How the iPhone helps the visually impaired see more than before

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Yoni Heisler
October 2nd, 2013
In this article: AssistiveTechnology, iOS, iphone
How the iPhone helps the visually impaired see more than before

iphone assistThe New York Times on Monday published a fascinating article detailing how smartphones like the iPhone are opening up whole new avenues of opportunities for the visually impaired.

In one profile, the Times details how the iPhone has helped Luis Perez, who is close to being fully blind, take professional photographs. In assistive mode, for example, Perez's iPhone will tell him aloud how many heads are detected in a photo, thereby ensuring that everyone who should be in the photo is, in fact, in the photo.

The iPhone, of course, isn't the only smartphone that helps the visually impaired, but Apple has for years demonstrated a consistent focus on making its products and features more accessible to the masses.

The Times adds:

Apple's assistive technologies also include VoiceOver, which the company says is the world's first "gesture-based screen reader" and lets blind people interact with their devices using multitouch gestures on the screen. For example, if you slide a finger around the phone's surface, the iPhone will read aloud the name of each application.

In a reading app, like one for a newspaper, swiping two fingers down the screen will prompt the phone to read the text aloud. Taking two fingers and holding them an inch apart, then turning them in a circle like opening a padlock calls a slew of menus, including ones with the ability to change VoiceOver's rate of speech or language.

The iPhone also supports over 40 different Braille Bluetooth keyboards.

The Times report also relays how the App Store helps provide the visually impaired with affordable tools that were previously too expensive or cumbersome to carry around. One such example is an app that enables the blind to determine the denomination of dollar bills.

"In the past," the Times article states, "people with impairments had someone who could see help them fold notes differently to know which was which, or they carried an expensive third-party device."

You can read more about the variety of accessibility features in iOS 7 over here on Apple's website.

Switch Control in particular is a new accessibility feature in iOS 7 that is explained thoroughly in this post on the Assistive Technology Blog.

Just as VoiceOver allowed the blind and visually impaired to access the iPhone, Switch Control now allows switch users to navigate and use their iOS device. Switch users are users who are only able to activate a few large buttons and who don't have the ability to interact with the complexities of a touchscreen. For example, a quadriplegic may be able to activate switches mounted on their wheelchair with their head. Switches come in all different sizes and configurations, but they give users who are unable to interact with the touchscreen the ability to control their devices.
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