Since the rapid updating of the IOS software from Apple changes to the accessible program called VoiceOver, functionality has improved and become more compatible to unique individual users. Most Blind people using VoiceOver can access the iPhone right out of the box by triple clicking the “Home” button which by default activates the VoiceOver program. With a few trials and errors, one can begin navigating and using the iPhone and it’s Apple apps. With finger gestures and taps the Apple iPhone becomes a reality and a affordable accessible tool for the blind. Internet, email, social networking and much more all in one hand held device.
Revolutionary? Yes, and the possibilities are still growing.
After using my iPhone for nearly 6 months I realized that I was not actually using all of the features built into this device to it’s maximum capabilities. I was ignoring the cumbersome internet and blaming the Apple browser, Safari, for the inconvenience. Actually, after I bought a MacBook Pro, I realized that he iPhone can operate much like the interface of the MacBook. I headed to the Settings app and started to explore.
Using a finger on the home screen and moving around, VoiceOver, if already activated by the triple clicking of the home button, will read aloud the applications available on the home page. When “Settings” is located, lift the finger and double tap anywhere on the screen. Settings will open and you can start investigating the options listed on this page. By swiping a finger from left to right VoiceOver will move down the list of options. Continue to the option titled, “General”. Double tap and a new page opens. Proceed to the option “Accessibility” located second to last in this list. Double tap and continue. Go to the option, “VoiceOver” and double tap. this page lets one adjust and tweak the VoiceOver settings to fit the individual needs of a user. I suggest taking little steps before overhauling the default settings. Experiencing VoiceOver defaults makes little tweaks something to be appreciated.
The first item on this page is to turn on or off VoiceOver. Continuing on, the basic gestures are described as you swipe through the list. the next option is, “VoiceOver Practice” and by double tapping this a new page pops up and one can practice and experiment with gestures. VoiceOver will tell you what commands each gesture represents. Give it a try and when done, locate the, “Done” button and double tap. The next option is, “Speak Hints” and I suggest having this option turned on. This gives a bit of feedback to the user when sitting on a location where VoiceOver can interact. The next option is, “Speaking Rate.” This allows one to increase the rate/speed of the Voiceover voice.When you hear VoiceOver say Speaking Rate you will hear the hints instruct you the gestures that will change the speed of VoiceOver. It will say to swipe up or down with one finger to adjust value.
The next option is, “Typing Feedback: which gives one the ability to choose the audible feedback while typing. For the keyboard layout being what it is on the iPhone, setting both key and words is necessary. If one has a bluetooth keyboard the other settings are listed just below on this page. I use a bluetooth keyboard now and then and I chose to have just the words echoed instead of every keystroke. After years of using the JAWS screen reader program, speed of typing, listening, and typing skills eliminates the need for every key to be echoed especially when typing confidence increases.
When satisfied with the settings double tapping the “VoiceOver Back” button located in the upper left heading area will return you to the VoiceOver Settings page.
The next couple of options are settings for pitch changing when a capital letter is addressed. These default settings are good; however, experimenting with the settings may peek your interests and discovery is always a good feeling.
You will find “Use Compact Voice” if and only if you have connected to Wi-Fi and had a power cord attached. When a new phone is first started up the language files are only down loaded through Wi-Fi while connected to a power cord. This takes about 2 hours rumor has it and once done, the “Compact voice” option becomes available. My preference is to use the Compact Voice as it has a more concise sound where as the other voice seems to slur and blend words together. then again, discovering these options will give you the options that suit you best.
the next option is for Braille. If you have or use a Braille input device or refreshable Braille device then you can double tap this option and set the settings as you prefer.
Remember that each time you go into a page for specific settings that you can come back to continue through the VoiceOver options by double tapping the Back button.
the next option is one of my favorite discoveries. The Rotor. The Rotor is a tool that allows one to navigate by a specific criteria such as on the web or in a text page. Moving through a web page can be very intimidating if you navigate word by word, and the Rotor gives you the ability to change just how you navigate. Double clicking this option brings you to a page that allows you to check a box on what options the Rotor can perform. One of the discoveries I was relieved to employ was the “headings: option. This allowed me to navigate web pages with just a swipe up or down and move between headings on that page. I recommend checking this option as by default, I believe, it is not checked.
One thing to remember is that the Rotor only employs specific options while on particular pages. Where as on this VoiceOver settings page the Rotor would not have a forms option as if turned on it would offer that option on a web page. This is done automatically behind the scenes but you will have to check the options you want to have available. Loading up too many options can be cumbersome when going through the Rotor seeking your option. I suggest small steps and experimenting with the changes as you make them rather than filling your Rotor with too many options as accessing them will become less efficient rather than a quick twist of the rotor.
the Rotor is activated by a two finger gesture such as the index finger and the thumb moving in a motion like turning a knob or dial. You can twist this gesture right or left to engage the option you desire. I highly recommend experimenting with your choices and tweaking the Rotor settings as experience will be the best teacher.
One other setting of the Rotor that I use is the “Volume” option. With just a one finger swipe up or down I can change any voice or sound volume. Note that if music is playing then the music volume level is change. If VoiceOver is speaking, then the VoiceOver volume is changed. This is sweet when you want the voiceOver volume level below the music level especially when between songs. No more VoiceOver blaring out a song title and surprising everyone in the room. You don’t toggle between volumes, you adjust the volumes when what you want adjusted is being heard. The last option I will address is the Language Rotor. this is where you can change the language option. remember, if you never hooked up to Wi-fi and had a power cord attached while connected then this option will not be listed.
Another setting that you will find on the Rotor is “Typing Mode”. Either you can drag your fingertip across the screen when typing and when you hear the letter you would just lift your finger and then move on to the next letter. This is called Standard Typing. i use the other option called Touch Typing. When I hear the letter I want to type then I just lift my fingertip a bit and it is inserted. I find this much faster but since it is an option, you decide what works best for you. These are just a few of the setting and options that I have found, used, discovered and employ. Like I said, 6 months into this VoiceOver world I found that I was only using the tip of the iceberg and now I am much more efficient than just 2 weeks ago. I am growing more and more aware of the potential of the iPhone’s VoiceOver. built into this software and look forward to discovering new features and enhancements.
You can follow Jeff Thompson on Twitter @KnownAsJeff