Mac Accessibility

Everyone learns and shows what they know in different ways. Macs can assist you and match your learning style. Your Mac is a powerful tool. It can do a lot!!! It has the ability to make reading and writing tasks more doable, in the way that works best for you. 


The Eugene School District primarily uses Mac laptops for grades 6-12. Many of the tools listed below will also pertain to Chrome books and PCs.

There are very good accessibility features that are already built into Macs, and to supplement those tools, there are several Chrome extensions that will be featured here. We have outlined some free extensions and also the district-wide subscription to Read&Write for Google Chrome by Texthelp. 

The UDL/AEM page on this website shows educators how to create digitized, accessible curriculum, and this page walks students and staff through the process of setting up their computers with tools so that they can access the digitized text. If some assignments are not digitized, students are encouraged to contact their teachers to convert the format.  



Text-to-speech (TTS)

TTS is commonly used to read text on the screen aloud by a computer or other device. It can be helpful or even critical for a variety of students.  It supports those with visual impairments, learning disabilities, attention issues, or motor challenges. It can also build reading skills and improve comprehension of the material when students read and listen to text at the same time. There are many voices to choose from and speed settings can be individualized.


Mac Built-in Text-to-Speech

Students, staff, and families can set up the built-in Mac text-to-speech features using the resources below for support. The built-in TTS features will function in any application:

The Mac text-to-speech feature known as “Speak Selection” will read any selectable digitized text on the screen with the keystroke combination Control + R. (select the text, then hit Control then R.) For more robust text-to-speech support, the Mac feature known as “Speak items under the pointer” can be set up to read aloud text under the cursor/pointer. This allows text-to-speech accessibility with menus, prompts, buttons, etc. 

    1. Mac Text-to-Speech -“Speak Selection NOTE: The majority of 4J laptops are set up with “Speak Selection” already, but if a laptop was missed, or the student wishes to change the voice or speed, follow the instructions below:
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
      3. STAFF: If you have an older MacBook (running MacOS Catalina and older), watch this video to see how to set up built-in Mac text-to-speech –video
    2. Mac Text-to-Speech -“Speak items under the pointer
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
    3. Mac Zoom -For visual support and activating “Speak items under the pointer”
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
    4. High Quality “Siri” Voices for Mac Text-to-speech
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions


Google Read&Write Text-to-Speech

The Google Read&Write extension will read most text accessed through the Google Chrome Browser.

Google Read&Write text-to-speech has dual highlighting, which in the Google Chrome browser, is superior to the built-in Mac text-to-speech features, and offers many additional tools.

    1. How to Access Google Read&Write
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
    2. How to use Google Read&Write text-to-speech features –Video
    3. Refer to the Google Read&Write tab above for more info on Google Read&Write features
Using Text-to-Speech in Canvas

In Canvas on a Mac, both the built-in Mac TTS and Read&Write TTS tools work well to read the selected text. Students accustomed to using the built-in Mac TTS may find it easier to continue using it in Canvas too. Students using the Read&Write extension for other types of support may want to use it for TTS also.  video


Use the Preview application to convert inaccessible text so it can be read aloud

Convert screenshots  with the PREVIEW application

If a student is assigned a PDF and the text is not selectable, this means it has not been scanned on a school copier using the OCR (optical character recognition) option. It is considered “inaccessible” for students using text-to-speech. STAFF: See this video on our “Creating Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) for UDL” tab for staff instructions on OCR scanning.

Solution: Students can screenshot images and inaccessible PDFs on their Macs, open them in PREVIEW, which will convert the text (in the moment/not permanently) with OCR, to allow text-to-speech accessibility with the reading content. Students can also annotate the screenshot in the PREVIEW application. –Video Instructions

Capture and send photos of paper documents to the Mac for opening in PREVIEW

If a student is handed a paper worksheet or quiz and cannot read the text, there are options for converting this text in-the-moment. The student can also mark up the worksheet if needed. 

  1. Use the camera that is built into the laptop with the application PhotoBooth to take a picture of the worksheet and annotate on top of it if needed. NOTE:  Use good lighting and bring the document closer to the camera for smaller font sizes. 
    1. PDF Instructions
    2. Video Instructions 
  2. Take a photo of a worksheet with an iPhone or iPad and connect it to the laptop with a cable/adapter. Send the photo to the Image Capture application. You can then open the photo in Preview on the Mac and use the text-to-speech and annotation/markup features to complete the worksheet. See video
  3. Another way to send a photo from a smartphone or tablet to a laptop is to upload/save the photo to your Google Drive on your device, then open the photo in your Google Drive on your laptop. You can download the photo, then open it in Preview.



Simplifying a Webpage to reduce clutter

Some webpages include ads and a lot of visual clutter that can be distracting to students. To simplify a web page, the student must be in Safari.

Tap on this icon in browser bar.   

You can toggle between show reader view and hide reader view.

If you want to share this simplified web page with a student, who can then use the text-to-speech tool to read it, go to FILE to EXPORT AS PDF. Share this PDF with student in Google Drive. 

If a student wants to mark up this PDF after reading it, have them save the web page in BOOKS. Go to the share icon to see the list of places that you can send this page. Go to More if you don’t see BOOKS. Check the Save to Books box to add it to the list.


When they click on the PDF in Books, it will open in Preview and allow them to mark up the page. Click on the pencil icon to use the tools.


Writing Support

Dictation (Speech-to-Text)

Dictation can help students express what they know. Allowing students to submit their ideas using their voice can be a great 1st step in the writing process and can help students get their ideas into written format. 

Students, staff, and families can set up dictation on 4J Mac computers using the resources below for support. There are 3 main dictation tools available to students on a Mac.

  1. Built-in Mac dictation -Press the F5 key to allow text to be dictated anywhere writing occurs while using the Mac. ***Except for Google Docs when using Google Chrome*** 
    1. PDF Instructions
    2. Video Instructions
    3. NOTE: Older Macs are set up to activate dictation with the keystrokes FN FN. 
  2. Voice Typing -Available only in Google Docs when using the Google Chrome browser. Select Tools > Voice Typing
  3. Google Read&Write -The Talk&Type feature will provide speech-to-text only in the Google Chrome Browser. For example, it can be used in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Canvas, and most websites with the option to write.
    1. How to Access Google Read&Write –
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
    2. How to use Google Speech-to-text tools (Read&Write and Voice Typing)
      1. Video Instructions
Using Dictation (speech-to-text) in Canvas

In Canvas on a Mac, both the built-in Mac dictation and Read&Write “Talk&Type” tools work well for speech-to-text. Students accustomed to using the built-in Mac dictation tool may find it easier to continue using it in Canvas too. Students using the Read&Write extension for other types of support may want to use “Talk&Type” for speech-to-text also. If typing in a Google Doc, it is best to use Read&Write -“Talk&Type” or the “Voice Typing” tool. The “Voice Typing” tool can be found in Docs under the “Tools” tab. 

Watch the video to see the built-in Mac dictation tool with Canvas. video

Watch this video to see how to use Read&Write “Talk&Type” to dictate in

Here are a few tips when using speech-to-text (dictation):
  1. Rehearse a given thought/idea first to iron out and solidify what to say. 
  2. After activating the dictation microphone, wait 1 second before speaking.
  3. Dictate punctuation/endmarks.
  4. Start/stop the microphone between thoughts/ideas, unless capable of clearly speaking multiple sentences with endmarks and without long pauses or excessive background noises. 
  5. Look away from the screen while dictating to reduce distractions and increase focus on the intended speech. 


Word Prediction

Word prediction can support students with spelling, reading, and motor challenges.  It predicts word choices and completes word spelling based on phonetics and context.  It can help build spelling skills and increase the use of vocabulary. Students with motor challenges and learning disabilities can type out more words with fewer keystrokes.

Google Read&Write provides a robust word prediction feature in the Google Chrome browser. Students and staff must have Google Chrome “synced” to their 4J accounts to access Google Read&Write. The word prediction feature is optimized for Google Docs and works well in Canvas “Text-Entry” fields and other web-based writing environments accessed through Google Chrome.  

    1. How to Access Google Read&Write
      1. PDF Instructions
      2. Video Instructions
    2. How to use Google Read&Write word prediction in a Google Doc
      1. Video Instructions
      2. How to cut and paste text produced with word prediction into PDFs
        1. Video Instructions
    3. How to use Google Read&Write word prediction in Canvas
      1. Video Instructions



Closed Captioning in Chrome

There is a simple way to activate Closed Captioning (CC) in Chrome: video




Mac Accessibility Slideshow -Quick links

The slideshow below contains videos that demonstrate the reading and writing accessibility features that are built into the Mac as well as the others available in Chrome and other applications. 


MAC ACCESSIBILITY CANVAS MODULE -As an option for your students,  we have prepared a Canvas module that contains assignments for them to practice the accessibility features we show here. Search in the Canvas Commons: “Mac Accessibility Training Resources” (Published by Jordan Gentzkow)

Mac Accessibility Tools and Accessible Educational Materials -Full Slide Show

The slideshow below goes into greater depth on the topic of student accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)