New Accessibility Features in Mac OS X Lion

LionApple has always made accessibility one of their top priorities when it comes to the Mac, and more recently the iPhone and iPad. As a Mac user would come to expect, when Mac OS X Lion was recently released, there were a few new accessibility features that made the upgrade process even better for users with motor, visual, and hearing impairments.

In Mac OS X Lion, Apple has added over 11 new features that allow individuals with disabilities to use their computers more easily.

Built-in Voices
VoiceOver (Apple’s built-in screen reader) now includes new built-in voices that can speak 22 different languages: Arabic, English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, Mandarin (China), and Mandarin (Taiwan).

In addition, there are 6 other voices, and alternative voices with different dialects available for download, including: Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Romanian, Slovak, and Thai, as well as alternative voices with different dialects such as English (UK), English (Australia), English (South Africa), and Spanish (Mexico).

High-quality Voices
Apple has shipped a high-quality voice in Mac OS X since Tiger, called Alex; however, in Lion, you can now download higher-quality versions of the voices in the VoiceOver Utility.

Picture-in-picture Zoom
The screen enlargement feature in Lion now allows for a picture-in-picture view, letting you see a the zoomed in area in a separate window. This allows you to keep the rest of the screen in a native size.

Braille verbosity settings
For those using a refreshable braille display, they can now set the verbosity level (how much information you wish to receive) for use with the display. You can set these levels for specific controls (such as applications, checkboxes, and Dock items), or headings, images, and links.

High-res Cursor
One of the accessibility features that annoyed me was the low resolution cursor. In previous versions of Mac OS X, whenever you would increase the cursor size, it would decrease the crispness of the cursor image. In Lion, the cursor will stay crisp even at its highest setting.

These are just a few of the great improvements in Lion’s accessibility features. Other features include

  • Set up your Mac in your language
  • International braille tables
  • Improved drag and drop
  • VoiceOver activities
  • Single-letter quick navigation in web pages
  • Search in VoiceOver Utility

For a complete listing and more information about these features, visit the “What’s New” section on the Mac OS X Lion website.

What are your favorite accessibility features built in to OS X (or any other operating system, for that matter)? Let us know in the comments!

Photo by Flickr user cheetah100 / Creative Commons licensed

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