To Update or Not to Update

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Over the last two months, Microsoft and Apple both released their annual operation systems updates. This leaves one to ponder about the updating choice. While this decision is relatively a simple one for our sighted family and friends, the blindness community must ask the following questions:

  • Is it compatible with my adaptive software?
  • Will my device or system support the update?
  • Will any of the new features or changes require assistance to learn?

This review will offer guidance based on these questions related to the Windows 10 Anniversary, iOS 10, and MacOS Sierra updates. Before venturing any further, keep in mind the choice is not an easy one to make even with the answers to these questions. I strongly encourage each of you to review the information here, ask questions during any of the Hines Blind Center Alumni and Blind Vet Tech teleconferences, and with the manufactures or developers of your selected platforms.

Windows 10 Anniversary

A year after releasing Windows 10, Microsoft released the Windows 10 Anniversary edition. The update packs new and tremendously powerful improvements into the release like a smarter Cortana, dark mode for those who like high contrast, the ability to sign in with just your face, and an overhaul to Narrator. The Narrator update turned the built-in screen reader from a nearly useless accessibility option into a wonderful robust screen reader. Narrator took some lessons from Voice Over, JAWS, and Window Eyes and became equally as powerful as these other screen readers. Also, Narrator is fully accessible with Edge and other parts of Windows. One common complaint involves the Rearrangement of the Start Menu. You will notice the Shut Off, Restart, and Log Off options are concealed in a dropdown menu.

Windows 10 Anniversary will work with those version of JAWS, nVDA, Zoom Text, and other adaptive software updated to work with Windows 10. If updating from Windows 8 or older, you will need to verify if your software version supports Windows 10. If you are a Narrator user, no worries, since you just received a functional screen reader. Microsoft stated the rollout of Windows 10 Anniversary will occur in phases, with newest computers receiving first dibs. If you wish to jump the line or verify if the update installed, look for “Feature Update to Windows 10, Version 1607” in software updates.

Overall, Windows 10 Anniversary will only slightly alter your computing experience. The This stems from the redesigned Start Menu and Narrator. The Start Menu’s main irksome change involves shutting down, restarting, or logging off your computer. Microsoft placed these items in menu with several other system controls. The Microsoft Accessibility Team will be more than happy to provide assistance in this matter. The second part requiring training is if you wish to rely on Narrator. While JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator possess many similarities, certain navigational methods differ enough between them that a 1 for 1 translation is not possible.

To update, navigate to Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update and look for Feature update to Windows 10, version 1607. If you have any questions about Windows 10 and accessibility, contact the Microsoft Accessibility Team at:

iOS 10

Apple released iOS 10 alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The latest update requires 1.1gb to download, but brings with it a bunch of nice features and updates. Voice Over users will enjoy a couple of new voices, a new in-app Voice Over Rotor option, a quicker way to rearrange apps on your home screen, and an enhancement to Photos where background and objects are identified. Low Vision users will continue to enjoy Zoom and the new white point balance feature and a new option in Accessibility that turns your iOS device into a digital Magnifier by triple pressing the home button. All iOS users will enjoy the updated lock screen and notifications views, the ability for third party apps to integrate with Siri and Messages, and the ability to remove those stock apps freeing. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the updates, but are probably the ones most of you will quickly wish to test out.

Like all Apple products, building accessibility into the operating system removes most of the questions one possesses regarding updating, as Voice Over, Zoom, and the other accessibility options work flawlessly with iOS 10. However, that does not mean some bugs do not slip through the cracks. Most notably includes an issue where Voice Over and Zoom may cease to operate properly under certain circumstances when both are activated and some continued bugginess with Braille Screen Input. Outside of these, Apple removed many of the legacy bugs making updating fun.

If you are wondering if your iPhone or iPad will be able to support iOS 10, here is the official list of supported devices:

  • iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7Plus
  • iPad Pro 12.9”, iPad Pro 9.7”, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, and iPad mini 2
  • iPod Touch 6th Generation

Some additional words of caution come from those of you with the lower tier of storage (8 to 16gb) or whose devices are nearly maxed out. You may find your device running a bit slower when compared to iOS 9.3.6.

To update, navigate to Settings > General > Software Updates and look for the iOS 10 download and install button while connected to wifi and connected to power. If you have any questions about Apple Accessibility, contact Apple Accessibility Support at:

MacOS Siera

Apple changed more than the software behind its computers, but ditched Mac OS X to MacOS Sierra. Technically Sierra is OS 10.12 when you look in About This Mac, but don’t tell the presses. The Sierra update brought several very nice updates to Voice Over and Accessibility, how some of the core apps work, and finally introduced Siri.

Like all Apple products, building accessibility into the operating system removes most of the questions one possesses regarding updating, as Voice Over, Zoom, and the other accessibility options work flawlessly with Sierra. However, that does not mean some bugs do not slip through the cracks.

If you are wondering if your Mac supports Sierra, here is the official list of supported devices:

  • MacBook Pros 2010 or newer, MacBook 2009 or newer, and MacBook Air 2010 or newer
  • Mac Mini 2010 or newer
  • Mac Pro 2010 or newer
  • iMac 2009 or newer

however, I issue a word of caution that Macs with just 2GB of RAM or who have nearly full hard drives may experience a rather sluggish Mac, especially with Voice Over. This problem increases if using File Vault to encrypt your hard drive.

One possible catch with Sierra involves whether you might need some extra assistance to use Voice Over or Zoom with Sierra. How you answer this question depends on your current skill level and if you wish to use Siri. If you are a beginner Mac user, you might want to hold off updating until some sighted assistance is around. This recommendation stems not from any changes in the update, but rather your comfort level completing the updating process. Another group of individuals who might wish to hold off are those who are not comfortable with playing around in System Preferences. After each update, it’s worth the time to go through all of the System Preferences to see what changed. For Example, Siri maybe available in the Dock, but changing the keyboard shortcut requires a quick dive into System Preferences. Minus these items, the update will not require any additional Voice Over or Zoom skills to continue using your Mac.

To update, navigate to App Store > Updates and look for the MacOS Sierra update or select update all. If you have any questions about Apple Accessibility, contact Apple Accessibility Support at: