OS X Yosemite

Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite Accessibility Roundup

OS X 10.10 – Yosemite – was released today. As well as a lovely new design it’s major new drawcard is Continuity, the ability to switch between doing things on iOS devices and OS X devices seamlessly.

Continuity in itself has a bunch of accessibility implications, and there are other specific accessibility advances in Yosemite as well as a bunch of general features which have accessibility implications.

Continuity / Handoff

Continuity is the ability to start a task on one device and easily switch to another device to finish it. The idea is that your iOS devices and OS X devices will work together seamlessly.

Mac computer and iPhone both showing active phone call banners.
Using your Mac as a mobile phone is a big accessibility win for some users.

Tasks that Apple describes as included in Continuity include:

  • Make and receive phone calls on your Mac computer as well as your iPhone
  • Send and receive text messages on your Mac computer as well as your iPhone
  • Handoff – opening a document on one device and easily pick it up on another device (Handoff currently works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. And app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps.)
  • Instant Hotspot – your Mac can remotely activate the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone when they are near each other.
  • AirDrop – easily share files between devices.

There are some good articles written about this function, including: OS X Yosemite & iOS 8 Continuity Explained: Handoff, Instant Hotspot, SMS & Phone Relay and How to use Handoff with iOS 8 and Yosemite.

Making And Receiving Phone Calls On Your Mac – Podcast tutorial for VoiceOver users.

New VoiceOver Features

VoiceOver running on OS X Mavericks.
VoiceOver running on OS X Mavericks.

New features in Yosemite for VoiceOver users include:

  • Expanded VoiceOver support for iBooks
  • Improved reading and navigation in Safari and Mail
  • Faster access to the web rotor and Item Chooser in Safari
  • Improved Alex voice
  • Hebrew voice included for the first time

The ever-useful AppleVis have a great VoiceOver-centric article about this: Features and Bugs of OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

Podcast Tutorial: Easily Navigate Web Content with Arrow Keys

New Switch Control Features

New Switch Control features for Yosemite include:

  • New custom panels for Switch Control
  • Press-and-hold switch actions
  • New mouse cursor features in Switch Control

Switch Control user Christopher Hills is enthusiastic about these new features:

New Dictation Features

New in Dictation for Yosemite we have:

  • Over 50 new editing and formatting commands to Dictation
  • New Dictation languages – over 40 now supported
  • New Automator template for creating voice-activated workflows

This is a big step towards bridging the gap between OS X’s Dictation and Nuance’s Dragon Dictate. It’s not there yet – Dictate still has more features for handsfree users that aren’t available is OS X Dictation, but if I were Nuance I’d be worrying!

New Low-Vision Features

New features that will help users with low vision include:

  • Differentiate without using color for colour-blind users
  • Support for video descriptions in iTunes, QuickTime, etc.
  • Reduce transparency mode
  • Increased contrast mode
  • iMessage now supports audio messages
  • Dark menu bar and dock mode will be helpful for those with photophobia
  • Spotlight window is now much larger and centred on the screen
OS X Yosemite in greyscale and inverse video modes.
OS X Yosemite in greyscale and inverse video modes.

How to use Dark Mode in OS X Yosemite

New Cognitive Accessibility Features

Features that may help those with cognitive, memory, and learning impairments include:

  • OS X now looks more similar to iOS 8
  • Green ‘zoom’ button at the corner of windows now behaves more simply
  • Family Sharing now functions on OS X as well as iOS 8, including shared calendar and reminders
  • Spotlight is now able to answer many more queries in a more intelligent fashion, bringing it closer to Siri’s iOS functionality

For those who like ebooks, this isn’t specifically accessibility-focussed but I recommend:

Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course Read this ebook to get more out of your Mac as you go about your everyday activities. Written by former Macworld editor Scholle McFarland, this book introduces Yosemite's new interface and discusses new features like iCloud Drive, Handoff, iPhone voice/SMS relay, and Notification Center's Today view. You'll learn about key changes in core Apple apps with chapters about Safari, Mail, Messages, and Calendar. You'll also find answers to questions brought on by recent additions to OS X, such as how to control notifications, tips for using Finder tags, and working with tabbed Finder windows.

Apple has also updated their OS X accessibility page to include Yosemite’s advances, so you can see a good overview there of all the accessibility features old and new.

Have you upgraded to Yosemite yet? Honestly I’m putting it off a few days after the bugs I saw in iOS 8 – it seems a bit safer! But assuming there aren’t any huge problems that show up, I’ll be upgrading within a few days.

– Ricky

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase the products that I've linked to I'll get a commission - a small percentage of the sale price. It won't cost you anything and it will help to support me and ATMac.

5 thoughts on “Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite Accessibility Roundup”

  1. In Yosemite command and control Speech functionality (found under Accessibility in Mavericks, and called Speakable Items) has been combined with Dictation & Speech control panel. I like what has been done mostly. However it’s caused me a new challenge I’m not sure how to solve. Let me explain.

    Since Snow Leopard I’ve used the command and control Speech functionality in OS X. It was very useful to me because I could invoke it by just prefixing the command I wanted executed with a keyword. For example I could say: Computer Apple Menu to open the Apple Menu, Computer Microphone On (to execute an AppleScript I wrote to turn the Dragon Dictate microphone on).

    Executing custom commands is still possible in Dictation & Speech. What doesn’t appear to be possible, or at least I can’t find it, is a way to invoke the speech command using a keyword (i.e., hands-free). You apparently now have to do some sort of shortcut to activate Speech. That involves a keyboard or mouse action. I haven’t found anywhere to use a custom keyword or phrase.

    This is a problem for me because I am physically disabled. Paralyzed from the neck down. If I’m sitting in my wheelchair I could pick up my mouthstick and do one of the keyboard shortcuts. However, I don’t always have access to my mouthstick. Sometimes I’m using my computer from bed by voice only. It appears with this new system without a keyword to invoke things, I’m out of luck.

    If I have missed something, or you have an idea for a workaround, please let me know.


    • Cactustweeter: Very good question! I honestly haven’t played with OS X dictation lately and I only upgraded to Yosemite today so I don’t know offhand. If I come up with anything I’ll post another comment here – it’s definitely something that hands-free users find very helpful.

      • Thanks Ricky. On occasion I need to switch back and forth from my Windows 7 VM with DNS (work related) back to my MacBook Pro running Dragon Dictate (DD) 4. So that’s mainly why I want to get the Yosemite Dictation & Speech commands working so I can turn DD back on once I’m done working in the VM. Like I said I’ve been using OS X command and control Speech control panel since Snow Leopard. It has been really helpful to have OS X Speech control panel available to turn DD microphone back on and also restart it if it crashed. I just need to figure out how best to activate the Dictation & Speech shortcut when I’m not in my wheelchair with no access to a mouthstick. Thanks again for the reply.

  2. i find the increase contrast very useful, but too bad it turns off transparency. in my perception they aren’t necessarily related and in the case of the dock the brighter background makes it worse. in the case of the sidebar removing transparency removes the bolding on the finder sidebar maker it more difficult. on a similar note i find using the black menu bar is harder to use because the white text feels too bright.

    my visual perception issues have as much to do with directed focus and field of vision and so bright elements outside of my field of vision make it harder to focus on one area.

    also, does anyone have examples of what the differentiate without color option does? i haven’t noticed anything.

  3. Hi. I am a relatively new Mac user, and I have a question which I’ve sought help for from both Apple’s accessibility support line and AppleCare. I think I might have been hacked or something. Anyway, I got a MacBook Air for Christmas in 2013 from my parents, and it came pre-installed with OS X Mavericks. Just last weekend I upgraded to Yosemite with the help of a sighted tutor. Everything is working great for the most part. However, here’s my problem. Somehow the password for my personal account and my Apple ID password got flip-flopped, and some things that require a password to access aren’t working as they should. One of these is that I seem to be unable to switch myself to being the administrator of my Mac. One of the tech support guys told me about the glitch which happens when attempting to change passwords, but I can’t get anything to work reliably where this is concerned including iCloud. The other issue I’m having is that I can no longer access new email at my personal account. When I open up that account, I’m always prompted for what was once my email password but now is the password for my Apple ID. Rather bizarre I know, but I’m wondering if anyone here has any insight into this. Nobody else seems to know quite what’s going on and how to fix it. I suppose some of this might be due to my lack of sufficient independent travel skills, but that’s a whole other story. Everything else is working wonderfully, and I love Apple’s commitment to accessibility. There are some minor VoiceOver quirks in Yosemite, but these are by no means show-stoppers for me.

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