Since the introduction of Smart Technology (Smart Phones and Tablets in particular), seescape has been one of the leading charities assisting and training people with a visual impairment to use these products.

How can a visually impaired person use one of these devices?

The answer is, Apple provide accessibility features in all their products which can be used by people with a range of disabilities including sight loss, hearing loss, dexterity issues etc. Companies who use the Android platform such as Google, Samsung and Amazon also have a range of similar built-in accessibility features.

There are a range of accessibility features which can be found on any device made by these companies. Whether you use products such as iPhones, iPads, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy or Amazon Fire, these features are right at your fingertips and can be enabled as soon as you switch your device on for the first time. Even better, they are all free of charge! The main accessibility features provided for visually impaired people are VoiceOver for Apple, TalkBack (Google) and Voice View (Amazon) for people who are Severely Sight Impaired.

A range of magnification and colour inversion options for those who have some useful vision can also be found. When accessibility features are enabled, the device will convey information about any item on the screen. Text messages, emails, notifications and alerts can also be accessed in real-time as soon as they appear. Once mastered, a visually impaired person can use their preferred device just as well as a sighted person. The only thing that changes is the way you interact with the screen. Neither the layouts of the screens nor the functions of the device are affected in any way.

Why is the issue of accessibility in these devices so important?

  1. The accessibility features mean that visually impaired people have access to the same products and services as sighted people.
  2. It means the devices listed above are inclusive for all. From a social aspect (communication, education, work or everyday life), this is crucial. The barriers which exist between visually impaired people and the sighted world are being broken down more and more with each product or software development the companies, as well as third party app developers, introduce to the market. In short it means that visually impaired people are an equal part of society more than ever before and are no different from anyone else.For example, in education, smart phones and tablets are being used to perform schoolwork. In the workplace, smart technology is used to perform everyday tasks such as diary management, read and respond to emails, perform research etc., without the need to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on specialist or adaptive software to suit these purposes. In everyday life, communication is also made easier with friends, family or carers through FaceTime, Skype, email or even social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of these companies as well as in other major corporations such as Microsoft, independence is increased, and visually impaired people have more control over their daily lives because of third party apps which have been designed for the sole benefit of visually impaired people. These apps range from navigation and travel apps to bar code reading apps for food products. You can now even use a third-party app to read your mail, control your heating or do your own online banking, shopping etc.

However, it’s not only the area of phones and tablets which are changing the lives of people with a visual impairment. Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home have taken accessibility to a whole new level.

Virtual Assistants such as Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant which respond to audible commands are now built-in and come as standard in our phones, tablets and computers and are an absolute game changer for people with a visual impairment.

These virtual assistants are fully controlled using voice activation commands and allow the user to accomplish everyday tasks such as:

Get date time and weather information, setting alarms timers and reminders, listening to radio and news, create shopping lists, listen to audiobooks, play games, ask factual questions etc. They can be used by anyone regardless of their technology skills. Another huge advantage is that you have instant access to public transport timetables and information relating to departure and arrival times for options such as buses and trains. This means that a lot of the stress in planning a journey, finding the correct travel information etc. is accessible if you have a visual impairment, as you are given the information as soon as you request it via a spoken command.

WeWalk – The Perfect Pairing for Ultimate Visually Impaired Mobility

WeWALK acts as a new handle when attached to any long cane and was designed to feel natural, allowing for normal cane usage. When walking, WeWALK vibrates to inform you of low-hanging obstacles that the bottom of a cane may typically miss, such as a sign or tree branch. Additionally, pair your cane to the WeWALK app on your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth to make use of WeWALK’s smart features.

The WeWALK Smartphone App

The WeWALK App can be downloaded for iOS and Android phones and requires a premium subscription. We would like everyone in the visually impaired community and beyond to try it. Get a revolutionary and accessible navigation experience instantly by downloading the WeWALK App today!

For further information or a demonstration with the Wewalk cane please contact seescape.

Click here to read Stuart’s review of the cane.

With relevant ongoing support and training from our staff, clients with varying degrees of sight impairments now have increased independence in almost all areas of their lives thanks to this accessible technology.

seescape are also able to train individuals or groups working within the sight loss sector on smart technology.

To find out more how we can help with your requirements please contact stuart.beveridge@seescape.org.uk or call 01592 644979.

Photo of WeWalk Cane with its box

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