Some recent events have sadly knocked me off of my trusty old soapbox when it comes to Apple and the Blind and Visually Impaired. none of this info that I am about to impart to you should be taken as me ripping up my "Friends Don't Let Friends Use Macs" signs. Nor should you take it as my recommendation that you run right out and get a Mac Mini or Air or any other nonsense from the button hating so called Tech Mangod Jobbs. Also remember whenever anyone cries "Microsoft is a Monopoly!" and then puts on their iPod they should then, in my humble opinion, find themselves burned at the stake for being a hypocrite. Even with all of this on the table.. Let me now give Apple some credit for doing some things right.
iPhone: I don't like the thing. It is small, difficult to use effectively and it starts a dangerous trek down a slippery slope where access for all gets tossed out because "Aw. Its so pretty". However I can't ignore that this device has become a real and powerful tool for the Deaf community at large. Texting is now their main form of communication and the clarity of the screen for video ends up being a great aspect of the phone for those needs. And in some cases, as I found out a month ago, some Low Vision users can also benefit from the unit as well.
A gentleman I met had won an iPhone through his workplace. He was planning on selling the fancy thing through eBay or Craig's List when his wife suggested that he look at the phone first before giving it away. Now this guy is not a nOOb when it comes to phones. He was using a Blackberry, with a lot of problems of course, so he was skeptical that the iPhone would be any better for his work needs. He was surprised to find out that it was much better than the Crackberry. he said to me that the inclusion of the glass screen, instead of the normal plastic ones, made the image of the phone far brighter than anything else he had seen. Enlarging the icons, changing contrast and the colors on the larger glass screen really made a difference and he now swears by the phone for all of his work related duties.
I, now with a more open mind, did not find it to be helpful for me. but I am currently using a Q with a 30 day demo of Mobile Speak. Plus, for full transparency sake, to me magnifying such a small screen is always a process of diminishing returns. Voice output is, in a lot of cases, much faster than rubbing your nose on a phone. Again.. just me. Your mileage may vary and you might want to journey down to your local Apple Store for a demo if you are looking for a more visual experience with your phone.
Braille In 10.5: Another arena where I have to take my hat off to Cupertino is their new addition of Braille Display support in Leopard. We recently were playing with a new Macbook Pro when we got the bright idea to try this new feature out. We grabbed a Braille Connect 40 and patched it in via USB. To our amazement the Mac found the display and to use a well worn Apple phrase "it just worked". No balloons, boxes, downloads, prompts or restarts. We just plugged it in and "poof!" there was Braille.
With one experiment gone right we decided to tempt fate and try a totally different display in the same work session. We pulled a Freedom Scientific Focus 80 over to the unsuspecting Macbook. We hot swapped the USB connections. And again, to the silence of a stunned office, it worked again in the exact same manner as I described above. We didn't have time to see how accurate the support was and we used only the defaults set in Universal Access. But this impromptu experiment was enough to make all of us say that we would have to find ourselves looking more serious at the Apple systems in the future. When you figure that you can run Leopard with Windows XP and say Serotek's System Access all at the same time with Voiceover for the OSX side of things... well... I again have to give credit where credit is due.
As an appeasement to the Tech Mangod I now offer these links to be sacrificed to the millions. Oh please Great Jobbs do not smite me down with your minions of AT&T!
Braille support update from the Unofficial Apple Web Log
Page where you can see the Braille Displays supported in Leopard
The Screenless Switchers Page and Podcasts
The Mac Visionaries Page