Apple Produces Accessible iPods and iTunes

Apple released a new generation of the iPod Nano and a new version of iTunes on Tuesday, both of which are breakthroughs in accessibility.

According to the manual, the new Nano can be configured to speak menu options, tracks, artists, etc., using a voice on your computer. We’ll have to wait until people start using them to find out how well this will work, but certainly it has the potential to be great. The new Nanos hold 8GB and 16 GB and cost $149 and $199.

iTunes 8, the new version, is available, and it is vastly more accessible than earlier versions. Scripting is still required to get the most out of iTunes, however.

GW Micro has worked hard to make iTunes 8 work well; this functionality is available in the latest beta of Window-Eyes version 7. You can browse the music store as though it were a web page. You can buy a track by pressing the Context key or Shift-F10 while focused on it and choosing to buy from the menu that pops up, and there are well-identified buttons that let you buy albums and tell you how much they cost. It’s fun to be able to read album reviews and other information as well. On my system, Window-Eyes is a bit sluggish in other parts of iTunes, and I can’t move to the top and bottom of a track list with the Home and End keys or change the order of tracks in a playlist, but access is reasonably good.

There are currently no JAWS scripts for iTunes. I can do things like play albums, burn cDs, and transfer a single track or a whole playlist (using Select All) to an iPod. I can’t do other important things, however, like move to the beginning and end of a list of tracks, select continguous tracks (necessary if I want to transfer some, but not all the songs in a playlist) reorder a playlist, or browse the music store. Brian Hartgen has said that he will update J-Tunes to make all these things and more possible in iTunes version 8.

It’s wonderful that Apple has made iTunes so much more accessible and has released talking iPods. I hope the company will continue to produce increasingly accessible products.

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