I have used a few cell phones prior to the iPhone but never had such freedom using a mobile phone until I bought my iPhone 4. Prior to the iPhone, I could never take advantage of any smart phone features, not even the address book, since I couldn't see the screen and the phone couldn't speak what was on the screen.
I was looking for a phone that could speak to me rather than require me to respond to voice prompts. I found it with the iPhone.
With the iPhone, I use a screen reader called VoiceOver, an accessibility feature built into Apple's iOS architecture, to have the phone read aloud what I touch onscreen.
VoiceOver and Accessible iPhone Apps
With VoiceOver, I can access my Contacts, check email, get local weather, send and receive text messages, and view my Calendar -- all from a standard iOS feature that anyone who is blind or visually impaired can access immediately, no special software required.
One of my favorite apps (available from Apple's App Store), is LookTel Money Reader. This app enables me to scan and identify the dollar denominations of the bills in my wallet. Accessing this function is extremely helpful, as it insures I have the appropriate bills when I catch a cab.
Another app I like is LocalDirect, which enables me to find local places to eat and food stores nearby, regardless of where I am in the US. In addition, I use the TuneIn Radio Pro's sleep timer function to fall asleep to classical music.
The right app can give a blind person the confidence to travel. Once, while riding public transportation, I became lost; I had no idea where I was. Luckily, the Sendero GPS LookAround app enabled me to identify where I was and gave me the name of the street I was traveling.
iPhone is Indispensable to Many Blind Users
From the time I get up in the morning using the built-in alarm, to the middle of the night when I press the Home key to hear the current time, my iPhone is at my side. The device has really helped me by speaking what I cannot see onscreen. It also performs many accessible functions (e.g. playing audiobooks) that I once needed separate devices for.
The iPhone is my clock, radio, Rolodex, calendar, calculator, and, of course, a phone. While none of these functions are particularly exciting, I think their availability in one device brings blind people further into society's mainstream. After the initial cost of the iPhone, you can add all of these functions and more for just a few dollars each from the App Store.
For example, you could buy a talking calculator and a talking clock, but if you buy an iPhone, both of these are built in. You just need to activate VoiceOver to access and use them.
The iPhone isn't perfect. You may still want a separate device with a keyboard for writing emails. And while there are GPS apps, I've not found any that word as well as a stand-alone GPS device. These issues aside, I'd buy the iPhone again if I didn't have one because of its versatility. It also works for blind and visually impaired people right out of the box.
About Daniel Saynuk
Daniel Saynuk is legally blind. He uses a guide dog to get around his hometown of Baltimore. David holds a BS in Business Administration and works as a business-to-business telemarketer. In his spare time, David enjoys swimming, reading, and conversation, yet still finds time to serve as volunteer recording secretary for his home owners community association.