On April 29, 2005, Apple Inc. introduced Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Included in Mac OS X Tiger's list of features was the VoiceOver screen reader. VoiceOver was not Apple's first foray into assistive technology: Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar introduced Universal Access which provided customizations to the operating system for those with visual, hearing, and physical disabilities. In fact, Mac OS X Universal Access was influenced by similar technologies which were bundled with the classic Mac OS (Mac OS 9 and earlier). The Windows operating system also included customizable behavior similar to Universal Access.
VoiceOver, however, represents a significant milestone in the history of assistive technology. With the introduction of VoiceOver, Apple became the first operating system vendor to build a fully functional screen reader into the operating system that didn't require additional installation procedures. Unlike Windows Narrator, VoiceOver didn't simply follow the keyboard focus as the user navigated the GUI using available operating system shortcuts. Instead, VoiceOver provided a rich set of commands for interacting with the contents of the GUI, putting the user in the driver's seat.
Apple didn't just sit on its laurels and declare victory with the release of VoiceOver. Apple released a significantly improved VoiceOver 2.0 with the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in 2007. In 2009, Apple released VoiceOver for the iPhone. In 2010, Apple released VoiceOver for the iPad, marking the first time that one of Apple's products--the iPad--was accessible from day one. VoiceOver has also become available on the Apple TV, the iPod, and most recently the Apple Watch.
In 2005, Apple introduced the Mac mini which had a base retail price of $499. It has always amused me that one could buy a Mac mini and get VoiceOver for free, for less than the cost of licensing either of the two leading Windows screen readers.
As I acknowledge the tenth anniversary of VoiceOver, I want to take a moment to commend Apple for the thousands of man hours and additional resources that have been poured into the various VoiceOver products over the years. When Apple first announced that it was working on a Spoken Interface in 2004, few could have foreseen the fabulous VoiceOver experience that we know and love today. Thank you, Apple!