A relative’s failing vision has pushed them to the point where they are willing to make an attempt to use a computer — actually, a fourth attempt, because three past attempts since 1997 have failed, and failed as gloriously as Icarus’s flight from Crete. I’m posting this message to ask for advice on what to do for this person, since it will fall to me to set things up and maintain the tools.
The situation is special in that this person not sympathetic to GUIs of any sort — mouse-behavior, trackpads, and the many fast-moving animations of the modern graphical environment all leave them frustrated or worse. Really, this person is of typewriter-generation and prefers to convey instructions by keyboard only, composed of actual words, rather than doing anything involving images or virtual objects or touch-screens or what have you. So it would probably be best to have a fairly locked-down system with only a couple of applications visible and perhaps even using the command-line to open those application. I will be on hand as plumber and lifeguard to handle the inevitable disasters — last time we tried this, a least once a day I had to visit and do a hard reset, because my relative would unintentionally open dozens of applications and files until the machine froze.
I think this person needs basic text-editing capability (a word-processor would probably cause them headaches) and a sturdy browser on which I can impose controls similar to what one would use for a minor with limited ability to follow instructions. I don’t think they need any other software at all.
I’m thinking about giving them an old but functional Mac laptop with a full-size external keyboard and no mouse/trackpad, but with a monitor attached. Mac OS has “Parental Controls” and “Accessibility” system preference panes that seem to cover most of what I need.
- Keyboard only. “Accessibility” at one time included functionality that allowed the mouse-pointer to be controlled entirely via the keyboard, which is preferable. On a quick tour of Accessibility today, I don’t see that functionality any more — any tips as to where it now, or about third-party tools to replace it?
- Browser. Gmail can be accessed by the mobile and basic HTML templates, which I think are best. But with them, rather than the “standard” HTML template, what is the best way to enable keyboard-only access through the browser? Is one particular browser better than others for this specific purpose — I mean, for making it configurable by me for the use of a smart, keyboard-only person who has no patience for dealing with a machine?
- Text-editor. I prefer BBEdit as a text editor for its configurability and because it standardly generates UTF-8 text files only. But I realize there may be some call for opening .docx files, and Apple’s built-in TextEdit program does that. But how is TextEdit for configurability?
Any suggestions about these or other things? Many thanks!