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The iPhone: Without Sight and Hearing

The Back Story: How this manual came to reality

 

This book came about because I fell in love with Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. Yes, I can use both even though I am totally deaf and blind. You can, too. There is nothing special about me. I didn’t even own a braille display or even a screen reader before I got the iPhone 4 which was the first mobile device to totally integrate a screen reader and braille display support into their overall operating system, the iOS. At the AT&T store, the sales clerk really didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked him to set up my braille display. He turned on the bluetooth quickly after finding the Bluetooth on button in the general settings and then went to accessibility to turn on Voice Over and braille. The iPhone quickly and automatically discovered my RFB 18, and the clerk typed in the pairing numbers that my braille display manufacturer had given in the display’s manual. I couldn’t do this myself, but it was quick and easy for the clerk or any sighted person.

Then everything changed for me. I cried as I set up my email by myself and got my first email that I didn’t have to have someone read to me, and as I sent my first text message, and as I used the Notes app for simple face to face communication with the sales clerk, he typed to me, “Welcome back to the real world,” and I responded, “It is great to be back.”

Although Apple supports many braille displays and is always adding new ones, I will say that my first display was the American Publishing House for the Blind’s (APH) Refreshabraille 18. This is a perfect display for the iPhone. The little joystick made my ease into the screen reader/braille display world seamless as I had no clue what a braille chord command was or what those little buttons were for at first. The joystick was familiar to me, so I just started moving it and quickly discovered how to move from app to app. First, finding the email app and knowing my email address and ISP information by heart, I set it up and downloaded my email. Then I moved on to text messaging and sent my husband a text even though he was standing right next to me. Then I found a notes app and surmised that it must be a little word processing app similar to notepad on the computer. With that few minutes, I had joined the world again and would never look back.

After getting excited and telling everyone how I was using the iPhone and a braille display, I was asked by a couple of organizations and individuals to help others learn. I did my best to help in person or via email. Eventually, I was asked to write things down, so this little manual came to be a thought. I now hope that the desire to open the world to others without sight and hearing with the use of this integrated technology at a more affordable price will come to fruition through this manual.

 

The Reality: How will this manual help me?

You will find that it should be helpful regardless to which of the Apple supported braille displays you use or how much remaining sight or hearing you have. I am writing it from a totally deaf and blind point of view, hoping that if it can help someone totally without sight and sound that it can help anyone with vision or hearing loss. I am also adding a perspective that might surprise some people including the DeafBlind. Along with accessing the iPhone with just a braille display, I will also add techniques for using the touchscreen for better and faster navigation. The key to this is teaching a person to know their iPhone (and even iPad since they are so similar) like you do your own house. You know those mental maps you make to get around. Yes, even people who haven’t ever had sight before use mental maps of their own design to sort of “see” what is around them. I am using that concept sprinkled throughout to help a person really know and use their iPhone. With this way of “seeing” your iPhone, you will be prepared to easily use the touch screen in a lot of ways to get to what you need even faster than using chord commands at times. I don’t mean totally using a touch screen. Without true vision that would be silly, of course, but if you have an arsenal of navigation techniques, you can learn to move around efficiently and faster.

As far as braille displays go, they vary in features and even some commands. A list of the known braille commands for all supported displays is available in the appendix. The manual is assuming that you can use a braille display for your usual computer needs. I will mention specific chord commands if they are the same across all the devices, but otherwise, I will refer to them by a general chord command name such as advance or select or enter, etc. The directions will be given for navigation in more than one way when possible including a braille display’s linear or forward/back direction, touch screen placement described verbally, chord commands or braille display description, and touch screen gestures, when applicable.

So, let’s start this journey toward making the world accessible to you. It should be a great ride, and one you will never regret. Open yourself to the possibilities. All you need is an iPhone right out of the box and your braille display to gain the world through the iPhone without sight or hearing.

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