5 ways my phone overcomes the fact I’m blind

Current Skillstep student, 22 year old Rhys, has a rare congenital condition called septo-optic dysplasia (SOD), in which the optic nerve is under developed. The condition has meant that he started losing his sight as a small child and is today left with just 10% vision.

He is an avid smartphone user and so we asked him to share which apps and iPhone features he uses on a daily basis. He was only too happy to oblige...

1. Apple Magnifier 

This is an amazing feature hidden away in the Accessibility Setting on the iPhone and iPad (running iOS 10 and later).  The Magnifier is a visual accessibility feature that essentially turns your apple iOS device into an electronic magnifier. It is loaded with features that allow you to not only make the text or object bigger, but will also allow you to change the contrast, say white text on a black background or black text on a yellow background. Oh, and there is even a ‘freeze  frame’ mode, pretty cool! The latest iPhone has a 4k camera so the quality of the image will be sharper for iPhone 7 and above.

To turn on the magnifier go to ‘Settings – General – Accessibility – Vision – Magnifier’ and activate the Magnifier button. Once enabled, the magnifier can be activated using the accessibility shortcut (triple clicking the home button!) so it is quick and easy to turn on when you need it.

iPhone magnifier feature
Image of iPhone showing Apple speech

2. Apple Speech

This again, is found in the Accessibility Setting on the iPhone and iPad but is only available on iOS 9 and after. The Speech feature is a sophisticated text to speech converter. In other words, it reads what’s on the screen and it reads it pretty well! I really rely in this feature.

I recently demonstrated it to a young man with severe dyslexia – he thought it was just amazing – life changing even. It can also be used to read iBook’s while using other apps if you swipe down while in a book. It will either read to the end of the book or stop at the next blank page. Pretty impressive for a freebie!

To turn on Speech go to ‘Settings – General – Accessibility – Vision – Speech’ and activate the ‘Speak Selection’ and ‘Speak Screen’ buttons. Once enabled you can activate it by swiping two fingers down from the top of the screen and it will read whatever it can see, whether that’s a text message, email or news article.

Whilst running a small menu will appear allowing you to control the speed of the speech and to pause, play fast forward and rewind.

3. Aipoly Vision

AiPoly Vision is a free app that uses artificial intelligence to take over the camera on your phone, make sense of what it sees and describe it out loud. It can identify several hundred objects right from the start and can do so three times a second. No need to snap pictures, the app will constantly see and think.

The free version comes with colour identification and with a few thousand objects already stored. For a monthly subscription of £4.99 you get access to thousands more objects in their database, as well as unlocking other features, including text to speech and navigation. Henshaws have explored it in more detail in this video.

iPhone screen using Aipoly

4. Voice Dream Reader

Voice Dream Reader is a full daisy (Digital Accessible Information System) player that can read a wide range of formats including pdf and mp3 files. It allows you to jump to chapters in books if they are labelled correctly, save web pages to read later and there are a wide range of voices you can purchase from Ivana and other speech synthesiser providers.

The app is good if you have enough sight to access the screen because you can follow a book and view images. The voice dream reader app has all the generic features of a standard daisy player but with a lot more to offer so check it out. For more information check out the Voice Dream website.

5. Apple Home Kit

Ah, the age old problem of losing the remote. Most of us have been there and even more often if you have little or no sight! There are a number of apps that can replace your remote if you have a smart TV. If you have an iPhone you can take this further with the ‘home kit’ app. If you have Wi-Fi, TV or ‘smart’ lighting systems you can control them all with Siri using apple home. I can turn off my lights with my phone, control the TV and heating and soon I will even be able to lock the door with a digital lock. The home app comes pre-installed on your Apple device and is accessible with Voiceover!

I hope this little insight in to a day in the life of my phone has inspired more people to open up the opportunities a smart phone brings.

If you want to open up the potential of your phone then get in touch on 0300 222 5555. You can also attend our monthly Tech Talk group in Manchester, Liverpool or Oldham.

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