I don’t know how many of you are like me – often skeptical of the usefulness of many accessibility options out there with screen readers and what not that is supposed to help those with disabilities such as the blind. I was also very skeptical with the accessibility functions on the iPhone for the blind as I find it difficult to see how a blind user is able to navigate with a touch screen device.. and that was where I was totally wrong.
After stumbling upon this article on Gizmodo, I must say that I’m truly impressed with the iPhone for the very first time – not because of it’s sleek exterior, the AppStore or the brand, but of it’s amazing accessibility features.
“When I first heard that Apple would release a touchpad cell phone with VoiceOver, the screen reading software used by Macs, I scoffed. The blind have gotten so used to lofty promises of a dream platform, only to receive some slapped together set of software with a minimally functional screen reader running on overpriced hardware which can’t take a beating. I figured that Apple just wanted to get some good PR – after all, how could a blind person even use a touchpad? I laughed at the trendies, both sighted and blind, buying iPhones and enthusing about them.”
Austin Seraphin got his iPhone on the 9th June 2010 and his life was changed forever. A doubter of this overpriced gadget soon granted him access to a world like never before allowing him to read tweets, look up stock prices, surf the web and more!
When Austin’s mom was told by the salesman that VoiceOver does not read text messages, her heart sank but Austin simply said “Well, let’s see, try it.”. His mom pulled out her phone, and sent him a text message. Within seconds, the phone alerted him, and said her name. Followed by a simple finger swipe and it read her message: Hi Austin. She almost cried – and that was the beginning of a changed life for Austin.
If that isn’t enough, wait till you see what happened after he recently downloaded the Color ID app from the AppStore. It granted him sight to a world he has never been able to see before.
“The next day, I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color cues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house. My mind felt blown. I watched the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened.”
You know, all these are only possible when proper software development guidelines are followed and Apple’s stringent rules that caused inconvenience to developers really pays off to the blind! Austin’s experience gave me a whole new meaning in developing accessible websites and not leaving those options out for convenience sake. Imagine: your website or software being able to change and bring sight to one’s life – it is beyond hit counts, impressions and profit. It is priceless. Believe it or not, simple gestures such as properly naming the links and images and with proper usage of tags including page titles, meta tags, link titles, form fields, etc will go a long way in helping the blind read your content.
“I love my iPhone. It changed my universe as soon as it entered it.” – Austin Seraphin
Those words may be words of every Apple fan but for Austin’s case, it brought a whole new perspective to me. It’s amazing to see the how technology today has evolved into and packed into a mobile device. After all, what’s good of technology if it does not improve the quality of life especially for those who really needs it?
I’m glad that the iPhone is not just an overpriced gadget to shout about but a device that can bring change – or in this case, SIGHT into one’s life.
p.s. if this story touched you as it did to me, do also share it with your friends :)