What accessibility features are available within the Macintosh operating system?

Updated January 11th, 2013

Some individuals with disabilities require assistive technology (AT) in order to access computers. With the release of Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has continued to incorporateaccessibility and AT that supports and ships with its OS, without additional cost to the consumer. Apple has included features which allow seamless communication between various Apple devices, such as mobile devices and computers, providing more options for users to communicate effectively.

The following is a list of basic accessibility features that are included with Mac OS X, listed by disability category. For more information about how to access the features described below visit Apple Accessibility.

Vision

The following features and utilities are available for individuals who have difficulty viewing the screen:

  • VoiceOver - provides both speech input and audible output, combined with support for keyboard and gesture navigation, and can be used as a replacement for a mouse
  • Talking alerts and spoken items. The trackpad provides a representation of the screen, so a user can hear the item under their finger while navigating the screen (gesture support).
  • Zoom - users can magnify the screen
  • Scalable cursor - users can increase the size of the mouse cursor
  • Display adjustment - users can adjust or reverse color contrast

Hearing

The following features and utilities are available for individuals who have difficulty hearing or are unable to hear sounds from the computer:

  • Visual alert of all system sounds
  • Messages - users who are deaf can communicate with one another using sign language using this video conferencing system due its excellent video quality.
  • FaceTime – allows for platform-neutral video chats with other iOS devices and Macintosh computers.
  • QuickTime® - Apple's QuickTime media player supports display of closed captions, if available. For more on closed captioning, see the article How do I make multimedia accessible?/li>
  • Alerts – In addition to audio, the entire screen can be set to flash for alerts.

Physical/Motor

The following features and utilities are available for individuals who have difficulty using the keyboard, mouse and/or track pad:

  • Slow Keys - adds a delay between when a users presses a key and when it takes effect to help prevent unintended multiple keystrokes
  • Sticky Keys - allows users to press keys in sequence that are otherwise required to be pressed simultaneously
  • Keyboard navigation - much improved in OS X, allows keyboard access to most standard interface elements, as well as the ability to customize the keyboard layout.
  • Mouse Keys - use the keyboard to control the mouse cursor.
  • Speech recognition and talking alerts - use speech commands to open, close, and navigate the operating system and software. This utility does not support dictation, but third party dictation programs such as iListen from MacSpeech, and IBM ViaVoice are available.
  • Automator – allows a user to create and save a record of actions required for routine tasks, for Automator to implement later.
  • Literacy and Learning

    The following features and utilities are available to support literacy and learning, and may be particularly beneficial to individuals with specific learning disabilities:

    • Simple Finder – configure a simplified Dock to reduce clutter and confusion on the desktop.
    • Color differentiation. Assign a different color to file or folder names, or window backgrounds for ease of identification and searching.
    • Speak text under mouse - just point and listen
    • Text-to-Speech - verbally reads alerts that appear on the screen, and can also read documents in certain applications
    • Audible Calculator
    • Since Apple Computers have historically been strong in the K-12 education market, a wide variety of third party software products are available in this category.

    For a comparison of accessibility features across operating systems, see the article How does accessibility differ across operating systems?.