OS X Mavericks released with improved accessibility

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013 14:19pm

Apple has updated its operating system for laptop and desktop computers to OS X Mavericks. The update includes a number of improvements which make Macs easier to use for people with a disability.

Accessibility improvements

Closed captioning support

There is greater captions support in OS X Mavericks. An option in Preferences allows you to select ‘Prefer Closed Captions and SDH (subtitles for the Deaf and hard of hearing)’. This means closed captions are automatically provided whenever they’re available. You can also choose from different caption styles – default, classic and large text. You also have the ability to customise the colours used for captions for added comfort. The addition of this gives people with a hearing impairment greater access to audiovisual content.


This presents a new way of searching for files on your computer. It allows you to ‘tag’ files and items with keywords that can then be used to retrieve the file through the ‘search’ feature. This does away with the need to look for files through several folders and allows you bring up all files and items tagged with the specific word.


This allows you to synchronise information such as website logins, credit card numbers, passwords, networks and account information between your Apple devices. Because this information is synched across devices, it could eliminate the need to continually enter text or numerals into form fields, which may present barriers for people with limited dexterity in their hands or who have a vision impairment.


This app allows users to download and read electronic books. Because this is an app made by Apple it can be used with the inbuilt screen reader VoiceOver.


This is now built into Calendar, Mail and Contacts. Features such as directions, the ability to find alternative routes and view real-time traffic that comes with Maps can be accessed within these apps too. While Media Access Australia is yet to test whether these features are accessible via VoiceOver, they would benefit screen reader users by giving them access to added information.


This has been improved in OS X Mavericks so that you can now interact directly with a task through the notifications window. For example, you can reply to a message that appears in the Notifications pop-up. This allows you to perform a task in a single step.

Multiple displays

In the past there were limitations with using several Apple device monitors at the same time. However, you can now connect two Apple devices together, for example a Macbook Pro and Mac, and have access to the Dock on both screens. There is no longer a ‘primary’ monitor as both screens allow you to access applications. The ability to connect another device to a device with a much bigger monitor could enhance screen magnification and assist those with vision impairment.

iWork accessibility

The update to iWork in OS X Mavericks has included support for accessibility. In iWork you can now add alternative text to images. This information can be accessed by screen reader users, although the availability of this may depend on the screen reader used. Because OS X Mavericks now has greater support for captions, you can add videos with captions to presentations using Keynote for example. This means the captions follows the video file.

Price and availability

OS X Mavericks is free and available now. Your computer should prompt you to install the update.

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