It’s been two months since I received an iPad as a gift, and I’m starting to feel comfortable using it on a day-to-day basis. I’ve already discussed the accessibility features of the iPad, but it I thought it would be helpful to give you an idea of what it’s like using an iPad as a visually impaired person.
Calendar Even with a jumbo calendar nailed to my kitchen door, it’s been tough to keep up to date, what with appointments always changing and the lack of space per day when you use a thick black marker. The iPad Calendar has absolutely helped me gain control of my chaotic life so I can be at the right place at the right time with all the right stuff.
Photos and Videos Photos and videos are a pleasure to look at on my iPad. I took a Flip video of my daughter singing “Party in the USA” and transferred it to the iPad. While out to lunch I shared it with my visually impaired sister, and used Zoom to see my daughters face more clearly.
Email Using the iPad to listen to emails when I’m not at home works for me. I can write an email using the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. VoiceOver echoes the characters to me so I can be sure to type the correct letters.
Safari I was reluctant to browse the web on the iPad because I’m not used to using such a small screen with only speech and no magnification. It would be cumbersome to browse the Internet at 5-times magnification on the iPad, so I knew I would need to rely on VoiceOver. But I forced myself to try, and I was pleasantly surprised. I now read the local newspaper while on my patio.
Contacts Reading my old, hand-written address book is impossible for me. All my contacts were transferred to the iPad and are accessible from several apps.
Maps I pride myself in being a good navigator, and a bit of a map-a-holic. Before a trip, I download a map and directions. During the trip, I use VoiceOver to read the directions, and use Zoom when I want to look at a particular intersection.
GoToMeeting With this free app, I can attend a company meeting no matter where I am. I can see and hear everything right on my iPad. I use Zoom to magnify the slide presentation, which works better than sitting in a hot stuffy room where I can’t see the slide presentation anyways.
iBooks This app is also free from the iTunes store and allows you to read and buy books. The largest font size is about ¼-inch high. If I turn on White on Black, I can decipher the text, but not easily. VoiceOver can continuously read the book, but unlike the Kindle and Nook, the text cannot be comfortably read outdoors on the iPad’s screen.
Dragon Dictation With Nuance’s Dragon Dictation app, you can speak aloud and the spoken text appears on screen. It’s quite accurate, but the app itself is not very accessible. For instance, VoiceOver will not read the spoken text unless it is placed in an email, and the buttons within the app are not labeled correctly for VoiceOver.
But remember, I am lucky enough to see the screen somewhat – when one of the iPad Accessibility features has shortcomings, I can switch to the other. For two months I have been using the iPad and learning as I go. Each app has its own benefits, and some are more visually impaired friendly than others. But with the accessibility push in society today, I’m hoping we’ll see more accessible apps showing up in the iTunes store soon.