Screen readers and my HP laptop have never been friends. JAWS causes major stability issues. Window Eyes stutters a lot. Now that I have an Intel-based Mac with Parallels and Boot Camp for running Windows, I have found the perfect screen reader testing system.
Parallels is a program that allows Windows to run within a window under OSX. Boot Camp allows you to boot into Windows on a Mac computer. Both of these applications work with Intel-based Macs only and support the most popular screen readers – JAWS and Window Eyes. Below are a few tips to ensure they install and function well.
Disclaimer: You must have up-to-date screen readers (tested with JAWS 8.0 and Window Eyes 6.1 demos), Parallels (build 3214 – June 21, 2007), and Boot Camp (1.3 Beta). Older versions are not fully compatible with each other.
Parallels rocks! The ability to run Windows within OSX is awesome. Parallels retails for $80. it will allocate part of your hard drive for a virtual machine that will house each additional operating system. Parallels will even automate the installation of Windows onto this virtual machine. My installation of Windows XP Professional took about 15 minutes from start to finish (versus 40 minutes or so on an actual PC). To boot into Windows, you simply open Parallels and select Start to boot Windows in an OSX window.
For kicks, I have installed Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux in other virtual machines. I thoroughly impressed my co-workers by running all four operating systems AT THE SAME TIME! I use Virtue Desktops to quickly switch between operating systems with a quick key press. To totally max out the geek factor, you can turn on motion sensor or light sensor switching in Virtue Desktops. This allows you to switch operating systems with a tap on the side of your laptop monitor (any MacBook, or I should say SmackBook in this case) or by sliding your hand over the light sensor at the top of the keyboard (MacBook Pro only).
Boot Camp is a (currently) free program from Apple that allows you to boot your Intel Mac into Windows. While this will allow all system resources to be allocated to Windows, it does not allow the instantaneous switching between operating systems. Like Parallels, the installation of Boot Camp is very easy. To boot into Windows, you either select your Start Up disk before rebooting or hold down the option (alt) key when booting.
Screen readers on your Mac
You can download the 40 minute mode demo (after 40 minutes, your computer or Parallels virtual machine must be rebooted) of JAWS at http://www.freedomscientific.com/fs_downloads/jaws.asp (54MB). In Parallels, rebooting Windows only takes a few seconds and won’t interfere with anything you’re doing in OSX, so this makes testing with the JAWS demo even easier.
Upon starting JAWS in a Parallels session, you will receive a Video Intercept prompt. Simply press Close. You will need to close this dialog each time JAWS is started. Attempting to install the Video Intercept driver will cause problems. All major junctions in JAWS work without it, although some of the PC Cursor tracking functions may be affected – this should have little or no impact on web page reading. The Video Intercept issue is not present in Boot Camp, which seems to support the JAWS Video Intercept driver natively.
MacBook keyboard mapping
Screen readers have many, as in hundreds, of shortcut keys to allow full keyboard accessibility and to mimic mouse functions. MacBooks do not feature a full-size keyboard, thus many shortcut keys are less accessible. You can always connect an external, full-size USB keyboard or smaller external USB numeric keypad to allow the additional necessary keys – Insert, Backspace, and the numeric keypad keys. This is certainly less convenient because an external keyboard is nearly as big as the MacBook itself.
Alternatively, you can use the built-in, though slightly hidden numeric keypad which is available by holding down the fn (function) key and then selecting the appropriate keyboard key. The number pad options display in the lower right of some keyboard keys. For instance, press fn+K for number pad 2.
Despite the availability of the numeric keypad keys, the MacBook keyboard does not have an Insert key. This key, by default, is known as the JAWS key in JAWS and provides access to the most important keyboard shortcuts for using this screen reader. It is also used extensively in Window Eyes. In order to get access to the Insert key in Parallels or Boot Camp, you must remap a MacBook keyboard key to the Insert key command. This can be done with Remapkey.
Remapkey can be downloaded as part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. Don’t worry, it will install and run just fine on Windows XP. The Resource Kit is a 11.8MB download and when installed, many applications, including remapkey.exe will then be available at c:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kits\Tools.
To map an Insert key on your MacBook:
- Open remapkey.exe
- Drag the Ins key from the top keyboard displayed to the App key if using Parallels or to the Right Windows key if in Boot Camp
- Select the Save and Exit button at the top, then restart Windows
This will map Insert to the Right Command (Apple) key on your MacBook keyboard. This is the only key that appears twice (in Windows, both Command key opens the Start menu), but that does not provide otherwise necessary functionality. I have no idea why the Right Command key appears as the App key in Parallels, but the Right Windows key in Boot Camp. This will provide (almost) full keyboard functionality for your screen reader in Windows. You could also map Insert to one of the F key (F11 would work nicely) or remap other keys as you see fit.