Is a MacBook a good choice for a blind Computer Engineering and Communication student?

Hardware and Accessories

I'm a student in Computer Engineering and communication departement. I would like to get myself a new laptop to help me in my studies. I want a piece of advice to make the best descision .
I am a legally blind student.
I hope I could count on myslef as far as i can.
I know about VO and that it could read the mathematical notations. Actually ,I didn't try it myself for the last updates. I have an iPad 3 and receive no updates after iOS 9.3.5. There are some bugs in reading Maths. For example, It couldn't read the integral sign ,reads the lower limit, the expression to be integrated ,then the upper limit respectively.
I hear about some screen readers for windows that can read maths notations. I do not know about them according to their effeciency.

What are your recommendations ?!
I am thinking of getting myself a new Macbook pro (Quad core i7, 512GB storage ) to fit my needs of programming while turning VO on and devellop some iOS apps.
I may change my mind to switch for android developpement. I haven't determined yet. I am the sort of people who does many thigs in prallel ,like :
code something ,upload or download something ,chat with any of my friends mostly about coding then , search online, so many apps run in background in addition to to the screen reader.
I need many times to send any thinkg to my friends using facebook ,whatsapp ... etc. How are things with the standelon apps for these sort of apps on Mac ?
I've tried Messenger and facebook apps for windows 10 and they are very bad to navigate through and very limited.
Thank you all for your concerns.



Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I'm not into engineering by any means, nor am I a communications student. But I help run the social media for a local disability-related nonprofit, and might be able to help out a bit. The social media platform which I mainly use is Twitter, for both personal and professional reasons. I think Twitter's main site has gotten a bit better in terms of VoiceOver performance on the Mac, but I generally prefer stand-alone clients for now. I've used Twitter for Mac and NightOwl, and of those 2 I prefer NightOwl. I can easily switch between my personal Twitter account and that of my job, and there are shortcuts for just about everything in this app. I have used Facebook only for personal stuff, and have found their mobile site to work better with VoiceOver than the main site. In addition, I recently started using Go for Facebook and have found it to be pretty good. I've been on LinkedIn, and it is generally very good in terms of VO performance but there are still some problem areas. NightOwl hasn't been updated for awhile though, so that might be an issue for you. Hope this is helpful. Others might be able to offer a bit more assistance though.

Submitted by splyt on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First ... in order to be a good student of anything you better learn how to write in an eficient way in terms of spelling and inteligibility, which you does not seem to do very well.

Second .. as an engineering student you should learn how to keep yourself focused. Coding, listening to music and chating on whatsApp and memssenger with dosens of people on off topic and downloading stuf all at the same time is something you should avoid if you can. Math and compyuter science are on their own hard enough to keep someone focused while performing tasks, either that or your school really is sucking at its current job of teaching folks.

Third .... as an engineer specially in computation you shhould learn how to research stuf. There are lots of excelent discussion topics here on macs being or not being a good platform to use on a every day basis and repeating ourselves here is something I don't think we need to do over again. I would recomend you to stick with Windows at a first moment because the likelywood of you having to use Windows only language such as .net (I know it is possible to use it on Macs and unix like systems but vs for mac is currently ridiculous in terms of accessibility and so is Xamarin Studio at this time) is high and so is the probability of you having to use java and java based ides, and Macs and java do not perform well together in terms of accessibility, Oracle's fault at least this is what I know about it.

Fourth ... if you will stick with Mac then make sure you buy something big enough in terms of storage and ram to allow you to run Windows on a Vm.

Fifth ... you must be aware that macs and pdf do not work well together in terms of accessibility, Apple's fault at this time and that based on any data there is absolutely no evidence that this will change on a short time and .. students usually will need to use pdf docs and books some times on the way. Be also aware that NVDA and JAWS, both sr for Windows, do support direct access to Kindle while VO does not on Macs at the moment ... this is what I can say!

Submitted by Tree on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I have been a Mac user for over five years now, and I use a new 2016 mac book pro. In my opinion, there is little to no reason for a blind person to buy a mac at this point, and there are many reasons not to get one.

I will rant about these reasons in a moment, but first to give my limited knowledge on your primary question, accessing math. I am pretty sure that both NVDA and JAWS offer much more powerful and usable access to math then voice over. I do not know this for sure, because I do not have to access mathematical formulas in any meaningful way, but I would be very surprised if this was not the case. I know that the Mac offers some level of math access in a HTML context, for example in a web browser; however, even if you could read a formula on the web, any exact reading and manipulation of the insertion point with the mac on the web is inconsistent and less than ideal.

Now for some more general reasons to think twice about the mac.

Voice Over has become increasingly dated and buggy, due to neglect from Apple, and a basic lack of attention to the entire mac operating system. I cannot think of anything that voice over on the mac does better then windows screen readers, and there are many many things that it, arguably, does worst.

I used a mac all through college, and from my experience, these are just a few of the areas where you may run into problems.

Pdf documents, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and overall responsiveness and performance.

One caveat I should give to this list of possible shortcomings is that I have little to no experience with the now accessible version of Microsoft Office for mac, and I'm sure it would probably do a much better job with word processing then Pages; However, from my basic experience it does not seem like Microsoft office is quite as usable on the mac, as it is on Windows, thanks to the limitations of Voice Over. If someone has more experience with this matter please feel free to correct me. The point is, I think you will be sacrificing things if you use a mac.

So what do you get with the mac, in exchange for poor pdf accessibility, and mediocre web browsing? In my experience, not much. I would have said that the mac is a better option if you are going to be doing audio editing; this is why I have stayed with the mac for as long as I have. However, with Reaper on Windows, even this is not so clear-cut any more.

Moving away from audio editing, I do prefer the way the mac deals with the insertion point in text fields, compared to windows screen readers. The built in mac mail client is ok, and I think the finder file system is a little more intuitive then file management on Windows. For me, that’s the only edge the mac has over windows, and that is not much.

The fact is, years ago voice over on mac OS had a lot of potential, but that potential has not really become a reality. It is true that the mac can do some things as well as Windows, but I would be very curious to hear about what it does better then windows for blind people, other than a few edge cases.

When you take all of this into consideration and also consider the fact that you will be paying between fifty percent and one hundred percent more for a mac then you will for a comparable Windows machine, as far as I am concerned, the choice is clear.

I’m writing this in Bootcamp, on my mac book pro, and that is one great thing you can say about the mac; you can run Windows and mac OS. However, since I started using windows full time recently, I have found little to no reason to boot into Mac OS, and I would gladly give up the ability to use the operating system, if I could get back the eight hundred dollars extra I had to spend to get a mac.

One last thing I have to say about math access. NVDA is now my primary screen reader, and a story from one of the creators of NVDA perfectly illustrates why I prefer NVDA over voice over and JAWS. I am only half remembering this, so forgive me if I get something wrong.

As far as I can remember, one of the developers of NVDA was at a conference where he heard representatives from Freedom scientific talking about their long-standing struggle to improve math access with JAWS. I believe they were finally making progress on this count, but said progress had taken a long time. Well the NVDA developer got to thinking about this, and he decided that he could come up with a solution to the problem that the representatives had been talking about. He did come up with a solution, and he did this on the plane ride back from the conference.

When I compare this responsive and passionate response to an accessibility shortcoming to the way Apple typically goes about things, I know which screen reader I want to use.

Submitted by david s on Wednesday, April 26, 2017


If you can spare the extra cash, the Mac is a better buy than a Windows based laptop. And if you compare a good Windows based laptop, the Mac isn’t really that much more.

I would get the Mac because it’s more flexable. With a Mac, you can run both Mac OS and Windows. Sure, you can run Mac OS on Windows based computers using hacks like Clover but it’s not the same nor is setup accessable and will require installation medias.

Have you used VM on a Windows based PC? It’s not stable or easy to use. On the Mac, you can install VM Ware Fusion, then install Windows XP, 7. 10 and Linux. You will then be able to produce, and test your app or website on various platforms. There are some downsides to VM so if needed. You can setup boot camp.

So do you spend a bit more and run Mac and Wiindows or do you spend less and only run Windows.

HTH and good luck.

Submitted by Toonhead on Wednesday, April 26, 2017

If you're on a budget, and if a Windows machine would work better, and from everything I've read about your situation, it sounds like Windows is the way to go here. Why spend twice as much when you don't have to, to get better access to the stuff you'll be using every day? Everyone's use case is different, but from everything I've read since you're going to be doing a lot of math, NVDA is the way to go. Just buy yourself a nice $500 desktop or laptop running Windows 10, install NVDA and any particular addons you need to use, in fact there's a special one just for math if I remember correctly. After that you're off and running. You've saved yourself a boat load of money, and you've got better access than the mac can provide in this case.

Submitted by Tree on Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I read your original post again, and I realized I did not touch on social media. I am able to make Windows 10 meat all of my current social media needs, but I will say this is one area where the mac is a competitive, and arguably superior, option. As someone already mentioned there are two good Twitter apps, on the mac, and both of them are main stream apps. The only accessible windows Twitter app I know of is Chicken nugget, which is a paid app and specifically meant for screen reader users. Of course, if you do what I do and just use Twitter in a web browser, perhaps through the Easy Cherp site, which has some accessibility improvements, I believe your experience will still be better on windows then on the mac, even with it's accessible clients.

As far as face book goes, I hate the service with a passion, so I can't comment on the current best ways to access the site. From the little experience I do have of late, for communication internships, the best way I have found to access face book is with a mac app called menu tab. I don't even know if this app is still available, but I will say it is the only way of accessing face book I have ever found to be truly adequate. Perhaps someone with more experience can offer viable windows based alternatives.

Going against what I said in my earlier comment, I guess social media is one thing that the mac arguably does better then windows; however, I'm not sure if this is enough of a reason for many people to chose the mac. As I mentioned, I was working with social media a lot in communication internships, and even in these Professional contexts I believe I would have had no issues Exclusively using windows for social media.

Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, April 28, 2017

I've also used Easy Chirp and love it. The other thing I want to add is that I certainly concur about .pdf accessibility on the Mac, and it's probably my only big complaint about this platform at least for now. None of the 3rd-party apps I've tried are sufficient enough, unless I'm missing something here. Furthermore, it seems we have an incorrect? app entry on here. I'm currently looking into another one, but it costs way too much. I'll see about the demo version though. But other than the lousy .pdf support on here, I have found the Mac to be quite nice.