Update: The instructions for setting up Apple TV apply only to Apple TV’s running the 4.1 firmware. They will not work for Apple TV’s purchased in 2012.
“Apple is committed to diversity”. This statement can be found on Apple’s website and is reenforced by the multitude of no-extra-cost accessibility features found on each and every device Apple currently manufactures.
Throughout the last decade, Apple’s accessibility offerings for visually impaired and blind people have expanded by leaps and bounds. In the beginning there was just zoom and a few other settings, some of which were included in operating systems before the year 2000. Then came Spoken Interface, a free technology to let blind and visually impaired Mac users to access their Macs by using keyboard commands with spoken output. Later, in April of 2005, Spoken Interface became VoiceOver. VoiceOver was updated in 2007 to include Braille display support and many more new features. A year later, in October 2008, the iPod Nano received a feature that allowed visually impaired and blind iPod users to have the menus read out to them. This feature was called Spoken Menus and was rebranded VoiceOver for mainstream use on the iPod Shuffle which came out in March of 2009.
2009 marked a year of steady accessibility improvements from Apple. In March came the aforementioned iPod Shuffle that used VoiceOver, together with the remote on its earphones, as its user interface for both visually impaired and sighted users alike. In June of that year, the iPhone got a version of VoiceOver that used gestures to let a person navigate the iPhone without needing to look at it. This feature used spoken output to convey information on the iPhone’s screen. This was followed in August with the introduction of Snow Leopard, Apple’s current computer operating system , which blended traditional VoiceOver with gesture-based VoiceOver, via the Multi-Touch Trackpad and the Magic Trackpad. In September, Apple announced that they were including the gesture-based VoiceOver technology from the iPhone onto the new iPod touch 32 Gigabyte and 64 Gigabyte models. In addition, the iPod Nano was updated with the version of VoiceOver that was found on the iPod Shuffle.
This year has already seen the introduction of an iPad, the iPhone 4 and the sixth generation iPod Nano, all including VoiceOver free of charge. The same is true for the new Macs and all the iPods released this year. As of Apple’s October “Back to the Mac” event a few weeks ago, all of the devices that Apple is currently manufacturing have some form of VoiceOver on them with the exception of the Apple TV.
Today Apple’s hard working Accessibility Team brought a new member of the Apple VoiceOver family into the world. Happy Birthday Apple TV OS 4.1!
After i heard that the Apple TV had been made accessible from a Mac Visionaries list member and watching the demo that Mac World posted as part of their report, I decided to go to see an Apple TV running VoiceOver at our local Apple authorized dealer. The staff were very helpful in getting the display model updated and set up using VoiceOver. They then taught me the layout of the Apple TV screens.
I then tested out many of the features of the device. I did a youtube search, browsed the movie trailers and downloaded a show on Netflicks.
It worked reasonably well. I lost speech for a few seconds three times or so. However, VoiceOver always recovered itself quickly. The loss of speech may have been due to how fast I was going through the menus or the slow speed of the stores network at the time that I tried it.
I discovered that one can turn on VoiceOver on the Apple TV without sighted assistance. After installing the 4.1 update, simply press the menu button five times on your remote to ensure that you are on a main menu screen. Then press the right button, found on the round circle on the remote, four times to make sure that you are on the settings screen. Press the up button found on the round, circular part of the remote ten times to make sure that you are on the first item in that list. Then press the enter button, located in the centre of the raised circle. Then press the down button, found on the opposite side of the round circle, nine times. Then press the enter button twice.
You should now have VoiceOver running on your Apple TV.
This is a big step for Apple. All of their currently manufactured devices are now accessible to the blind and visually impaired at no extra charge to the end user.
Thank You Apple Accessibility Team.
Will you buy one? What do you think about Apple’s commitment to accessibility? Let me know in the comments.