Accessible Apple: The 12 Requests of Christmas, Day 5

Editor's note: This article was originally scheduled to appear on December 30, but had to be postponed due to technical difficulties. Check later today for the next articles in the series.

This is the fifth post in our annual 12-part series covering the accessibility features we would like to see Apple bring to its products in the coming year.

This series is being put together by Accessibility Editor Alex Jurgensen, with the help of several contributors.

For the fifth request of Christmas, we ask Apple to give to us:

5. A Reimplementation of the Classic Mac Startup Chime

At the end of October, we reported that the classic Mac startup chime was not enabled by default on the 2016 MacBook Pro. Over the years, this sound has been a signature of Apple's desktop and laptop computers as notable as the Apple logo itself.

A use of the startup chime that may not be widely known is that it is used by blind and partially sighted users to determine if the computer is booting up. As a legally blind Mac user, I have found this increasingly important since Macs have become quieter due to improvements in hardware such as solid state drives and the removal of optical drives.

As Steve wrote in the October post: "One longtime Mac feature that’s been around since the first Mac in 1984 is the startup chime, and it’s missing from the new MacBook Pros as well. It turns out that there’s a reason for that, too. The new MacBook Pros don’t power on the same way as their ancestors in that they can be powered on three different ways. First, one can open the lid of the Mac that has been shut down — even without being connected to power — and it will boot up. Second, connecting a MacBook Pro to a power adapter while its lid is open and it is has been powered down will boot it. And third, connecting a shut-down MacBook Pro to a power adapter while its lid is closed and it’s connected to an external display will start it up. So let’s say that you have powered down your MacBook Pro and you’re in a meeting; you pop the lid and the chime rings out. Not too cool. Likewise, if someone wasn’t familiar with how the MacBook Pro can be powered on, they might plug in the power adapter and hear the chime. So another feature — one that is embedded in the soul of the Mac — bites the dust."

Although Apple's reasoning makes sense on the surface, it leaves blind and partially sighted users in the dark as to whether or not the computer is booting. A better approach would be to restore the startup chime but provide a easy to find setting to disable it in System Preferences. Perhaps Apple could rename the "Startup Disk" preference pane to simply "Startup" to accommodate this new setting. While it is possible to reenable the startup sound, the fact that it is disabled by default on the MacBook Pro makes the job of supporting the Macs of others more difficult for blind and partially sighted users. We therefore ask Apple to bring this iconic and highly useful sound back.

The Previous Posts:

4. Braille Display and Keyboard Support for the Apple TV

3. A Free USB Type C to USB Type A Dongle

2. 6-Key Braille Input for Mac OS

1. A New Speech Manager

The Christmas season is upon us and the spirit of giving is in the air. Writing articles for the Accessible Apple column takes time and energy. If you enjoy Accessible Apple articles and would like to see them continue into 2017, please consider making a donation to Camp Bowen, a summer camp for the visually impaired and blind that promotes friendship, independent living, education, and the fostering of creativity. A few dollars can go a long way towards ensuring this valuable program can continue to serve generations to come.