We are often asked for guidance on buying an iPhone for the first time. The initial move from a feature or flip phone, or from an Android phone to an iPhone requires personalized setup, and a mix of patience and practice to adjust. The reason for switching, in this case, is the advanced accessibility iPhone offers for people with visual impairments or blindness.
The real initial setup of an iPhone only has to happen once. Next time you upgrade your iPhone, the data, apps and settings will transfer from iCloud and fill the new phone with all your stuff. This way it’s totally familiar and there’s no need to start the whole process over again with each new model.
At The Apple Store:
What You Need to Know
The Apple Store is the best place to buy the iPhone and get it set up. It is not always so easy to get your phone set up at a mobile retail store, especially when it involves accessibility. At the Apple Store, there is a process for “Personal Setup,” and they know this phone intimately.
- iPhone model: Newer models are always best for the long term. Currently, these are iPhone XS, XR, or XS Max. The best model for you may be dependent on screen size, now ranging from 5.8” to 6.5”. Try them in the store, ask your sales specialist to show you larger text and contrast settings to determine whether they enhance your ability to read.
- iPhone storage size: The phones come in different storage sizes. For new users, the smallest, which is now 64GB, should suffice. If you are planning to access a large photo or music library, you may want to consider more space.
- VoiceOver: For those of us unable to read the screen comfortably in any text or screen size, option 2 is learning to use VoiceOver, iPhone’s full-function screen reader. This does add to the learning curve, but totally worth the work! More on this from OE: Let iPhone’s VoiceOver Do The Reading
- Older iPhone models: are available at a reduced price, but keep in mind the iPhone X models have eliminated the home button, so if you’re just getting started you won’t miss that at all.
- Apple Care Plus: Consider Apple Care Plus for extended warranty and replacement. This can be a good thing to have, just in case.
- Apple ID and iCloud: If you already have an Apple ID and iCloud account, be prepared to provide the username and password. If not, they will be created at setup. (To lessen any potential confusion, always best to make the Apple ID and iCloud accounts the same username & password.)
- Email password: Your email address and password are also required to set the Mail app, don’t forget.
At Personal Setup:
What You Need To Do
- Set larger text, bold text, display accommodations, increase contrast (as needed)
- Turn on VoiceOver or Speak Screen (if needed)
- Transfer Contacts from previous phone (if possible)
- Set A Passcode Lock and Face ID (or don’t, it’s easier without)
- Set Auto-Lock for 5 minutes so the screen doesn’t keep locking as you are learning
- Set up “Hey Siri”
- Set up Voice Mail
- Set up your email
- Make a few calls right away from the Apple Store so you know how to use the phone, then go right home and practice making calls, answering calls, ending calls
Here Are The Keys
The key to success is repetition. So keep in mind, if you repeat an action 25 – 30 times, it gets committed to muscle memory, and then you just begin doing it automatically. This is not a matter of technical ability, it’s simply perseverance. Everyone, regardless of visual acuity, experiences the learning curve.
For VoiceOver users, the curve is a bit steeper, but (take it from one who knows) the conquest is even sweeter! You’ll need to begin practicing the VoiceOver gestures that navigate the screen. Again, it’s all about practice, the more you touch the screen the better you become. More on this on from an OE Patients article, VoiceOver Gestures.
Apple Accessibility Support Phone Line: (877-204-3930) is an invaluable learning tool. A dedicated line for customers with visual, hearing, motor and learning impairments, available 24/7. Not only will they answer your questions and resolve your issues, they will also provide tutorials on the use of apps. Don’t be shy, they want to hear from you. If you’re stuck…call them. If you want to learn something new…call them. There’s no limit.
Here are some good topics to start with:
- Get familiar with Phone app: Recent calls, Contacts, Voice Mail
- Use Siri to make a call by name or phone number
- Learn to save phone numbers and emails to Contacts
- Find the ways Siri can work best for you…here are 10 Things Siri Will Do If You Ask
- Learn to text
- Learn to send and receive email
- Learn to use Dictate key instead of typing… Are You A Dictator?
Practice is a must – put in an hour a day getting comfortable.
Once you’re phoning, emailing and texting with confidence, you’re ready to move on and master more apps of your choosing. The apps you use every day will become ingrained and after a while, you won’t even have to think about it.
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.