Mac and voiceOver for uni students vs JAWS for windows?

macOS & Mac Apps

I have not been on this website for a long time because I have had major technical difficulties. I am a uni student, doing a post-graduate degree. Due to financial difficulties, I may need to switch to the Mac for daily use for a few months at the very least. I realise this has been discussed before, but I want to ask this question, given that the Mac has been updated recently. I usually use JAWS under windows 7 with microsoft word 2010. How does VoiceOver perform compared to JAWS, especially in the area of word processing? Is pages more accessible, allowing for heading navigation and the insertion of links in documents and other formatting? I know that JAWS is very descriptive, but I want to make sure I can do everything with voiceOver that I can do with JAWS. Will documents be compatible, especially when I move back to windows? My university uses blackboard for its learning management system so I hope this is accessible too. How does the Mac integrate with the BrailleNote touch? By using things like google drive, can you move files between them without compatibility issues?
Thanks for all your help.



Submitted by Tyler on Monday, October 16, 2017

On the Mac, you can use Pages or Microsoft Word for Mac, both of which are accessible with Voiceover. I understand Word is accessible, but the interface may take some getting used to.

I'm able to use Pages for heading navigation, as well as insertion of links into documents. Pages can open Word documents, but to make changes, the document is automatically converted to Pages format. If you need to send a document in Word format, you can use the share menu to do so.

The accessibility of Blackboard depends on which version your institution is using. From my experience as a student, I've found it to be usable, however the navigation can be somewhat clunky.


Submitted by Ekaj on Monday, October 16, 2017

Hello there. I agree with the previous commenter. I have only used Pages for reading documents thus far, but it works very well. I've also found TextEdit to be very good. In addition, as of OS X High Sierra .pdf files work a lot better with VoiceOver and there is now a feature which lets you hear image descriptions. It is invoked with Control-Option-Shift L and I've found it to work well thus far.

Submitted by Tree on Monday, October 16, 2017

I used a mac all through college, but personally I believe you will have a more consistent experience with Windows. I have not used Pages for over a year, but last time I used it there were several very annoying bugs, such as not being able to copy and paste across multiple pages. These bugs might have been fixed, but they were issues for many years, and it seems like such long standing bugs are very common on the mac. I also had two big issues with pages that were not accessibility related. It's cool that the mac has a system wide spell check option, but for my needs it was extremely lacking. On the other hand, the Word spell and grammar features I have in Windows are extremely powerful and amazing. Of course, there is Word on the mac, and perhaps this has become a more usable option, however, when I tried to use Word on the mac I found it very inefficient thanks to the shortcomings of VoiceOver.

I only tried to use Google drive a few times on the mac, and that was several years ago, so perhaps things have improved. For me, google drive on the mac was very laggy and difficult to use. For my job, I now use Google drive every single day, and it works very well with Windows.

I find windows screen readers and web browsers much more efficient and consistent, but I know many people are happy with browsing the web with the mac and VoiceOver. I'll just say this; my job is testing the accessibility of websites etc. for a university. We hardly ever test for VoiceOver accessibility, because Voiceover can be very inconsistent. Yesterday, a developer who I have been working with, asked for my advice with his own accessibility testing. He was using VoiceOver and having inconsistent results. My advice to him was to download NVDA and forget about using VoiceOver for accessibility testing on the web.

If you have a computer, mac or PC, it will cost you nothing to install the latest version of Windows and NVDA. If you download windows 10 from the official Microsoft website it will allow you to use the OS without having to pay to authorize it. I'll just point out that it is totally legal and ok with Microsoft if you run windows without authorizing it. I have been running an unauthorized version of Windows 10 for over a year and there are almost no limitations to speak of. In fact, if I was going to write the limitations of running an unauthorized version of windows here, I would have to go look them up, because I have never experienced them; I believe it is something along the lines of not being able to change the wallpaper. Of course, NVDA is always free, so if you have a mac, at least consider using bootcamp, because it will cost you nothing.

These are just my own thoughts on the subject; please listen to people who have used pages or word for the mac in the past year, because I'm sure they know more about the current state of bugs and accessibility with those apps then I do.

Submitted by Socheat on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

As for my personal experience with Google Drive on the Mac, I think It's usable. I have uploaded many files and send them to friends without a problem. Are you using the native Google Drive app, or the web interface?

Submitted by splyt on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Agreed hundred percent with tree.

Plus it is strange that someone will migrate to mac due to financial problems, usually Macs are more expensive then pcs with Windows.

The two requirements posted here ** navigate by headings and insert links ** are perfectly possible either with JAWS or NVDA on Microsoft Word.

The only advantage of having a Mac is that you can run Windows on a virtual machine and enjoy the best the systems have at the same time. but in order for this to work you will need a Mac with a big hd and with good amount of ram memory, which will make what is already expensive even more expensive.

If I have to define VO on OS X the word I would use is inconsistence. It is *** sometimes *** a good screen reader and *** sometimes **** horrible, with nobody been able to provide what comes next and when the next is going to be exactly ... oh well. It seems that, although way still better, VO for iOS is starting to take this rout also specially with iOS 11 because not been able to type accented characters from a version to the other is nothing more than pure and full and total inconcistence.

Ido agree that Macs are more expensive than pcs. Temporarily I will be using a Mac belonging to a family member. Thanks to everybody for replies. I do hope that Apple fix these bugs, as VO is appealing in that it comes out of the box at no additional cost, and that any Mac is able to be accessed without sighted assistance.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Wednesday, October 18, 2017


just a couple of things you might experience using your Mac with Blackboard: the contributor who said that the accessibility of Blackboard depends on how it is implemented was absolutely right. The institution at which I lecture used to use Blackboard before changing to Moodle, which is generally more widely used. I found that lecture recordings on the Mac were not very accessibile if the lecturer uploaded them as imbedded media. to make them accessible you had to do what I did, namely set it to force the user to download the lecture recording file. Also, I don't know whether you use online classrooms as part of your studies at all, but you will find that Blackboard Collaborate is far more accessible on the Mac than Adobe Connect, for example. incidentally, the Adobe connect app on the iPhone and iPad is also useless in my experience.

turning to Powerpoint, if your college makes a lot of use of these I'm not sure about how good Keynote is versus MS Powerpoint with Jaws. I tried the mobile Keynote app recently and wasn't terribly impressed, particularly when it was in slideshow mode.

Overall I would say there are still too many inconsistencies on the Mac to make it the best study solution, especially if you need to use Powerpoint, Excel and Adobe Connect.

Submitted by Earth on Monday, April 23, 2018

i have used both system for many year and overall i find that mac with VO is less frustrating to me. to me the VO is very consistence and and more accessible than windows with Jaws. i have used windows with jaws for over 10 years and mac with VO for more than 6 years, i do like both but with the mac i'm not as frustrating .