In this day and age, cell phones are everywhere. With some people it has become an addiction, and for others like me it is a life line for navigating cities, reading instruction manuals, or something as simple as indicating whether or not the light is on in our bedroom.
My preferred phone is Apple’s iPhone. It has numerous accessibility features and functions built in at no extra charge. This is a life saver. On other platforms having a screen reading program can cost upwards of $1000. That is just for the software, now add in the cost of a computer or phone that can run it efficiently and not become overwhelmed with running a few programs on top of the screen reader.
Apple’s screen reader is called Voiceover and the voice they have created for it is called Alex.
Alex has a very natural sounding voice, that given the right sentence structure, will actually take breaths while speaking. This feature commonly gets confused with SIRI but is very different.
To experience voiceover for yourself read on and take a few notes just in case, it’s easy but I’ve heard of some people panicking when they don’t know how to turn it off.
Now get your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch in your hand. You have 2 methods of turning on voiceover. We’ll start with the easiest way to turn it off and on. All you have to do is ask Siri “turn on voiceover” and voila your phone should say “Voiceover On.” This will change all of your gestures, but don’t fret just ask Siri again “Turn off Voiceover” it will respond “voiceover off”.
If you want to get a little more hands-on with it, go to: Settings>General>Accessibility>Voiceover. Tap the on button and it will notify you that gestures will change. To interact with something touch the icon on the screen and give it a double tap or leave your finger on the icon and touch the screen with another finger. In the menu there will be a voiceover practice area where you can double tap, and then experiment with any gestures you can think of and see if it actually does something for voiceover.
to type with the on-screen keyboard, you do the same gestures for selecting an icon. Personally, I feel I type to slow and make too many errors with the on-screen keyboard. So, my preferred method of input is to use a Bluetooth keyboard. this is a whole different beast for key commands which we will get into on another post, but with this method I can leave my phone in my pocket and just have a keyboard and a set of headphones and type to my heart’s content.
The majority of the apps that Apple makes are completely accessible, except the ones that require vision for its main functionality. but it makes it possible for us to send text messages, check weather conditions, or for the savvy investors, check the stocks app. Playing games in the past was kind of a hit or miss adventure, but some developers have made games that have adapted functionalities made specially for voiceover users. My two favorite games to play are: A Dark Room, and The ensign. they are made by the same developer and there is an accessibility mode that can be enabled for non-sighted users, or the native mode for sighted users. I’m not going to spoil the fun, but I stayed up all night when I first discovered the game, because I was that excited to finally have something to play after several years.
Some say technology is invading our lives on several fronts, but in some cases, I think it is totally necessary for growth and unleashing potential. Think about it, if we didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be reading this post, because I wouldn’t be able to publish it on my own. As with all things, moderation is key, and if you keep reading this post, you won’t be able to try voiceover out for yourself. Enjoy the glimpse into the world of screen readers, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask and please, share your experience with me.