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Posting Ratings and Reviews in the iTunes Store Using VoiceOver on the Mac Demystified

August 2, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Some blind users of Apple’s built-in VoiceOver Mac OS X screen reader have reported an inability to rate content or post reviews in the iTunes Store. Apple has responded with a solution that has been confirmed to solve the problem effectively.

The trouble is found in the way the ratings widget interacts with VoiceOver, said Nate Doss, a member of Apple’s executive relations team.

“Each review requires that you rate the product you wish to review,” he said. “The normal VoiceOver command for pressing a button does not set the star rating. Instead, you would have to try the “Move Mouse Cursor to VoiceOver Cursor”
command (Control Option Command F5) which would then set the star rating to whatever rating desired.”

Doss said there is a secondary issue involving notification of blind users when the content on a dynamic page has changed.

“To start writing a review, there is a link that you press called ‘Write a Review’ or ‘Be the first to write a review’,” he said. “When you press that link, the review writing tools are revealed within the page, but the application does not notify VoiceOver that the page was changed. This is a common problem with websites that use JavaScript to change the part of a web page instantly without reloading the entire page. From your perspective, there was no change in the page. However, if you were to explore the page, you would discover that there are new elements on the page.”

Doss said Apple’s developers are aware of this issue and are working to fix it in a future update.

Follow these steps to rate a product in the iTunes Store:

  1. Browse to or search for an app, podcast, song or other content in the iTunes Store.
  2. Follow the link to view its page in the store.
  3. Move down to the “Rate this application:” section of the page.
  4. Move to the desired star rating you wish to assign.
  5. Press Control+Option+Command+F5 to move the mouse cursor to the position of the VoiceOver cursor on the desired star rating.
  6. If you explore past the end of the star ratings, you will now see a description of that rating. For instance, “it’s great” will be displayed if you positioned the mouse cursor on the “rate five stars” option. If this description is not present, you have not succeeded. Try again.
  7. Move back to the desired star rating and press the typical Control+Option+Space Bar command to rate the content.
  8. If you explore past the end of the star ratings, you will now see the word “thanks.” This means you have successfully rated the content in the iTunes Store. If you do not see “thanks,” you have not succeeded. Try repeating these steps.

Follow these steps to post a review in the iTunes Store:

  1. Browse to or search for an app, podcast, song or other content in the iTunes Store.
  2. Follow the link to view its page in the store.
  3. Move down to the “Customer Reviews” section of the page.
  4. To start writing a review, follow the link called “Write a Review” or “Be the first to right a review.”
  5. Follow the steps previously described for rating content.
  6. Fill out the title and text body as appropriate.
  7. Move to the Submit button and press the typical Control+Option+Space Bar command to post the review.

We thank Apple for their diligent work in getting to the bottom of this perplexing issue.

Update:

Another solution exists that enables posting of reviews without the extra mouse cursor movement command. It involves changing VoiceOver preferences that affect its cursor tracking behavior everywhere on your system. This supplementary solution may not be the right one for everyone.

Follow these steps to modify VoiceOver preferences so that the mouse cursor always follows the VoiceOver cursor:

  1. Press Control+Option+F8 to open the VoiceOver Utility.
  2. Press Control+Option+Down Arrow to interact with the categories table.
  3. Press n to move to the Navigation category.
  4. Press Control+Option+Up Arrow to stop interacting with the categories table.
  5. Press Control+Option+Right Arrow until you hear “mouse cursor.”
  6. Press Control+Option+Right Arrow once more to move focus to the popup associated with this field. The default setting is “ignore VoiceOver cursor.”
  7. Press Control+Option+Space Bar to open the popup.
  8. Press down arrow until you hear “follows VoiceOver Cursor.”
  9. Press Control+Option+Space Bar to select the option to have the mouse cursor follow the VoiceOver cursor.
  10. Press Command+Q to close the VoiceOver Utility.
  11. Post reviews in the iTunes Store at will.

Pairing the iPhone 4 with the Freedom Pro Bluetooth Keyboard

June 28, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The Freedom Pro Bluetooth keyboard from Freedom Input may be used as an alternative to the touch screen for typing text. This can be particularly helpful for performing text entry tasks such as taking notes and writing e-mail.

As of June 28, Freedom Input has not provided instructions for connecting the keyboard to the iPhone in its knowledge base or manuals. This document provides those instructions in a format that is especially useful for blind people.

The gestures and instructions in this document assume VoiceOver is enabled.

Preparing the Keyboard

Follow these steps to prepare the keyboard for use:

  1. Place the keyboard on a desk or other hard surface and orient it so that the rough plastic end is to the left and the rectangular raised button is to the right.
  2. Press in on the button to release the keyboard and open it to its full size.
  3. Locate the hinge on the top of the keyboard near its middle.
  4. Locate the indented lever to the left of the hinge and pull it to the right using a fingernail. This keeps the keyboard open during use. Move the lever back to the left before folding the keyboard.
  5. Locate the raised, round, vertical battery cover at the far left end of the keyboard.
  6. Pull the top half of the battery cover forward and up until it has been removed.
  7. Insert two AAA batteries flat-end-first.
  8. Replace the battery cover.

Pairing the Keyboard with the iPhone

Follow these steps to pair your keyboard with the iPod Touch or iPhone:

  1. Disconnect the iPhone from the data cable so it is not docked or plugged into the battery charger or computer.
  2. Turn on your iPhone.
  3. Tap the Home button.
  4. Double tap Settings.
  5. Double tap General.
  6. Double tap Bluetooth.
  7. Move to the Bluetooth button and make sure it says “on.” If not, double tap the button to change its status. The iPhone will start searching for available Bluetooth devices.
  8. On the keyboard, locate the two slide switches near the lower left-hand corner.
  9. Move the top switch to the right to select HID (Human Interface Device) mode.
  10. Move the bottom switch to the left to turn on the keyboard. Move it back to the right anytime you won’t be needing to use the keyboard.
  11. Locate a small hole immediately above the two slide switches.
  12. Using a pen or stylus, press and hold the button in the reset hole for four to five seconds. This makes the keyboard discoverable so it can be paired with the phone.
  13. Flick left or right around the Bluetooth screen on the iPhone until you find the Freedom Pro Keyboard button.
  14. Double tap the button to start the pairing process.
  15. Listen carefully to VoiceOver until you hear four numbers. Remember these numbers.
  16. Enter the numbers you heard on the keyboard and press the enter key.
  17. VoiceOver should say the keyboard has been paired. Double tap the OK button.

Now that the keyboard has been paired successfully, you can use it to type in apps such as Mail and Notes. Simply locate Mail or Notes on the Home screen, double tap and start using the Freedom Pro keyboard anywhere you would normally have to use the on-screen keyboard.

Major thanks go to Jon, a technical support representative with Freedom Input, for his patience and thorough assistance with the Bluetooth pairing process on the keyboard.

Please feel free to add a comment to this post if you encounter any problems following these instructions or I can help in any other way.