Oftentimes I am asked how exactly I use my awesome cell phone and how I am able to so easily access technology. For those of you who are blind, you are likely very familiar with the ever so popular Apple iPhone and its Voice Over screen reading program. For today’s blog post I’d like to briefly discuss why this little piece of technology is a blind or vision impaired person’s best friend and how it helps me throughout the day.
Out of the Box Accessibility
Remember in the late 1990s and early 2000s when all everyone had was flip phones and you thought you were really cool if you had a slider phone? Remember when smart phones began coming out in the mid-2000s and of course the release of the very first iPhone? Remember how cool it was to have the latest and greatest and finally be able to truly have the internet in the palm of your hands? Now imagine hearing about all of this technology for years and wishing that you could have that exact same access to technology. Imagine that if you wanted that same access you not only had to pay an extra $199 – $299 on top of the cost of your phone, but the phone that you could have the access on was already 2 – 4 years out dated!
This is exactly the kind of treatment that the technology world, especially the cell phone manufacturers, gave individuals with vision impairments and blindness prior to Steve Jobs and the Apple iPhone 3gs. If we wanted to have the same access to cell phone technology, in many cases we were just out of luck or we had to shell out hundreds of extra dollars. This is why so many individuals with vision impairments or blindness absolutely love their iPhone and wouldn’t trade it in for the world! Finally we were able to have the exact same super awesome device, for the exact same price and do everything that a sighted person could do…. even take pictures! Yes! Thank you Apple!
How It Works
So many may look at the touch screen of the iPhone and think, how the heck could anyone without sight possibly use this phone to even make phone calls, let alone browse on Facebook and Twitter. Well its super easy really, when Voice Over is enabled everything that the user touches is read aloud on the phone. There are special gestures that differ slightly from regular gestures that allow for us to open and interact with applications and even type on the screen. Voice Over even reads aloud emoji like smiley and frownie faces! Check out this You Tube video if you want to check it out in action.
Life Changing Technology
The most exciting thing about the Apple iPhone is all of the amazing applications that are available to make life just a little bit easier for individuals with vision impairments and blindness. Below are just a few of my favorites:
This by far is my absolute favorite app! I use this every day to identify written documents that I wouldn’t normally be able to have access to. This app allows for me to simply take a picture of a printed page or presentation on a screen and immediately hear it spoken to me in just a matter of seconds! It uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to change the text to speech and it is surprisingly accurate!
There are so many objects in everyday life that I just don’t really know what they are unless I ask for sighted assistance. For example if I am trying to match up my toddler’s pajama tops and bottoms or figure out if that tube on my bathromm counter is toothpaste or acme cream I simply open up Tap Tap See. This app is actually really cool, you snap a picture and you get back surprisingly detailed descriptions of the item you took a picture of.
Ever wonder how useful those barcodes on your spaghetti noodles and soup really are? Well, those barcodes are like magic for individuals with a vision impairment or blindness. With Digit Eyes I am able to scan the barcode, with my phone, and find out the product, nutrition facts and cooking instructions. Suddenly I don’t have to guess how long my frozen pizza really needs to be in the oven!
Many often wonder how I “read” books and this is my go to app when I want to access a really good book. This free service allows those with print disabilities access to the National Library Service’s full audio and braille library of books and magazines. It’s super easy to use and I love listening to a good book!
So I know what you are thinking…really Netflix? What does a girl who can’t even see the television or iPhone screen need a Netflix account for? Well… I have a big secret for you….ready…blind people watch tv too! Yep, and since last April, Netflix has made it even more enjoyable for us with the advent of Audio Descriptions. Now I too can be part of the conversation when everyone is talking about what Piper and her prisonmates are up to on Orange Is the New Blackor enjoy all of the corny jokes on Fuller House!
Well I hope this has at least been entertaining for you and if you learned something too then that’s great! Feel free to post questions, comments and your favorite apps in the comments too!