Apple makes iTunes 8, iTunes U content accessible to the blind

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Apple has volunteered to work with the state of Massachusetts to make iTunes 8 and the new iPod nano fully accessible, unlocking music, movies, and the free lectures and other educational material in iTunes U to blind users.



According to a report by the Associated Press, John Olivera of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind said the state approached Apple for help in making the wealth of educational material in iTunes U available to blind students.



Apple worked out an agreement with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to make iTunes fully accessible, using VoiceOver technology developed for Mac OS X Leopard to enable blind users to set up an iTunes account, access iTunes U content, purchase albums, and rent movies.



There are currently "major gaps in the online world for blind consumers" the AP story noted, but cited Coakley as saying, "Apple is the leader, they've become the industry standard. Other companies that compete will have to or want to do this."



The agreement will build upon the existing accessibility features introduced in iTunes 8 to make iTunes U fully accessible by the end of the year and complete full access to remaining portions of iTunes by the end of June 2009, according to a report by Mac accessibility site Lioncourt.



The agreement includes a three year commitment to maintaining accessibility in iTunes, and Apple also donated $250,000 to the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.



Prior to the agreement, Apple had made much of iTunes accessible with the release of initial VoiceOver support early last year. Apple enhanced VoiceOver and added Braille support in Mac OS X Leopard last fall. The company has also added Closed Captioning playback support in recent iPods and Apple TV and has provided support allowing iTunes content producers to add subtitles to their material.



iTunes accessible cross platform



For Windows users, Apple worked with GW Micro to develop full support for Microsoft Active Accessibility, an API that allows Windows applications to work with third party screen readers including Window Eyes 7.0 beta 3. Freedom Scientific also just recently announced iTunes support for its Jaws for Windows screen reader software.



While Leopard bundles in VoiceOver screen reading technology for Mac users at no extra cost, Windows users have to buy a screen reader application, which costs around $1000.



At a press conference held at the Perkins School for the Blind, AP interviewed 17 year old Cory Cadlik, who had given up using his iPod in frustration over not being able to use iTunes himself to download music. "You had no access before," Cadlik said. "When then this came out ... I said, 'Wow, this is great, this is awesome.'"



iPod nano accessibility



Apple also enhanced the 4G iPod nano, providing an alternative large font option as well as a spoken interface feature that enables iTunes to upload a prerecorded speech interface for audio navigation.



Using iTunes 8 to generate audio navigation for the iPod nano, rather than building an entire text-to-speech system on the iPod, results in better sounding audio and allows for greater customization, as users can select their desired playback rate and the voice used, either Leopard's standard Alex or any third party voice that has been installed on the machine.



The new mic-integrated headphones due next month will also help by providing volume and playback controls on the wire, as will the new accelerometer-based 'shake to shuffle' feature.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    Despite all the critics about the App Store, at least Apple did something right
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Cool that apple is makingthis accessible to the blind you know I really hate how much my iPhone safari is lagging while typing this.
  • Reply 3 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple has volunteered to work with the state of Massachusetts to make iTunes 8 and the new iPod nano fully accessible, unlocking music, movies, and the free lectures and other educational material in iTunes U to blind users.



    Thank you.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Hmm, where did all those people who say Apple is turning into a careless MS-like company go? Funny how you can never find them at times like this.



    Apple seems to have been leading universal accessibility for a long time now. Mac OS X is so much more friendly to hard of sight/hearing people than anything else out there without having to buy expensive third party software. When I showed someone who needed it those features back when I sold computers I saw their eyes light up like it was almost too good to be true. Apple products have that effect on people.



    But as I said, stuff like this tends to get ignored. Apple does more than just sell computers and gizmos. Like how almost nobody remembers that it was Apple, more accurately Steve Jobs himself, that goaded the music industry into moving to DRM free music sales online.



    </soapbox>
  • Reply 5 of 22
    Far into the future, when keyboards have gone away, touch sensitive systems might actually use flexible, form-altering screens to raise Braille characters and action buttons so that they can be perceived by touch.



    Why not just use voice commands? If you can't see who's around you, do you really want to verbalize your computer interactions for all to hear?
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Well its true Apple is still Apple, but what we meant by they are turning into MS no.2 because some of the things they do is what MS would do
  • Reply 7 of 22
    As a person who is gradually losing my sight, it's always been a pleasure to use my Mac and various Apple products. I've had "Fred" to guide me, high contrast fields and the ability to jack up my window typeface size to almost what ever I need. Apple has always been at the forefront of this arena (since I remember-late '80's early '90's). Now with iTunesU I'll have even MORE options for learning! Kudos. I can't wait to see what Snow Leopard might do for me!!!!!!!
  • Reply 8 of 22
    crebcreb Posts: 276member
    Apple receives exceedingly high marks for this move from me and my wife. Also, we are the type that tell others.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lisamacnewton View Post


    As a person who is gradually losing my sight, it's always been a pleasure to use my Mac and various Apple products. I've had "Fred" to guide me, high contrast fields and the ability to jack up my window typeface size to almost what ever I need. Apple has always been at the forefront of this arena (since I remember-late '80's early '90's). Now with iTunesU I'll have even MORE options for learning! Kudos. I can't wait to see what Snow Leopard might do for me!!!!!!!



    That's true, Apple is waaay ahead of MS when it comes to accessibility, on the Mac you really don't need an application like JAWS which hampers system performance and uses much of the resources. As you mentioned Apple always had Fred and voice recognition even back in the late 80's which still exist even today.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Although my experience as someone who's been writing tools and apps for the past fews years to make web sites more accessible, and was also pretty much snubbed by the mac community, I most say it's refreshing to see Apple stepping up to the plate to fill in some of these voids when asked. Hopefully this is a sign of change..



    Robert

    The Zoshe Foundation

    One Man making the World a better place.

    www.zoshe.com
  • Reply 11 of 22
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,233member
    My vision is not impaired but I think this is great - and maybe another reason why the clickwheel will remain for a long time to come.



    I wish my university had offered lectures via iTunes U.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Bravo Apple!

    Does anyone know if the Nano can be made left handed accessible?
  • Reply 13 of 22
    You mention Closed Captions wich is what the TV industry uses to address the challenges of the hearing impaired but Apple has also implemented soft subtitles which are much more flexible and usable than CCs. Unfortunately, Apple has not provided developers with documentation of this wonderful feature yet. Soft subtitles are more in tune with what you typically find on DVDs (e.g. English for the Hearing Impaired). To boot, you can have multiple soft subtitle tracks...
  • Reply 14 of 22
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,590member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post


    That's true, Apple is waaay ahead of MS when it comes to accessibility, on the Mac you really don't need an application like JAWS which hampers system performance and uses much of the resources. As you mentioned Apple always had Fred and voice recognition even back in the late 80's which still exist even today.



    I am not so sure about that. I have worked with some blind people who claim the Mac is useless. It came up when I made them install QT for Windows for a presentation we were doing. This was when you were presented with a dialogue box suggesting you upgrade to QT-pro each time you opened the free version of the app. I can't remember if QT on Windows worked with JAWS but what was impossible was to move focus from the Upgrade button to the Later button without using a mouse. (useless if you are blind) For a computer to be accessible the minimum requirement is that you can throw away the mouse and navigate everywhere using the keyboard only. This is perfectly possible on Windows but I am not sure it is possible on a Mac. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    I am not so sure about that. I have worked with some blind people who claim the Mac is useless. It came up when I made them install QT for Windows for a presentation we were doing. This was when you were presented with a dialogue box suggesting you upgrade to QT-pro each time you opened the free version of the app. I can't remember if QT on Windows worked with JAWS but what was impossible was to move focus from the Upgrade button to the Later button without using a mouse. (useless if you are blind) For a computer to be accessible the minimum requirement is that you can throw away the mouse and navigate everywhere using the keyboard only. This is perfectly possible on Windows but I am not sure it is possible on a Mac. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.



    For the six or seven years that I've used QuickTime I have never been prompted to upgrade by just using the free version, on Windows or Mac. Maybe it's a first-run thing, but I'm trying hard to remember if I've even ever seen it and I don't think I have.



    Many people say 'Macs are useless' and these are almost always people that haven't even used them, much less in everyday life, eyesight notwithstanding.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    This is actually a very nice idea.. I know everybody wants to enjoy using iTunes even visually impaired ones..
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    I am not so sure about that. I have worked with some blind people who claim the Mac is useless. It came up when I made them install QT for Windows for a presentation we were doing. This was when you were presented with a dialogue box suggesting you upgrade to QT-pro each time you opened the free version of the app. I can't remember if QT on Windows worked with JAWS but what was impossible was to move focus from the Upgrade button to the Later button without using a mouse. (useless if you are blind) For a computer to be accessible the minimum requirement is that you can throw away the mouse and navigate everywhere using the keyboard only. This is perfectly possible on Windows but I am not sure it is possible on a Mac. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.



    Maybe his Universal Access was not set properly. I've used JAWS and it's a nightmare compared to Apple's Universal Access, but to be fair I'm not blind either therefore I might've been taking things for granted. Anyway you can easily test his theory by turning VoiceOver on and checking out the VoiceOver Utility, you'll be surprised it's pretty awesome, you can make voice commands as well as many keyboard shortcuts. Also checkout Keyboard.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,590member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post


    Maybe his Universal Access was not set properly. I've used JAWS and it's a nightmare compared to Apple's Universal Access, but to be fair I'm not blind either therefore I might've been taking things for granted. Anyway you can easily test his theory by turning VoiceOver on and checking out the VoiceOver Utility, you'll be surprised it's pretty awesome, you can make voice commands as well as many keyboard shortcuts. Also checkout Keyboard.



    Testing a computer's, or application's accessibility features from a blind person's perspective can only be done by a blind person. If you ever spend time with a blind person working a computer you'll come away with two impressions - a) how amazing it is that they can do what they do without even seeing the damn computer. The guy I worked with could move around his PC faster than anybody and knew more HTML and CSS than anybody I ever met!, and b) how many unnecessary barriers exist. Computers and the web in particular can be entirely accessible but life for blind and deaf people but there are so many artificial barriers.



    Its like if you are a wheel chair user and get to your bank to find there is a step to get in, and the door is too narrow, and the cash machine's screen is just too high. None of it necessary. But these are the things that make people disabled, not what ever condition they have.



    Browsing the web to see how blind user find Leopard, the response is far from positive.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Testing a computer's, or application's accessibility features from a blind person's perspective can only be done by a blind person. If you ever spend time with a blind person working a computer you'll come away with two impressions - a) how amazing it is that they can do what they do without even seeing the damn computer. The guy I worked with could move around his PC faster than anybody and knew more HTML and CSS than anybody I ever met!, and b) how many unnecessary barriers exist. Computers and the web in particular can be entirely accessible but life for blind and deaf people but there are so many artificial barriers.



    Its like if you are a wheel chair user and get to your bank to find there is a step to get in, and the door is too narrow, and the cash machine's screen is just too high. None of it necessary. But these are the things that make people disabled, not what ever condition they have.



    Browsing the web to see how blind user find Leopard, the response is far from positive.



    Very true. If a website is not built accessible, the OS's accessibility features R mostly useless to use a website. This is why I started building better tools to make websites more accessible.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Testing a computer's, or application's accessibility features from a blind person's perspective can only be done by a blind person. If you ever spend time with a blind person working a computer you'll come away with two impressions - a) how amazing it is that they can do what they do without even seeing the damn computer. The guy I worked with could move around his PC faster than anybody and knew more HTML and CSS than anybody I ever met!, and b) how many unnecessary barriers exist. Computers and the web in particular can be entirely accessible but life for blind and deaf people but there are so many artificial barriers.



    Its like if you are a wheel chair user and get to your bank to find there is a step to get in, and the door is too narrow, and the cash machine's screen is just too high. None of it necessary. But these are the things that make people disabled, not what ever condition they have.



    Browsing the web to see how blind user find Leopard, the response is far from positive.



    I personally haven't worked with a blind person but that is good to know. Anyway I found this helpful cnet article on the topic:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9808510-7.html



    Apparently Leopard is geared more towards elders than the blind.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rbt_stack


    Very true. If a website is not built accessible, the OS's accessibility features R mostly useless to use a website. This is why I started building better tools to make websites more accessible.



    The new Web 2.0 standards pose new challenges, especially with AJAX, screen readers cannot always recognize what is being dynamically updated. US Government agencies, such as FEMA, strive to create JAWS friendly sites making them less interactive. Dreamweaver's Accessibility report is a partial solution, and PDF accessibility is time consuming flaky, the tagging features behave poorly.
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