iPhone: the greatest thing to happen to the blind

2 minute read

To my great surprise, I picked it up immediately. 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.

“Can he get text messages on this?” she asked. “Well, yes, but it doesn’t read the message.” the salesman said. Mom’s hopes sunk, but mine didn’t, since I understood the software enough. “Well, let’s see, try it.” I suggested. She pulled out her phone, and sent me a text message. Within seconds, my phone alerted me, and said her name. I simply swiped my finger and it read her message: Hi Austin. She almost cried.

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.

The only proverbial worm in the golden Apple: iTunes.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

— Austin Seraphin (2010) My First Week with the iPhone

His experience is stunning. It tells us a few things: first, how a well designed technology can change people’s life; second, how well two radically different user interfaces exist inside the iPhone; third, how a touchscreen can be powerful even if you don’t have a… screen.

Oh yes, it tells also how even if you can’t see it, iTunes is still bad. ;)

Now I have to give a try to VoiceOver and test it myself to see how it works.

I joyfully look forward to the day when blind people finally catch on and realize that for $700, HALF the cost of JAWS for Windows, the most popular software used or rather pushed on the blind, they can get a fully functional computer that delivers a superior experience and comes with a superior screen reader with superior speech.

This quote is from a different article, a few months later with his first use of a new Mac. This part also raises a lot of questions on the current screen reader industry. And raises in me a bit of anger when I think that web developer’s are often blamed for poor blind usability, when the screen readers are such a crap.

(hat tip to Lawrence for the link)