By Curtis Chong
In the summer of 2009, almost two years ago, Apple announced that its iPhone (a smart phone operated primarily through a touch screen) would be equipped with the VoiceOver program, software designed to allow the iPhone to be operated without sight. While many of my blind friends and colleagues began switching to the iPhone with more than a little enthusiasm, I refused to be converted. I was content to “limp along” with my accessible Nokia phone.
I heard about the many “apps” that a person could install and run on the iPhone–apps that could play your favorite music, apps that could help you to find an empty table at a nearby restaurant, apps that would let you watch movie trailers, apps that would tell you how to travel to a specific address, and apps that were nothing more than interesting and time-wasting games.
I reasoned I really didn’t want to have to use the iTunes program on my Windows computer, which I understood to be a requirement for anything dealing with the iPhone.
Then, early this year, I heard a two-part podcast demonstrating how easy the iTunes program was to operate with my JAWS for Windows screen-reading software. This did a lot to eliminate my anxiety about using the iTunes program. Also, someone demonstrated for me that with an app called the Money Reader, it was a snap to identify paper currency with the iPhone.
So, in late March, I took the plunge and upgraded to the iPhone.
Before taking the plunge, however, I spent $18 and purchased a book from the National Braille Press called Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users. This book, co-authored by two experienced blind iPhone users, provided me with a lot of extremely useful information–so much so, in fact, that my conversion to the iPhone was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
I also took the plunge and spent some money to purchase J-Tunes, a set of JAWS scripts, which makes the iTunes program much simpler to use in the Windows environment (I was compelled to take this latter step because Apple released a newer version of iTunes that did not work as well with JAWS as the earlier version).
All in all, it took me about a week to feel truly comfortable with the iPhone. Today, I use the iPhone almost as efficiently as I used my old Nokia phone. The one thing that I still have a little trouble doing is interacting with the voicemail systems I use at work and at home. However, this inefficiency is more than made up by the few but wonderful apps I am using today.
Unlike many iPhone users, I do not plan to purchase or acquire hundreds of apps. Instead, I will be content to buy or acquire only those apps in which I am really interested–apps such as the Money Reader or the Pandora Radio app.