Anisio Correia (above) uses his iPhone for both business and leisure.
Advances in communication technology enable people to accomplish tasks much faster and more efficiently than ever. The advent of smart phones and tablets now allows one to accomplish those tasks everywhere, away from the traditional office or home base. For people who are blind or visually impaired, however, the impact of technology is a lot more far reaching. In fact, rather than merely increasing speed and efficiency, technology is often the only way completion of certain tasks have become possible for persons who are blind.
As a blind manager of vision rehabilitation programs for many years, I have personally experienced the impact of technology on my ability to do my job. 15 or 20 years ago, I remember spending an average of two days per week with a volunteer reader to go over my office correspondence, review and edit staff reports, conduct research on specific topics, etc. Today, thanks to easy access to email and information available in electronic format and significant advances in windows-based screen readers, I have been able to reduce this time to about one hour or so a week via my computer. What a great time saver!
But perhaps the most significant advancement in the past few years has been Apple’s implementation of VoiceOver, a screen reader built into many of its devices, including iOS portable devices and Mac computers. VoiceOver offers speech output to all its devices, literally turning its Mac computers, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch into talking devices which people who are blind can operate effectively and efficiently straight out the package.
Anisio (above) demonstrates how to use the iPhone money reader application.
For many blind adults, the iPhone is quickly becoming the device of choice. Unlike previous smart phones, the iPhone offers built-in accessibility with the use of VoiceOver. The blind user no longer needs to purchase additional expensive software to make their smart phone talk. This paradigm shift is significant and no doubt will have long-lasting implications to the way blind people interact with technology.
In future blogs, I will discuss the iPhone in more detail, along with the many applications that have been developed for this device. Suffice it to say, for blind users, the iPhone has become much more than a smart phone- it has become the great equalizer!