The iPhone is quite possibly the most adopted device ever, for people with vision loss. This is because it is accessible out-of-the-box, even if you can’t see the screen at all. If there is one good reason to use an iPhone, there are a hundred good reasons. Here are the top 10.
1. Live accessibility support is always available.
Apple has an Accessibility Support line that you can reach at 877-204-3930. This line is dedicated to addressing the needs of customers with visual, hearing, motor and learning impairments. Don’t go at it alone, call for help 24/7.
2. VoiceOver makes it possible to use the iPhone even if you can’t see the screen.
VoiceOver is the intuitively designed, gesture-based screen reader that enables people with low vision or total blindness to fully access the iPhone. Touch or drag your finger around the screen and VoiceOver tells you what’s there. Swipe left or right to move from one element to the next. Double-tap to activate a link. VoiceOver is speech output; you do not speak to it, it speaks to you. Click for a list of VoiceOver Gestures.
3. Siri is ready to follow your voice commands.
Siri, your virtual assistant, will send messages, place calls, schedule a meeting, and even turn VoiceOver on and off. And because Siri is integrated with VoiceOver, you can ask a question and hear the answer spoken out loud. Siri is interactive; you speak and Siri responds. Learn more about 10 things Siri will do for you.
4. Dictation turns your speech to text.
Whenever there is a keyboard, there is the option to dictate instead of typing. Tap the microphone key (located left of the spacebar in in the lower right corner) and speak. Your words are converted to text. Get started with this step-by-step walkthrough. Now you too can be a dictator!
5. Speak Screen reads to you upon request.
Turn on Speak Screen in Accessibility Settings, under the Speech heading. Once turned on, swipe down with 2 fingers or ask Siri to “Speak Screen” and the page will be read to you aloud. A panel will appear onscreen should you need to adjust voice speed, go back, pause, go forward or stop.
6. Make the screen easier to see.
In Accessibility Settings, adjust screen brightness and invert colors, make text larger, make text bold. On iPhone Plus, the larger screen also accommodates Zoom View for larger icons and controls.
7. Zoom in for a closer look.
Turn on the Zoom feature on in Accessibility Settings and use this built-in screen magnifier to Zoom in up to 15X. Use 3 fingers on the screen to double tap and activate, then swipe up with 3 fingers to reach desired magnification and to move the screen around.
8. The camera turns into a magnifier with light.
Turn on the Magnifier in Accessibility Settings and the iPhone’s camera will increase the size of anything you point it at, up to 15x. See details more clearly, and use the flash to light the object.
9. Safari Reader makes web pages easier to read.
When the Reader icon (4 stacked bars) is available for an article, you will find it at the far left in Safari’s browser address bar. If available, click the icon to miraculously remove the clutter and get straight down to easier-to-read text.
10. Spoken feedback and image recognition assist your photography.
Using VoiceOver, the camera will say how many faces and where they are in the frame. Hear where and when the photos were taken, and tap the image with 3 fingers to hear image description. In iOS 11, VoiceOver even reads text in a photo or screenshot.
Originally published on May 17, 2017 and updated on August 22, 2018.
About the Author
Dorrie Rush is a Visual Accessibility Expert and progressive proponent for Universal Access and Inclusive Design. She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.