Accidental Universal Access

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Through the slip of a few fingers, reader Clay Ross’s Mac is more responsive than it once was. He writes:

Yesterday, after running AlphaBaby 1.5.1 for my grandkids, I could not get the usual Command-Option-Control-Q to Quit the app. So I force-quit it. (Note: the application grabs and disables almost every key and key combination because kids may bang out anything.) After the force-quit, my iMac flat panel 800MHZ (10.4.9) has been in a strange UI state: every mouse operation evokes a spoken response, as does every open control panel or menu bar windowlet. There is always a dark rectangle outlining some object in every window or desktop. The rectangle is not in the window, but floats above it.

I looked through various libraries for an obvious .plist, but could find none. Restarting has not helped. Ideas?

To help make this very specific problem applicable to the greatest number of readers, allow me to offer this general advice: When your Mac unexpectedly talks back to you, zooms in on objects, activates windows and menus when you press keys on your keyboard, displays an enormous cursor, or the display looks like an X-ray image, run, don’t walk, to the Universal Access system preference.

This system preference was designed to help those with physical limitations—for controlling the cursor with the keyboard or reciting the name of buttons and menu items, for example. Many of these functions can be initiated with the press of a few keys. While Apple has done its best to make these key combinations handful enough to prevent users from activating them accidentally, it can still happen on occasion.

And that’s the situation here. Somehow, you managed to press Command-F5. This command fires up Voice Over, a helpful tool that can recite the name of the foremost application and highlight and name items within it. Press Command-F5 once more and your Mac will cease its jabbering.

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