Apple has announced they are working on a spoken interface for the next major version of Mac OS X (10.4):
The Universal Access capabilities of Mac OS X that provide equal access for everyone to the power and simplicity of the Macintosh are now enhanced to include a spoken interface for those with visual and learning disabilities. The spoken interface is a fully integrated, built-in enhancement of the Mac OS X Aqua user interface making it an additional and equal way of accessing the Macintosh. It reads aloud the contents of documents like Web pages, Mail messages, and word processing files; provides a comprehensive audible description of your workspace and all the activities taking place on your computer; and includes a rich set of keyboard commands that allow you to navigate the Mac OS X interface and interact with application and system controls. If you or someone you are assisting has visual or learning impairments, the spoken interface enhances the rich set of Universal Access features in Mac OS X to ensure equal access for everyone.
The Mac OS X spoken interface delivers many of the features found in traditional, add-on screen reader applications with one important difference; the spoken interface is completely integrated into Mac OS X. Unlike traditional screen reader applications that are designed as bolted-on after thoughts, the Mac OS X spoken interface is fully integrated into Mac OS X providing an unprecedented level of built-in accessibility for a desktop operating system. In fact it will be included in the next major release of Mac OS X. The advantages are tremendous: No separate installation, wide availability, and one simple set of commands to learn and use. And, because its part of the operating system, you get access to the latest technology without delay.
Apple’s spoken interface technology is currently in development and scheduled for delivery in the next major release of Mac OS X.
Read more at Apple’s website here.
BusinessWeek also has an article with more information here.