Talking IPod Nano from Apple!

I had used IPod before, and to put it bluntly: "I was not particularly happy!" But my new Nano is now in daily use, and Apple deserve praise indeed!

Story by: Morten Tollefsen - 23.12.2008

Even an old man in his forties uses an MP3 player. In fact I use it very often: music to jog to on the treadmill,  audio books, podcasts, ...

Talking menus: a step in the direction of universal design?

iPod Nano has talking menus! The default setting actually uses speech, so you must turn off speech if you do not want to hear the options menu, a great advantage for severely visually impaired users. And perhaps Apple now considers talking menus to be useful for everyone.

iPod Nano is not powerful enough to use a built-in synthetic voice. The speech is therefore generated on a PC and transferred with iTunes. This happens automatically. Speech rate, voice, pitch settings etc. use the SAPI settings on your PC or the standard synthetic speech on your Mac. You will therefore need to have synthetic speech installed to get a good voice. If you don't already have this, a free Norwegian synthetic speech for the PC is available for download from LingIT AS. Norwegian speech from Acapela is available for Mac, but is not free (Norwegian speech is not included in Leopard).

I'm not the only one who is enthusiastic. Åge Auby (Norwegian Federation for the Blind)  has written a report in the current affairs magazine Track 2 which is recommended reading. Subscribe to Track 2 as a podcast and you can listen to it on the MP3 player!

Talking menus are advantageous for many users! Blind and severely visually impaired users can now use the Nano. People with learning disabilities are another user group who will obviously benefit from this functionality. But what about everyone else? Talking menus are useful when your eyes are already busy with something else. You can for example drive, read and listen to music all at once, ... And others need not be bothered by this functionality:  the speech can be switched off if you do not want to hear the menus. Incidentally, not just menu options, but also the items being played may be read.

Not 100% complete

As is the way with new technology, not everything is completely perfect. There are a few menu options that do not work, i.e. the speech is not there. An example is the "Nike + iPod". Training enthusiasts must keep track of their training sessions by counting.

ITunes: an example that "monopolies" provides better accessibility?

It is perhaps taking things rather too far to answer yes to this question.  Accessibility in iTunes has been poor. However, Apple's success with iPod / iTunes made improvements very desirable. And Apple has made these improvements. In collaboration with assistive aids suppliers the programme has been developed for use with a screen reader. Window-Eyes works fine in iTunes and Jaws 10 also works well enough but should be even better in the course of 2009. Not surprisingly VoiceOver for Mac also works with iTunes!

Room for more improvements?

As mentioned above not all the menu options are read. Moreover, operating iTunes is not without problems for everyone . The "Wheel" is quite delicate. Good hand control is therefore necessary to use the Nano.

News archive

Sort by category

Sort by article author