You may remember my blog some months ago regarding iPods and some of the barriers I mentioned with Apple’s ITunes, and with the iPod itself.  ITunes was virtually not accessible on its own, and a jaws user would have to purchase and use scripts to get the software to function at all, and even with that, accessing every feature was impossible.  As for other screen reader users, they could not use iTunes and therefore would have difficulty using an iPod, since iTunes is the main way to place music onto the unit.

Well last week, all of this changed!  To me it seemed that overnight, Apple emerged into the world of accessibility!  Apple released its newest version of ITunes, which looks and feels like a totally different program.  I can actually adjust things, see my lists of tracks and movies, hear radio stations, podcasts, all of it.  I went from using iTunes because I had to, only to simply put music on my iPod, to using it as a media player on my pc.  There are still a few tiny bugs to be overcome, and once released, the newer jaws scripts will add to its usability, but ITunes can now be used out of the box, with any screen reader and without having to configure anything.  I am very impressed!

As if that weren’t enough, around the same time, Apple went even farther.  They have now enabled their IPod Fourth Generation Nano to talk!  This is a feature available for that version and for no extra cost to the user.  You pay exactly what the cost of the unit is, enable the speech feature using iTunes and you have an iPod that will speak menu features, track titles and artists, and more!  Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to test this out as of yet.  I have the previous version of the Nano.  Perhaps in time, they would be able to make all iPods have that speech feature.  It’s like everything else in technology though, you buy it and something comes out better in a matter of months.  I did purchase what is called an ITel from Cobolt Systems, and that is working for now.  This unit will work on any iPod that has the five pin docking capability, and you can hear track titles and artists, although no other menu features are available.  The best thing about the Apple speech option is that there is nothing extra you have to buy plug in or install.

Almost overnight, many in the blind communities went from hating Apple for its inaccessibility to embracing the company and praising them for making such drastic strides.  I have to say, I happen to be one of those.  Although I loved my iPod, I had been very frustrated with the tedious effort that had to be put into accessing something that my sighted peers could enjoy so easily.  Now I’m actually having fun with iTunes and the features suddenly available to me.  And something tells me that there will be more to come in the not to distant future!