My Experiences With Apple Mac Computers Thus Far

When I made it to the twelfth grade, I had already taken a couple different music classes (piano and choir), and was looking for something new to try my hand in. I ended up in a class that taught audio production and music technology. It was quite a small class, and there was only one other person in it besides myself. I’m sure you can tell where this is going… Me being the only totally blind student in the entire school, the teacher was thrilled I had decided to take the class, and informed me that he had heard the Mac laptops had a screen reader built into them like the iOS devices, and from here I was set the assignment of learning how to Navigate GarageBand on an iMac independently. Thus began my learning of Voice Over (VO for short).

Needless to say, this was a train wreck. When VO was fired up on the iMac for the first time I felt a sense of familiarity already. Just hearing my preferred voice (Samantha) which I had requested the teacher switch to before turning speech on, say, “Voice Over on” made me feel right at home. Then I realized that I was, for a lack of a better word, totally and utterly screwed. There were so many key combinations to memorize, and pressing Enter (AKA Return) did nothing and instead Control, Option, and space had to be pressed to select something. Navigating was a nightmare because every time I had to move around the Control and Option keys had to be held by default, and this took a lot of time to get used to. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing, and was unaware of QuickNav being an option. Not to mention I had no experience with this version of Voice Over before, and had been an avid JAWS user since I started using computers. It should go without saying that I spent tens of minutes to locate whatever I needed to either interact with, select, or which keys I needed to hold down to perform different basic actions, and found myself confused by it all for quite a while. It didn’t help either that the classes were only forty five minutes long, and I only was present in this class for three days a week. It seemed that as soon as I would begin to make some headway on actually understanding what felt like a tiny corner of the tapestry that is Voice Over, the bell would interrupt and I’d have to quit and resume at a later time.

To put it nicely, I was not a fan of the Mac initially. I was really surprised at how much difficulty I was having with grasping the fundamentals of this version of a screen reader I loved so much on another platform. Was that through any fault of the screen reader itself though? Absolutely not. It was due to a lack of time, the fact that I wasn’t trying to learn anything other than getting around one application (GarageBand), and the fact that every time I would get stuck with something there was always someone who had vision around. I would ask for assistance, and they didn’t know how I was meant to do whatever I needed help with unless Voice Over was turned off so I didn’t learn anything of much importance. The Voice Over Tutorial was too long for me to ever manage to complete with in the time frame of the class, and I would get about half way through it and have to stop so that was no help as well. So, I really didn’t have a very good first impression of Voice Over on a Macintosh. Even though this was the case, I still managed to learn the basics, and by the end of the school year, I could at least get to the different tracks that were created in GarageBand and to the “Record Button” so my first attempt wasn’t a complete failure.

Fast Forward to February of This Year

After I graduated from high school, I had to return my computer that was given to me for completing school assignments back to The Board of Education, and I was supposed to be given a new one for when I started college in the fall of 2016, which due to complications that were out of my control did not come to fruition. There I was: without a computer, and left with my iPad and iPhone. I love my portable iOS devices, and even though I’ve praised how much I like VO on iOS in the past, there are just some things a guy needs a computer for. Plus I’ve packed a laptop around since I was eight years old, so I sorely missed having one. It wasn’t until then I decided to give the Mac a second look. I wasn’t able to attend an educational program, and frankly I found myself quite bored. I don’t enjoy being idle, and love learning new things. So I started doing research on all of the various models of Macs and finally decided on the 2015 MacBook Pro with Eight Gigs of Ram and 120 gigs of memory. It was time to give Apple a second look.

The Fiasco that was shipping

After placing my order through the Apple Store, I remember waiting and worrying. I deemed this my “first adult purchase”, and I was so nervous that it would get lost in shipping, or stolen, or go to the wrong place…yeah I’m a worry wart to say the least. Interestingly enough I had good reason to worry. The day before my Mac was set to arrive, we had a wind storm that knocked out our power. So, I couldn’t track my package. The following day I was sitting home, alone in the dark, and I never heard a vehicle pull up to my house. The next day came and went, still no package, and no way to find out if it was coming. On the third day, the power came back on, and I was finally able to log onto the Apple Store website and track my package. To my utter dismay, it said that my Mac had been attempted to be delivered twice by this point, and they would try a third and final time to deliver it and Fed X would take it back from which it came. Obviously it hadn’t been brought to my house, so where had it been attempted to be taken to?

Not long after, I received a phone call from my neighbors saying that there had been a piece of paper taped to their front door addressed to me regarding a failure to deliver my package. My neighbors are also my aunt and uncle, and my cousin informed me that he would be home the day it was set to be delivered again, and texted me letting me know. Three days after the initial date I was supposed to get my Mac, it was in my hands at last.

Six Months Later

Six months have passed since the day I powered on my Mac for the first time, and I must say that my opinion of the machine is very positive now compared to what it was originally. I absolutely love how seamlessly my Apple devices talk to one another: receiving messages on all three devices, along with FaceTime calls, and having all my data backed up to iCloud is heavenly. The Finder used to scare me to death, but now I find it very easy to navigate, and I love browsing the internet with Safari using Quick Nav, and jumping from heading to heading, or pressing a single key to find a text field on a web page. Once you grasp that the interaction feature is there to help you keep information organized, it actually cuts down on the time you’d spend searching for whatever piece of information you’re looking for, and I have come to appreciate it so much.

Do you remember how I mentioned that I wasn’t enjoying the experience of Voice Over because of the key commands and things that had to be pressed? I felt so limited because I always had to have two extra keys pressed down (Control and option: AKA VO Keys), once I had the opportunity to learn more about my screen reader, I realized that I wasn’t limited at all. In fact, my problem had become that there are multiple ways of navigating, and there for a while I had trouble deciding on which method best suit my needs. There are Rotor settings which can be changed from the track pad (this is similar to the Rotor on iOS) or via arrow keys (Right plus Up arrows move clockwise, Left plus Up Arrows to move counterclockwise through the navigation options, Down plus Right Arrows to interact, Down plus Left Arrows to stop interacting, and Up plus Down Arrows to select an item), there’s also a setting for Quick Nav called Single-Key Navigation which negates the use of the Rotor and allows for the changing of navigation by the press of a single key (H for Headings, and L for Links are examples), and there’s NumPad navigation (which I have not experimented with as of yet), and finally there’s the track pad itself which allows you to use the same gestures as you would on iOS. There for a while, it was hard to decide on which methods of navigation I wanted to use myself, and I felt like I had way too many options to choose from. The amount of customization Voice Over provides is insane, and once you’ve worked out what’s best for you personally, it makes for a wonderful experience.

With the help of AppleVis.com and a couple different groups on Facebook: The Mac Voice Over Network, the iPhone and iPad Apps for the Visually Impaired (which allows questions about the Mac as well), The Apple Accessibility Network, and the MacBook, MacBook Air,& MacBook Pro Users I’ve totally changed my perceptions on Voice Over, and the Macintosh itself. For what my opinion is worth, if you’re considering making the switch to the Mac from a Windows computer, I did it, and I have come to love Mac OS even more than I did Windows. It’s definitely a change, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet to give Voice Over, and the Mac in general, a chance before deciding that it’s not for you. It could just surprise you: it did me.

If you have read to the end of this article, I thank you. What are some of your experiences with Voice Over. Let me know in the comments. Have a nice day!

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20 Comments

comment on this post

App Developer

hello,

I must say that you are totally right! apple devices are amazing, especially Mac and IOS devices. I bought a Mac on January 2017, and learned how to use it two days later. you forgot the trackpad, which is like IOS vo gestures.
thank you for this post will,

Afik,
Israel.

Using IOS Gestures on Trackpad

Hello there,
Thank you for the comment on my post. I did mention the IOS gestures at the end of the list of different navigation configurations, but did not go into detail about how which gestures do what.

"and finally there’s the track pad itself which allows you to use the same gestures as you would on IOS."

I did this because I didn't want to stray too far from the topic of the Mac, but still let the reader know that this form of navigation was still possible. Thank you for bringing this to my attention though. I'll remember to try to clarify my reasoning better in the future. This was my first blog post here, and really anywhere else for that matter, so I'm just thankful that I could get my point across and actually make some sense. Haha.
Thanks for reading!

Agreed

Hi there. I totally agree about VoiceOver. I only have a MacBook Air, but am planning on getting an iPhone for Christmas this year. My parents got me this Mac as a Christmas present in 2013. Actually a sister and I accompanied them to our local Apple store, and low and behold the Mac which I tried out is the very same one on which I'm typing this. Prior to getting this computer I had only read and heard negative things about VoiceOver, and about Apple in general. I used AppleII computers back in the day at home and at school, all of which had the Echo/Cricket speech synthesizer. That was pretty good for its time. Fast-forward to 1995, when my parents gave me my first DOS-based PC as a high-school graduation gift. Shopping for one that would accommodate my needs was a whole task inandof itself, but that's for another post. Then I graduated to Windows, and I think I've used all but one of the major screen readers to date. Needless to say I wasn't that keen on switching to the Mac, not to mention the lack of in-person training in my area. I accompanied my mother to a One-To-One training session shortly after acquiring my Mac, and the trainer did a very good job. He was patient and knowledgeable about VoiceOver. It's kind of a shame that those in-store training sessions are no longer being offered, but I think I know partly why Apple did that. Think crowded shopping centers and trying to listen to a computer voice. That's only a guess though. But anyway, ever since that training session I've been super impressed with Apple. They really get accessibility and take it seriously. Having said all that, I've taken a look at GarageBand and the interface just seems to be a bit quirky as a whole. But perhaps it will change for the better in the upcoming release for the Mac.

Bravo!

Such a good and well-written article!

Awesome

I had no idea that Apple used to offer Voice Over trainings in their stores. I understand why they would have discontinued it because of the reason you mentioned about it being crowded and hard to hear the computer's voice though. Also, GarageBand isn't that hard to get the hang of once you actually understand the basics of VO. It's definitely not the best place to try to pick up how to use the screen reader however. At the time when I was trying to figure it out, I was completely clueless about everything. I hadn't even touched a Mac up until that class, and kept trying to treat it like I was using JAWS. My history with computers is very strange though. I began using a computer back when I was in the third grade. I lost my vision, and had to begin using one for school work etc, and that's where I began to learn JAWS. I still remember having to fight with the computer over Talking Typer and memorizing the keyboard, but that was an entire fiasco in itself and I won't talk about that much, but anyway, I went to public School, and my VI teacher tried to teach me how to use the computer the best she could. It was a learning experience for both of us because I was her first totally blind student ever. I didn't learn much other than basic web browsing and writing documents for classes. Once I had to begin learning the basics of Voice over on the iMac we had at school, I thought, "good lord this is some high level stuff, I'll never get the hang of this." Needless to say I'm not the most tech savvy person, but I managed to figure out enough of it to pass the class. Then this year I got my own Mac, and I love it. If I don't know how to do something, I try to figure it out, and I feel like I've learned more in the past six months than I did throughout the nine years I used Windows and JAWS. Then again, I never really tried very hard to figure anything else out besides what I mentioned above so...that's more my own fault more than anything. It's amazing how when you actually want to learn something, you try harder to make it happen. Thanks for the awesome comment by the way.

PS I highly recommend the iPhone. I love mine, and it's really easy to pick up Voice Over on IOS.

ios.

Hi.

Thanks for the article! I'm glad to know there's noobies out there! I got my ipad a while ago, and I had no prior experience with Vo. Only a small amount. I was blind since birth, and am a hardcore braille reader. I had an apex, and did my work on that, because I like reading things better than having to listen to them. It was taken from me with not much time to secure funds for purchasing a new device, so my parents got me an ipad. I'm a techie ferson, which helped. The guy at the store spent 90 min. teaching me a crash course as best he could. All the training I had so far has been self-training. I like playing around and figuring things out. Someone pointed me to accessability support and applevis and I was greatful. Before I found that, I started searching for tutorials and other resources on voiceover. I also weot through a lot of trial and error. Often, I worked backwards, I'd come upon an issue, and have to figure out what I did to cause it if anything and fix it. Oftentimes, I'd repeat the issue a few times to be sure I knew how to fix it. I love Vo. now! There's things I still haven't figured out yet, but I'm still tinkering. I've taught Mom how to do things with her ipad, and she's sighted.

At first, I thought Vo. was a beast. I had no manual and really no jump-off point! But now, I love it! I've found ways to do things on my ipad that I used to do on my apex. And I have found knew ways to do things too, such as reading Kindle books! Needless to say, I miss my braille. I hope to be able to get a display. That'll be a knew curve for me, but I'm looking forward to it someday. I hope to be able to have a mac also.

I know we're noobies in different platforms, but to me, I feel like I'm not alone floundering. Thanks for helping me not feel alone. Because even after at least a year on my ipad, I still classify myself a noobie.

Links to resources Mentioned

I meant to post these earlier, but kind of forgot to, and so I apologize. Here are the links to the Facebook groups I mentioned in this post. If you aren't a member of any of these, I highly recommend that you give them a look. There awesome resources to turn to for networking and asking other Apple users for assistance. These combined with AppleVIS have been what I've used to actually get myself together and learn how to use my Mac lol.

The Mac Voice Over Network: https://www.facebook.com/groups/987713757922069/

iPhone and iPad Apps for the Visually Impaired: https://www.facebook.com/groups/iPhoneiPadAppsfortheBlindVisuallyImpaired/

The Apple Accessibility Network: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1496225600683345/

MacBook, MacBook Air, & MacBook Pro Users: https://www.facebook.com/groups/macbookandmacbookpro/

You sound like me

Hi Dawn,
Reading your comment gave me flash backs of when I was trying to learn VO on my first iPod about four or five years ago. When I started on IOS, I was pretty much gave an iPod and told to go nuts. I'm sure I ended up teaching myself quite a few things backwards, so I understand completely where you're coming from. To be honest, I only recently discovered that there were resources for us blind / VI people online, and before last year, had no idea that anything like AppleVIS even existed. I'm just going to say that if I hadn't have discovered the resources I've mentioned here, I would have sent my Mac back already, or pulled my hair out one or the other. When I first started learning the Mac about six months ago (I'm not counting when I was in high school trying to use GarageBand because when I got my own Mac, I had basically forgotten everything I had learned anyway), I used this site so much it's ridiculous. Their podcasts are outstanding guides for learning all kinds of neat things. Anyway though, I don't have any experience with an Apex or a braille display sadly, but think they would be kind of cool to have. I too love reading braille, and have three book shelves full of books in my room. It goes without saying that I have a bunch of books downloaded in my iBooks library as well. I'm glad that you don't feel so alone as a newbie now, and thank you so much for taking the time out to read my ramblings.

Enjoy your iPad!

Excellent post

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Will,
An excellent post! Thank you for sharing this. It was very well written. Learning VO and GB both at once must have been overwhelming. Nicely done. :-)

Learning things backwards can be rewarding.

Most of the things that I have learned well I have learned backwards or sideways. I have learned more from fixing a problem that I found or created my self than from any class that I have taken. That goes for mane stream computer classes and adaptive technology classes. When we teach ourselves we tend to learn things more effectively and retain the information. Keep up the good work. Thanks for the encouragement for all the new users and us not so new users.h

Thanks for the Info

Hi, I too have recently purchased a 2017 MacBook Pro and so far, I am loving it. I haven't really taken any courses to help me figure things out, for that, I am just playing around and exploring. I of course am using
AppleVis as I have been a member for several years, and do have a couple of colleagues and friends who are Mac users.

Unfortunatley, with my day job, when I get home, I find myself not spending my entire evening on it but I do try to go on it at least an hour every day or two. This is something I plan on learning over time.

Thanks again for the Facebook groups, I was already a member of one of them but went right away and requested to join the other three. Thanks again!

Thanks

Thank you very much, Nicholas!
I really appreciate the compliment. This was my first blog post ever, so I was really nervous about it being adequately written, and really, I'm just happy I could get my point across and make sense throughout the entire story. Haha. Yes learning Voice Over and GB at the same time was "interesting" to say the least. Lol. Thanks again for taking the time out to read my post. I appreciate it!

I agree

Hey Eric,
I totally agree that learning things backwards does make you learn it well. I tell everybody that I break at least every piece of tech I get once, and have to fix it. I don't really break anything, but I always end up messing with something until I mess some setting or another up, and have to figure out how to change it back to how it originally was. Haha. I've never really took an assistive technology class other than what I was taught back when I was in grade school, but I seem to know just enough to get myself in trouble, and eventually back out of it as well. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and dropping me a comment. Have a nice day!

Not going back

In March of last year, I replaced my Windows machine with a Mini. It's hooked up to a KVM so I can easily switch between it and my Windows laptop that I have to use for work. I'd been contemplating the switch for some time, and listening to various podcasts as well as following activity here convince me that it was doable. Windows had become a nightmare on my old system, so I took the plunge. I had some of the keyboard basics from using my bluetooth keyboard with the iPhone, so that helped a little in making the transition. The hardest thing for me was the differences in the way editing works. That still trips me up. It doesn't help that I still have to use Windows for work. However, what I found is that even though as a percentage of time I am still using Windows more than Mac, I adapted so well and so quickly to the Voiceover way of doing things that I'm constantly trying to use the Voiceover commands in Windows. I rarely make the opposite mistake. With my setup I don't have a touchpad, but I have found the numbed commander to be a very efficient way of getting around. I mapped a couple of extra functions there and mostly use that even in web pages, resorting to quick nav only when I am going to spend a long time on a page with lots of material, such as BARD. Complex editing and spreadsheets could still use some work, and I haven't found a solution that works well for the simple video edits I have had need to do, but I have no desire to go back. Every once in a while I contemplate installing Windows on the Mac for some task or other, but no, unless some absolutely essential task makes it necessary, I'm not going back.

the entr key

It was fun reading your experience. I have been using a Mac for a year and a half now. I don't plan on returning to windows if I can help it. It was sure rough getting used to not pressing enter. However sometimes I half to. For example if I want to save an attachment from email I need to press enter on the desired location and not vo plus space. This happens here and there for me. I'm not complaining. It's just a little curious to me. Enjoy your Mac.

between and betwixt

Thank you so much for putting into words exactly what i fear is the reality with which I have been wrestling for quite some time. I too, am a long time Jaws user and have long wanted to take a chance and make the big switch. So much so that i am still running ExP on my windows laptop! I am frozen in time and slowly being frozen out of websites and newer versions of programs etc. It is time to make a decision! However, I am no longer a teenager nor do I have the patience to spend such intense time studying, going through too long tutorials written by someone too familiar with the matter to make the material "real" to me etc. I have worried about learning a new operating system, programs, new terminology and the myriad of key combinations that I would have to learn and the pressing of 2 other keys, whichever the VO keys are, in addition to any other command seems complicated.

I am glad that you mentioned that through your lengthy foreay into the Mack and VO you have discovered that there are a number of ways one can interact with a Mack. Sometimes, however, having too many choices can result in the same effect as if only one was available! How did you determine what form of interacting with VO was best for you? Does any one of these methods stand alone and are you able to do most daily functions without having to rely on having learned one of the other methods? What clear, exact and teaching sources did you find most useful?

I am a totally blind user whose life was completely revolutionised and liberated by the advent of the iPhone. I do not have any other Apple devices, aside from my Air Pods, and can appreciate how seemlesly the Apple devices are meant to work together. I love the comfort which I have with my outdated PC with ExP and Jaws and am intrigued by the vast possibilities presented by anything Apple and am scared by the seemingly overwhelming task of crossing the abyss. I am facing this jump alone and wish to thank you again for shedding some light where previously I only had doubt and supposition

Hi,

Hi,
I've been a very long time mac user for the past 7 years now, having gotten my first MacBook pro when I was a junior in college back in 2010. Truly the simplest way to learn VO, is to just use it. The getting started tutorial is activated by pressing VO, ctrl+ option, or caps lock if so enabled, plus the CMD, command and the F8 keys, or using the FN key and hitting the number 8 key if you have a MBP with touch bar.. Also, another way of getting into the getting started tutorial is hitting VO+H, and scroll down past the help menus, till you hear VO getting started tutorial. That'll then activate the guide.
Personally, I despise windows, and haven't regretted switching. I've been able to do everything from browse the web to writing papers in college, to doing other stuff that a normal PC user can do on their end.
My best advice is to takee the plunge, so what if it's off the deep end! try to learn the Mac ecosystem, understand the concepts of VoiceOver, figure the VO keys by default are control and option which is right next to the control key, and go from there! You've got options, but at least give the mac a go and see what you think.
The mac isn't for everyone, but if you're looking to try something else, at least it's available.
Also, if cost is an issue, either get the mac mini, or find a used MacBook pro on eBay, or maybe some other site. I'm sure their's a myriad of options if you don't feel like plunging down the cash to get a machine with touch bar.

Fb Groups

Thanks for the Facebook links. I will definitely check those out at some point. I must admit I'm not a huge fan of Fb, but the mobile site seems to be a lot easier to navigate with screen readers. Another good resource seems to be Apple's very own support community portal. I just went on there this past weekend to have a look around. In doing so I discovered that I actually registered on there at the end of 2014, which I had forgotten about. So I updated my profile and did some other stuff on there. I figure it's a good resource not only for learning stuff, but also for helping people out. The interface seems to be a bit quirky in some respects, but it's definitely an improvement over a few years ago. The address is http://www.apple.com/support , and just sign in with your Apple ID. Then click on "Apple Support Communities." I also agree that AppleVis is a great resource.

Great Post, similar situation

Thanks for this very interesting post. Plus the links in the comments section.
I've been pondering for a few months now to jump to a Mac Book or Pro device vs another Windows PC with JAWS. Like you mention in your post, I am currently a Windows 7 user with Jaws for personal and at work. However, I have heard lots of things about Win 10 and how it's not easy to use. My only concern and cause for my hesitation is that Windows is used at work, so it may be beneficial to keep using PC. At the moment, as an alternative, I am considering an iPad Pro 10.5 with smart keyboard, but when I tried it in the store, the apple smart case cursor keys are too small. The Logitech ones are a bit bigger. I've mainly use it for browsing and MS Word and Excel. I have tested I can use it on an iPad, but need to keep my files in iCloud or other on-line sites which does give me some concern over security. Plus my old files are held on external hard disk. So it brings me back to a laptop computer. Not to mention the touch bar or Pro or not pro decision/price.

Your article and the comments, at least, has confirmed to me that a apple laptop, no matter what I choose, will be accessible with lots of resources to help.

the cost is just to prohibitive for me, plus I like Windows 10

While I certainly respect people's decision to switch to a mac, I do however want to say that Windows 10 is not the beast that everyone believes it is. I use it every single day without issues. in fact, it's probably the most stable Windows version I've ever used, so for you guys worried about Windows 10, fear not. If you're familiar with versions like Windows 8 and above you'll be right at home. Earlier users may have to figure out where a few things have been moved to, plus there are a couple other things that are different such as different keystrokes for things but it's not a showstopper for me. That said, I do have an iPhone and an iPad Minnie and enjoy them both a whole lot so I'm a fan of those. But at this point, i'm very comfortable and happy with Windows and have absolutely no desire to switch. Plus the cost is just too high. I can get a beautiful pc like the one I've got sitting in front of me for around $600. The average mbp runs about twice that, and that's not including other options you might add on. For you who enjoy the mac, please by all means keep using and enjoying them!