iTunes & iPod for the visually impaired

iTunes & iPod for the visually impairedQ: Do iTunes and the iPod offer any accessibility features for the visually impaired?

– Anonymous

A: iTunes itself doesn’t offer any specific accessibility features other than a modest set of keyboard shortcuts, and unfortunately seems to make only minimal use of Apple’s excellent VoiceOver feature built into MacOS X 10.4 Tiger. However, Tiger does offer excellent built-in enlargement and high-contrast viewing features that work wonderfully in iTunes, retaining the ability to drag-and-drop, unlike some PC enlargement solutions. Even if it couldn’t, iTunes can execute most of its drag-and-drop features from contextual menus instead.

The iPod, likewise, has no audible navigation features, other than the minimally useful fact that it emits clicking noises as you navigate throughout its interface. Access World, published by the American Federation of the Blind, reviewed the 4th generation iPod, finding its interface “somewhat accessible” for basic use such as shuffling through a large library, but found that visually impaired users are unlikely to enjoy full-featured usage of the highly visually-oriented device.

If you’re interested in using an iPod at home, and are able to read with the aid of enlargement devices, we’d suggest Apple’s latest color-screened iPods, including both the full-size iPod and iPod nano. Each of these displays all text in black on white, at a much higher contrast level than on the previous monochrome iPods.

If you’d prefer to have audio navigation on the go, consider Rockbox, a free open-source replacement operating system for certain older Archos MP3 players. One of its many features is “Speaking Menus,” easing navigation without sight.

For more information on using MP3 players for the visually impaired, check out this collection of links here.

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