How iPhones Help Blind People See

The following is by Jacqueline Vanacek, VP of SAP:

Apple iPhone innovations have created a new way for the blind and visually impaired to “see.” In my recent interview with accessibility experts Victor Tsaran at PayPal and Ted Drake at Intuit  I saw how these technologies turn smartphones into powerful assistive devices that employ one physical sense to supplement or replace another.

The power of accessibility software and other assistive technologies can turn a smartphone or computer into a disabled person’s eyes, ears, voice or whichever sense is needed to communicate and participate more fully in everyday life.

VoiceOver is one of Apple’s award-winning iOS assistive technologies. The gesture-based screen reader tells users which button or icon they have touched on the screen. A double tap on the icon then invokes the function. This helps blind or visually impaired users know what is happening on their devices to better control them.

Other innovations like Siri and Dictation help users type, read calendars and launch apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Victor took a picture of a dollar bill, sent the image to a crowd sourced group of volunteers, like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Internet marketplace, and received an immediate answer through the iPhone’s VoiceOver.

He uses that capability when he shops in the grocery store, to ensure he gets the correct change at checkout.

Victor and Ted also demonstrated how the camera can identify the type of soup in a can of Campbell’s – it was tomato – and the color of a pair of socks – pink!

For more Info:

A key point that Ted Drake made about expectations is that “when truly innovative products come out, it’s because” developers “didn’t really think about pre-conceived ideas. They didn’t say ‘well a blind person can’t use a phone that’s only glass, because there are no tactile buttons. They said here’s a glass surface. Let’s make it accessible ….’ ”


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