Stream It! Music, Movies, and More with Apple TV and VoiceOver, by Jonathan Mosen: A Book Review
I have never watched a lot of television, but I can't imagine not having one around. When I do watch TV, I generally know exactly what I want to watch and what channel the program is on. My wife, on the other hand, would be lost without the digital TV guide that is available as a part of our cable subscription. She also frequently uses the DVR feature of our cable box as well. A couple of years ago, I began thinking about the differences in our television watching habits. I wondered if I would use our cable provider's TV guide if it were made accessible to me. Unfortunately, our small cable service is not likely to provide an accessible set-top box anytime soon. My thoughts turned rather naturally to Apple TV. I was hearing a lot of buzz about it from the blind community, and I wondered if it was something I could make use of. I began doing a bit of research into what I would need in order to make the thing work properly. Once I purchased a television for my office along with a 3rd generation Apple TV, I began looking for information about how to set it up as a blind person. I was surprised to find that there wasn't a lot of information available. The remote only had three buttons, and the unit itself had no buttons at all. I knew that Apple TV had the Apple VoiceOver screen reader built in, but that still left me with quite a few unanswered questions. With the help of my sighted wife, I eventually got everything up and running, but I would certainly have enjoyed being able to read a well-written book on how to set up Apple TV as a blind person. As it happens, that book now exists.
Available from Mosen Consulting and National Braille Press, and written by Jonathan Mosen, Stream It! Music, Movies, and More with Apple TV and VoiceOver provides all the information you will need when it comes to unboxing, setting up, and configuring your Apple TV. The book is available in EPUB, RTF and PDF formats from Mosen Consulting. The price of the book is $19.95, but you can bundle the Apple TV book with Mosen's audiobook Imagine There's No Countries which teaches you how to set up multiple iTunes accounts from around the world for $29.95. National Braille Press makes the book available in eBraille, hard-copy braille, Word, and DAISY formats. Any of the downloadable formats can also be obtained on a USB drive. The price of the book from National Braille Press is $15. Also be aware that if you decide to purchase the book from Mosen Consulting, the title of the book is listed simply as Apple TV 3rd Generation with VoiceOver.
Getting Up and Running with Apple TV
Since my wife helped me get my Apple TV up and running, I didn't pay as much attention to the ports on the back of the unit as I might have. If I had been reading Mosen's book at the time I was setting up my Apple TV, I would have known that I could plug an Ethernet cable into the device rather than using my Wi-Fi connection. I am definitely using a hard-wired connection with my Apple TV now. Had I chosen to use the remote that comes with the Apple TV as I was setting up the unit, Mosen's book would have helped me orient myself not only to the remote itself, but to the grid of letters, numbers, and symbols that appear on the screen when entering information such as my Apple ID and password. If I had not wanted to go through the rather tedious process of entering information with the Apple TV remote, I could have used a Bluetooth keyboard or my iPhone to get the job done. Mosen does not make the common mistake of being very thorough when describing how to accomplish a task using one method and then leaving out steps when providing alternate methods of completing the task. His descriptions are equally thorough for each and every method.
Once VoiceOver is talking and Apple TV is set up, next comes the job of setting things up the way you want them. Mosen talks you through setting up Apple TV in a way that will work best for a VoiceOver user. That said, many settings have nothing to do with accessibility but a lot to do with personal preference and productivity. Mosen presents all of this information in a clear, concise manner with a bit of well-placed humor scattered throughout.
Finding Your Way Around Apple TV
As with all of Apple's products, there is a lot of consistency in the layout of various areas of the Apple TV interface. When there are differences, Mosen is careful to point them out. On some screens, icons are presented in a grid format, while other screens present them vertically. In addition to a discussion of simple screen differences, Mosen talks about reasons to use the Apple TV Remote app, the on-screen keyboard, and a Bluetooth keyboard. He even talks about different types of Bluetooth keyboards, and why you might choose one type over another. If you decide that you don't like the way the Apple TV home screen is laid out, no problem. You can rearrange, and even hide, items. If you decide later that you want to see an item again, that is no problem either. Mosen takes you through the process of doing all of these tasks.
Obtaining and Watching Content on Apple TV
Now that you have your Apple TV set up the way you like it, let's get down to the business of watching television. Have you ever gone to a movie rental store with a sighted person and had them try to read all the movie titles to you? If you managed to find a title that sounded interesting, then they had to take the time to read the description of the movie. Thanks to Apple TV and the iTunes store, you can now purchase or rent movies and TV shows without assistance needed from anyone. As you read through the sections of Mosen's book on obtaining content for your Apple TV, you might want to keep a firm grip on your wallet. What with being able to rent and purchase movies as well as episodes and even full seasons of your favorite television programs, it would be very easy to over-spend your entertainment budget for the month.
Not everything requires a purchase, however. Mosen takes the reader on a tour of several of the channels available on Apple TV that either cost no money at all or require only verification that you are a cable subscriber. Sadly, my local cable company does not show up in the list of providers when I try to access content from, say, the History Channel. Rumor has it that Apple may eventually release a bundle of channels that can be accessed with a monthly subscription. Even without being able to verify that I am a cable subscriber, I am able to find a lot of free or low-cost content on Apple TV. Thanks to the Video Description toggle found under the accessibility settings, blind people are beginning to gain access to audio-described content on Apple TV. Mosen devotes an entire chapter of his book to Netflix, discussing the audio-described content available on that service, and how to access it with your Apple TV.
Sharing Content with Others
Mosen also goes into a great deal of detail about how to stream content from devices such as your Mac to Apple TV, and vice versa. This is an area that I have not personally been interested in, but I am confident that I could accomplish the task with Mosen's book at my side. The book also discusses Apple's Family Sharing tools as they relate to Apple TV.
The Bottom Line
If you are like me and have had an Apple TV for a while, but haven't really gotten as much out of it as you could, or if you are thinking about buying a 3rd Generation Apple TV but haven't yet taken the plunge, then Stream It! Music, Movies, and More with Apple TV and VoiceOver is definitely worth the price. After reading the book, I have gained a renewed interest in my Apple TV, and will undoubtedly use it more than I have previously.
Stream It! Music, Movies, and More with Apple TV and VoiceOver, by Jonathan Mosen
Available from: National Braille Press
Formats: Hard-copy braille, eBraille, DAISY, and DOC
Apple TV 3rd Generation with VoiceOver, by Jonathan Mosen
Available from: Mosen Consulting
Formats: EPUB, RTF, and PDF
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