A Blind Man’s Life Changed Forever by iPhone & App Store
A blind man sees colors and sunset for the first time, with iPhone help. (And he doesn’t even need to serve as Geordi La Forge aboard the Star Trek USS Enterprise):
iPhone with VoiceOver: Life Changing Technology
Can the blind see? How could a blind person even use a touchscreen?
By using an iPhone, the life of Austin Seraphin changed forever. All within the span of 24 hours.
VoiceOver is the screen reading software used by Macs, it’s also an integral part of Apple iOS in iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. When Austin first heard about iPhone’s VoiceOver integration, he first laughed at the thought of using a touchpad as lofty promises.
But he reconsidered when a blind friend originally with similar opinions bought one and went nuts about the Apple device.
iPhone Accessibility Evaluation
His evaluation was quick. You think just the sighted can use an iPhone easily? After reading about the accessibility features at home, Austin was able to pick up the Apple touchscreen device immediately.
Accessibility features are easily activated and controlled, including tap to hear, split-tap control, rotor dial control, toggle speech, and awesome screen curtain feature that disables the screen and camera.
“Tap an item to hear it, double tap to activate it, swipe three fingers to scroll… Within 30 seconds, I checked the weather. Next, I read some stock prices. Amazingly, it even renders stock charts, something the blind have never had access to. Sold.”
The iPhone can even read text messages. Testing in store, the iPhone alerts him with sender name. He’s then able to “simply swiped my finger and it read her message.”
We thought iPad is the future with the iPad, Future is Now video. But is iPhone really the future?
The blind author described: “I have seen a lot of technology for the blind, and I can safely say that the iPhone represents the most revolutionary thing to happen to the blind for at least the last ten years. Fifteen or twenty years brings us back to the Braille ‘n Speak, which I loved in the same way.”
Accessibility, iPhone vs. iTunes
But there is a “golden worm at its center.” Austin describes the irony with the iOS accessibility: “Apple has done an amazing thing making the iPhone accessible, but iTunes remains virtually unusable to the blind.” However, “Despite having to overcome the limitations of iTunes, I still love the iPhone.”
Seeing Colors with iPhone
But how does the Apple iPhone help a blind man see the world?
The App that actually allows him to see is Color ID [itunes link]. It uses the iPhone camera to speak names of colors. Besides describing colors in hexadecimal digits, the Color ID app speaks some surreal names such as “Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White.” The iPhone app first helped him figured out why night time has dark colors.
Update, added next 2 paragraphs:
Most Blind people can actually see part of the world. Only the completely blind (very rare) see only black. Similar to most blind people, Austin can see part of the world: “I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources.”
When he first tried to see the world in color, it was at at three o’clock in the morning. The camera reported black. After realizing that he disabled the camera with screen curtain, he first saw very dark colors. Then the Eureka moment comes: “I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night.” He turned on the light, and saw colors.
Next day, he explored the world in color, “seeing” the color of the sky, pumpkin plants, flowers, and the different colors of his first sunset. Wow!
For the whole story, read: