To Update or Not to Update

By Timothy Hornik

During the past two months Microsoft and Apple have both released their annual operating system updates. This leaves one to ponder about the updating choice. While this decision is a relatively 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 on these questions as they relate to the Windows 10 Anniversary, iOS 10, and MacOS Sierra updates. Before venturing any further, keep in mind that the choice is not an easy one to make, even with the answers to these questions. I strongly encourage each of our Bulletin readers to review the information here and then ask questions during any of the Hines Blind Center Alumni and Blind Vet Tech teleconferences. I also advocate asking questions of the manufacturers or developers of 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 such as 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 wonderfully robust screen reader. Narrator took some lessons from VoiceOver, JAWS, and Window Eyes, becoming equally as powerful as these screen readers themselves. 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 that the Shut Off, Restart, and Log Off options are concealed in a dropdown menu.

Windows 10 Anniversary will work with versions of JAWS, NVDA, ZoomText, and other adaptive software that have been 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, you need not worry since you just received a functional screen reader. Microsoft has stated that the rollout of Windows 10 Anniversary will occur in phases with the newest computers receiving first dibs. If you wish to jump the line or verify if the update actually installed, look for “Feature Update to Windows 10, Version 1607” in software updates.

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

To update, navigate to Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update, and then 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 one of the following:

  1. 800-936-5900

Apple released iOS 10 alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The latest update requires 1.1 gigabytes to download but brings with it some nice features and updates. VoiceOver users will enjoy a couple of new voices, a new in-app VoiceOver 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. They will also encounter the new white point balance feature and a new option in Accessibility that turns their iOS device into a digital Magnifier by triple-pressing the home button.

All iOS users will enjoy the updated lock screen and notifications views, as well as the ability for third-party apps to integrate with Siri and Messages. They will also appreciate the ability to remove the useless stock apps that came already installed on the device, thus freeing up space for more desirable apps. Although this is but the tip of the iceberg with respect to the updates, they are probably the ones most users 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. This is because VoiceOver, Zoom, and the other accessibility options work flawlessly with iOS 10. However, that does not mean that some bugs do not slip through the cracks. Most notable is an issue where VoiceOver and Zoom may cease to operate properly under certain circumstances when both are activated. This may involve some continuous bugs 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 7 Plus

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 for those of you with the lower tier of storage (8 to 16 gigabytes), 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 Wi-Fi and connected to power. If you have any questions about Apple accessibility, contact Apple Accessibility Support at 877-204-3930 or

MacOS Siera

Apple changed more than the software behind its computers. It ditched Mac OS X to MacOS Sierra. Technically, Sierra is OS 10.12 when you look in About This Mac. However, don’t tell the presses. The Sierra update brought several very nice updates to VoiceOver and Accessibility. It also updated 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 VoiceOver, 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

I issue a word of caution about Macs with just two gigabytes of Random Access Memory and to those who have hard drives which are nearly full: They may experience some sluggishness, especially with VoiceOver. This problem increases if File Vault is used to encrypt a hard drive.

One possible catch with Sierra involves whether you might need some extra assistance to use VoiceOver 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 beginning 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 is worth the time to go through all of the System Preferences to see what changed. For example, Siri may be 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 VoiceOver or Zoom skills to continue using the 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 877-204-3930 or

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