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Search results for the Tag keyword: Apple Mac
By Allan Wilson on Monday 14th November, 2011 at 4:20pm
Low Cost / No Cost Software
We occasionally give advice and talks on free / low cost software that can be used to help people with reading and writing difficulties, or other disabilities. While we would never advise somebody who needed a commercial package to make do with free software that has less functionality, there is certainly a place for free software, particularly for home use, or where a person only needs a couple of accessibility features to enable them to make effective use of a computer. These talks usually focus on the excellent AccessApps and MyStudyBar suites of free software, or on a collection of Windows-based programs, including WordTalk and Natural Reader, as described in our Quick Guide on Low Cost / No Cost Software to Support People with Dyslexia.
When we give these talks, we are often asked about similar options for Apple Mac computers. Unfortunately, although the Mac has been designed to be accessible for users with disabilities, the range of software to enhance accessibility is quite limited. We recently produced a Quick Guide on Free Text to Speech Options for the Mac, and will try to provide information on other options as we find them.
Black Light is the free Mac equivalent of ssOverlay, which allows a coloured filter to be placed over the computer screen. Such filters can be very useful for people with Meares-Irlen Syndrome / Scotopic Sensitivity, and also for people sensitive to glare from a computer screen. It is a little more difficult to find your desired colour with Black Light, compared with ssOverlay, but the program has some additional useful features, including an option to invert the screen colours so that you have white text on a black backgrounf, instead of the usual black on white.
Black Light provides a filter that covers the whole screen - if you need an 'overlay' that can be configured to only cover the portion you require (like T-Bar), a Mac user would, as far as we know, have to purchase a program like the ScreenRuler Suite from Claro Software.
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By Allan Wilson on Monday 10th October, 2011 at 4:04pm
We've updated our quick guide to Free Text-to-Speech Options for the Mac. Rather than trying to cover all of the available options equally, the main focus is on the use of the built-in Apple text-to-speech system and on the free version of NaturalReader. Both of these programs will speak any text that you can select with a mouse. In the case of the Apple system you select the text to be spoken and press a key that you define to speak it. NaturalReader can speak text as soon as you select it, or when you press a button on its MiniBoard. NaturalReader can highlight text as it is spoken - changing the colour of the text as it is read out.
We've been finding that NaturalReader is prone to crash under Mac OS 10.7. Has anybody else been experiencing this problem?
We also look in a little more depth at the use of the Read Out Loud facility in Adobe Reader 10 for reading text in PDFs. This has improved compared with earlier versions of Reader, which offered options to read the whole document, or the current page (and was often very random in selecting text to be read!). Reader can now read out a single paragraph of text if you click in it. There is no highlighting so it is not always easy to see what is being read, but this is still a significant improvement on earlier versions. The program also seems to have a problem with reading text with a web link, just skipping the text and the link and moving on to the next word. Unfortunately Adobe Reader 10 cannot be used with older Macs with a PowerPC processor.
Download the Quick Guide from here.
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By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 23rd March, 2010 at 12:59pm
We are often asked if there is an Apple Macintosh version of WordTalk, the free text-to-speech add-on for Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, there isn't, and, due to differences in the way that PCs and Macs handle sound, there is unlikely to be a Mac version.
There are a number of free text-to-speech options for Mac users:
- The Mac operating system has a reasonable text-to-speech system built in. To use it, go to System Preferences - Speech - Text to Speech. Choose a voice and a key combination to speak selected text. Then just highlight text in any program and press the key combination. It doesn't highlight text word by word as it is read out, or do anything fancy, but it works pretty well and Mac voices are generally quite good.
- TypeItReadIt is a free program, aimed primarily at people with a visual impairment, but it can be used more generally by people who want to hear text read out. Unlike the Mac's built-in system, TypeIt ReadIt does not read text directly from an application on the screen. Instead, you have to copy text from your application and paste it into the TypeIt ReadIt window. You can also Open a plain text file and have the contents read out. Note that if you are using a Word file, you will have to save it as plain text to open and read the file. TypeIt ReadIt has options to change the colour scheme and the size of text displayed. Unfortunately, the actual font it uses cannot be changed from Times, which will not suit many of the people who may want to use the program. Earlier versions of the program highlighted words as they were spoken, but this feature has been removed from Version 1.5 as it slowed the program down. This makes little difference for people with a visual impairment, but can make it more difficult for people with reading difficulties to see where they are in a document. There is a reasonable spell checker, but, surprisingly, this does not allow the possible word choices to be read out. One very useful feature is the facility to create sound files (in AIFF format), which can be played in iTunes.
- NaturalReader has a free version for the Mac, which will read text directly from almost any application, including Word, web browsers and PDF files. Simply select the text you want to read and it will be transferred to the NaturalReader MiniBoard for reading. Words are highlighted as they are read and the colour of the text is then changed, making it easy to see where you are in your text. Unlike many 'demo' versions of programs, the free version of NaturalReader can be used for as long as you want, but there are a few restrictions, compared with the full program. Firstly, it does not come with a 'voice'. This is not a great problem as there are perfectly satisfactory voices within the Mac operating system. Schools in Scotland can also make free use of the Mac version of The Scottish Voice, Heather. There is also a restriction of 5,000 characters on the length of any document to be read by NaturalReader. Most importantly, the facility to make sound files has been disabled in the free version. If this is an important feature for you, either use TypeIt ReadIt, or get the Personal Version, costing $49.50.