In a resource provided by our instructor this week, I heard a very simple definition of assistive technology, “It helps you do something that you couldn’t do without it” (2013.) I didn’t know how true this was until after completing this assignment. I have spent a few hours this week exploring the accessibility features on my computer. The operating system I use and am evaluating is macOS Sierra, version 10.12.4. I was surprised to find so many amazing assistive technologies built into this computer. Initially, I figured you would have to purchase some of them separately or at least download them, but there are a wide variety of tools already built into this particular operating system.
The assistive technologies are grouped by impairment. The first section I reviewed contained the vision impairment tools, and they include: VoiceOver, VoiceOver Gestures, Audio Descriptions and Siri. VoiceOver reads all of the text on the page. VoiceOver Gestures allows you to use the trackpad to read the text on the pages. Audio Descriptions allow you to watch movies with detailed descriptions of every scene on your Mac (only certain movies have this feature available.) Siri, which is a voice activated assistant that performs a number of tasks including sending text messages, finding files, searching the web and creating reminders, is now available in macOS.
The next group of tools up for review were the hearing accessibility tools and they include: Facetime, iMessage and Closed Captions. Facetime is a video conferencing app that allows people with a hearing impairment to communicate using sign language. iMessage lets you write instead of talk to communicate, again assisting someone who has limited or no hearing. These two tools are also used by people without impairments, but they make it possible for people who can’t hear to communicate with others. Videos with closed captions are available for purchase on iTunes store and podcasts can be found at iTunes U.
Finally, I reviewed the physical and motor skills assistive technologies. Wow, exploring the accessibility features in this section was the most eye opening for me. I saw more clearly the ways assistive technologies make it possible for some people to do what would otherwise be impossible. I explored the following features: Switch Control, Dwell Control and Dictation Commands. Switch control and dwell control are fascinating features to me. Switch control allows someone with a physical impairment to control the mouse with the click of a “switch,” or a predetermined key. Dwell control is a new feature to macOS and allows people with head or eye-tracking hardware to move the cursor. Dictation commands let you talk where you would type. This tool allows you to write a report, search the internet or reply to an email using just your voice.
Experimenting with these tools was very eye-opening to me. I have had very limited experience with using assistive technologies, but this week I have learned that there are many tools available to assist people with disabilities. I have come to understand that assistive technology truly “refers to devices that are used by people with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to do” (2016.)
Assistive Technology. (2016, August 31). Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://aem.cast.org/navigating/assistive-technology.html#.WO5HX1Pyui4
Assistive Technology: Resource Roundup. (2013, December 09). Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/assistive-technology-resources