The day before CSUN, I opted to use my AT&T upgrade to get an iPhone.  As I have previously posted, I had played with a friend’s iPhone before, only for a few minutes and found it impossible to use.  However, after talking to other blind users of the product who were successful and raved about it, I decided to take a risk.  After all, I have 30 days from the purchase date to return it, so why not?  I was actually nervous, not a normal reaction for me when I get a new peace of technology.  I had one night to become familiar enough with it to make and answer calls, knowing I would need my cell phone quite a bit in San Diego.  I got a few helpful beginning tips from some visually impaired friends who had been using their units for quite some time.  I also did some research on Apple’s site to learn all about iPhone’s accessibility features.  While experimenting, I called several people in my contacts list by accident, sent a few blank or confusing text messages and somehow uninstalled the Voice-over screen reader and had to reset it up through iTunes.  Still, I persevered, eager to learn and overcome the challenges I was presented with.  Slowly, as time passed, my trepidation faded and I actually became very excited about all of the possibilities of the iPhone!

The first and most useful bits of information were the 1 and 2 finger double taps.  These are imperative gestures when using the iPhone with voiceover turned on, because nothing will activate unless you double tap with 1 finger.  From what I understand, Voice-over creates a little box that visually moves to each icon, number, letter, or button that you touch on the screen.  Whatever element that little box is around will be activated with a 1 finger double tap, which can be performed anywhere on the screen.  The 2 finger double tap is used when answering and ending a call (VERY IMPORTANT,) as well as playing and pausing music in the iPod.  You can perform this action anywhere on the screen in these two scenarios.

Other handy features include but are not limited to:

  • The ability to practice gestures and learn what they do in training mode.
  • Call people in your contacts or dial numbers with the built in voice control.
  • Set up tripple click home toggle to turn Voice-over on and off.
  • 2 finger swipe up to read the entire screen.
  • Moving or flicking 1 finger left and right to navigate through icons and menus.

Once I knew these little tricks, I could do anything and go anywhere on the iPhone!  I could even go to iTunes and download applications, most of which worked very well with Voice-over.  A whole new world of possibilities was suddenly available to me!  Buyer’s remorse?  No way!

At CSUN, I attended some very helpful and informative classes referencing the iPhone and available apps to help people with disabilities.  One of the first sessions was that on an app called Proloquo2go, which is Latin for, “speak out loud.”  I had heard a bit about this some time ago from one of our blog readers, but this session detailed just what the app does and how it has helped so many people, who have previously been unable to simply communicate with their peers, teachers and family members.  The application uses a combination of pictures and text entry, allowing the user to customize it to fit their needs.  Tears literally filled my eyes when they showed Proloquo2go in action, as it enabled a young girl to interact with her friends and family.  Suddenly, she was able to easily express her thoughts and desires, her silence had been broken.  Prior to this app, there have been assistive technologies that do the same things, but this is the first of its kind that will run on a mainstream consumer device, which is stylish and everyone recognizes it as something “cool.”  What a difference it has already made in the lives of so many!  Check out the Assistive Technology Forum for information about the app itself, as well as any accompanying technologies you may need to get started.

Right after that session, I spent the next hour hearing iPhone and Voice-over in action.  I was writing notes like crazy and it took great effort on my part to resist the urge to pull out my own iPhone and try the things that were being demonstrated.  I was amazed at everything it was able to do, noting that there are very few barriers preventing me from using the available features of this little technology.  Most applications work pretty well, Voice-over can handle them if they are developed correctly, and there are accessibility guidelines the makers of the apps can use as part of their design.  I left that session with a wealth of information and things to try on my own.  Before leaving however, I talked to the representatives that were there from Apple, congratulating them on making such great strides in accessibility.  When large companies like them take the time and effort to include everyone in their product development considerations, it really brings home just how far we have come in accessibility education.  I’m not saying there isn’t still plenty more work to be done, but the awareness is spreading and really making a difference!

There were other sessions involving iPhones and iPods throughout the CSUN Conference, and there will no doubt be even more like them next year as the popularity of these devices continues to grow.  For myself, I am really happy with the product and my decision to give it a try.  I am not looking back, only forward as new and exciting possibilities arise with the iPhone!