Saturday, May 30, 2009

OS X accessibility - radio shortcuts, shortcut cleanup, voice over and magnify

Continuing in the theme of OS X accessibility (see also VisiKey and magnify toolbars), I've several additional recommended modifications to add to my old OS X accessibility configuration document (one day):

  1. Keyboard shortcuts: OS X has numerous kb shortcuts. For many elders or persons with visual impairment they can be fumble finger traps waiting to confuse with unexpected behaviors. I turned off almost all of them on my mother's machine.
  2. Voice Over: The Leopard "Alex" voice is a good improvement, and Voice Over itself is one of the rare true improvements in 10.5 over 10.4. I configured it to use the new voice and the Caption Panel. I mapped Voice Over toggle to the F13 key on my mothers VisiKey kb (underneath the key reads something like Print Screen, but to OS X this is the F13 key). She has kb stickers for visually impaired persons, but they're not needed for the VisiKey kb. Instead I pasted the V letter on the F13 (for voice over). She can read that. She doesn't like using voice over, but I'm hoping she'll get accustomed to it.
  3. Shrink/magnify: I map these to F14 and F15, and pasted the - and + stickers on them. I set Zoom to a shade below the 2, it's easy to hold the key and zoom up. Minimum zoom is 0. She runs on a 19" CRT because they do far better than LCDs at displaying 1024x768 over a large surface. Obviously true scalable UIs would be a great benefit.
  4. Radio shortcuts: more below.
I'm very pleased with the radio shortcut. I rediscovered this myself, then found this explanation afterwards ...

How to create a radio shortcut using iTunes | sync :: the tech & gadgets blog
... while the built-in radio streamer isn’t much of a surprise to those who spent time navigating around iTunes, but what you might not be aware of a way to place an icon on your desktop that links you to your favourite station – and with added functionality...
1. Open iTunes and click on the radio tab on the left-hand side of the screen and select a station with the kind of music you like...
2. Once you have a station you like ... drag it onto your computer’s desktop (or copy and paste) and you’ll see an icon (shortcut) that immediately begins the audio stream when you double-click on it.
This is great, because iTunes, though improving now, is still hard for my mother to navigate. The drag and drop for stations (not, alas, for albums or tunes) creates .webloc files, which open in iTunes. I can mix these with shortcuts to BBC iPlayer stations (like BBC 3 and BBC 4 - there are some quirks there though) and with shortcuts pointing to the physical iTunes albums on her hard drive.

These are easy to navigate in the folder paradigm she's accustomed to.

Update: The radio shortcut has an odd side-effect. Each time you click on one of these it launches iTunes, but it also downloads a playlist file to the desktop from the source station. Kind of messy!

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