyes.  Even on iOS it improves readability a lot, especially at night.  Every time I triple-click on my iPhone / iPad to invert the colors in front of people who've never seen the feature before, their immediate reaction is to ask me how to enable it on their devices.

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav View Post

 

Reminds me of this paradigm:

 

 

Above item shows original Mac classic control panel.  Even now, its a wonder of simplicity and options.   Steve and Woz (and the rest) did a great job. 

 

en

post #14 of 15

I wonder when they will rename System Preferences to Settings? They have the same icon why not the same name?

post #15 of 15

You have to turn the short cut back on in the keyboard prefs.

 

 

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