To Mac or Not To Mac? That is the question for many of us visually impaired computer users.
Having been a long time member of the AppleVis community and a long time commentor, I was very excited when the AppleVis Editorial Team was looking to bring on some new members. Being someone who lost his last remaining vision in 2009, and never having used a screen reader, but in desperate need of one, I was at a cross road.
Prior to losing my last remaining vision, I had used ZoomText on the PC. Along with losing my vision, my computer was getting in to that ancient phase. I had to make the decision many of us visually impaired computer users have to, to Mac or not to Mac.
I did a lot of due diligence and investigated the pros and cons with both the Mac and PC operating systems. While things have certainly changed these days, one of the most annoying things to me was how ZoomText slowed my computer to a crawl. I really wanted in my next computer a screen reader that was built into the operating system.
Additionally, 2009 marked the year I switched from a Blackberry over to the iPhone 3GS as I went to a seminar at the Lighthouse in New York City where a rep from Apple demonstrated the iPhone 3GS and how VoiceOver worked. To say the least, I came away very impressed with Apple and the iPhone, and ran out to get the iPhone 3GS. So when it came time for me to get a new computer I was quite interested in VoiceOver on the Mac. At the time, VoiceOver wasn’t very widely talked about. After pricing things out, and taking in to consideration how much JAWS would cost on top of buying a new PC, I was surprised to learn that an iMac would be cheaper. I made the plunge.
I got home and was blown away at the ease of unboxing the iMac and just having to plug one plug in. Previously most of my computers had been through Dell and Compaq, where your computer would arrive in a few boxes with all kinds of peripherals you had to hook up. Of course this was five years ago, so I am sure things have changed on the PC side of things since than.
I got my iMac up and running, and was ready to dive in. After a few minutes I was completely lost and frustrated. I had heard that using a Mac was easy. Having never used a Mac and not knowing any keyboard shortcuts, I was ready to throw the iMac out the window, which wasn’t an option as I needed the computer. I still had my old PC hooked up and began using it to research the web and how in the world to use a Mac. To say I was lost was an understatement. Fortunately for me, I came across a guy who I had never heard of, and we all know quite well now, David Woodbridge. I discovered his podcasts through the Vision Australia website and how to get started using a Mac. I dove in to his instructional lessons as if they were religious scriptures. I then connected with a fellow blind techie in NYC who was also teaching himself to use the Mac, and the two of us started bouncing ideas off each other and figuring out workarounds on the Mac. It was at this time that I discovered the AppleVis website, which back in 2010 was solely focused on the iPhone and had some reviews of apps and how they worked with VoiceOver.
Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put in to it. I spent the next three months using the iMac every waking hour. I had to teach myself all of the keyboard shortcuts. The pro was I never had used keyboard shortcuts or JAWS on the PC side, so I didn’t have to replace any PC keystrokes in my muscle memory with new ones, I just had to learn the Mac keyboard shortcuts from the beginning.
Flash forward to 2013. I am very proficient on the Mac, and love it. Did it take time? Sure. Was there a lot of frustration? Definitely. Do I consider making the jump to the Mac a good move? You betcha. Am I an expert on the Mac? Definitely not, and I still do rely on my network of blind Mac users anytime I have a problem. Thankfully, in 2013 there are several email lists, Twitter contacts, and of course the AppleVis website for us to get answers about all things Mac, iPhone, and VoiceOver. Apple even has a dedicated phone line for VoiceOver users, and yes for those of you who don’t have it, it is 877-204-3930.
So what do I hope to bring to the AppleVis Editorial Team? I hope to contribute helpful blogs on both the iPhone and Mac computers, and be yet another voice that people in the blind community can rely on.
And for those of you wondering, no I have not upgraded to Mavericks. I am pretty happy on Mountain Lion, and learned a long time ago if it ain't broke don’t fix it. I do plan to upgrade to Mavericks eventually, but not until I hear about less bugs while using VoiceOver. If you are asking yourself if you should upgrade to Mavericks, you need to ask yourself, what is most important to you, and can you live with the individual bugs. It all comes down to personal preference, and it is great that we can all make the decision when to upgrade.