How to use a phone if you’re blind or visually impaired

I originally wrote about an app coined “BlindShell” back in 2015, which was a smartphone app for individuals with visual impairments. The developers behind this app now offer an accessible cellphone: the BlindShell Classic. The BlindShell Classic is a phone developed specifically for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

According to the developer’s website, the BlindShell Classic is the “most accessible cell phone for people who are blind or have visual impairments.” Unlike most smartphones on the market today, this one features a physical keyboard making it more user-friendly. The phone’s physical keyboard consists of large, tactile buttons.

How to use a phone if you're blind or visually impaired

The BlindShell Classic also has a large digital display screen that provides visual feedback in a “large, bold, customizable font.” In addition to using its physical keypad, users also have the choice to operate the phone with their voice!

Another cool feature is the phone’s Object Tagging application. Users simply take pictures of objects using the phone’s built-in camera. It uses QR technology to help users distinguish between objects within seconds!

Overview of the BlindShell Classic Smartphone:

  • Accessible mobile phone for individuals who are blind or have visual impairments
  • There is a large LCD screen with a keypad below it consisting of large, tactile buttons
  • Basic phone functions include calling, one-touch speed dials, SMS texts, email, notes, alarm, timer, and a calendar
  • Other available functions include:
    • Object tagging
    • MP3 player
    • FM radio
    • YouTube
    • SOS Button
    • And much more
  • Users can press the physical SOS button (for 3 seconds) if they need help from their emergency contact
    • This emergency contact is customizable
  • More than 30 applications and functions built-in to the smartphone
  • Users can control the phone with their voice using simple commands
    • Please note this feature requires an internet connection
    • Users can dictate texts, emails, notes, and more
  • Feedback is provided by a built-in synthetic voice, vibrations, and additional signals
  • Instead of charging the phone with a standard charging cable, this phone comes with a Charging Cradle (dock) which you simply place your phone on to charge
  • Available in red or black

Check out BlindShell’s website to learn more!

Click here to view the phone’s user manual.

This guide describes the most popular accessibility features of Windows and Microsoft Office. It also covers assistive technology products for Windows and Microsoft Office that are designed for people who are blind or low vision. For a more complete overview download the full guide.

If you have questions related to accessibility, contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk. This team can help you use many popular assistive technologies with support in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language (ASL).

If you’re a government, commercial, or enterprise user, see Accessibility support for enterprise.
To troubleshoot common issues and learn more about some of our accessibility features, including some features covered in this guide, check out the Accessibility playlist on the Microsoft Customer Support YouTube channel.

In this guide:

Use Narrator and Cortana to install Windows 10

This section shows how you can use speech from Narrator and Cortana to guide you through both the Windows installation and setting up your computer.

Installing Windows with Narrator

As soon as you start your computer, you can use Narrator to install Windows.

Press Ctrl + Windows Logo Key + Enter to launch Narrator.

Choose your language and time settings, then select Install now

In Activate Windows, enter your product key.

Select the I accept the license terms check box.

Choose either Upgrade or Custom installation.

Activate Cortana to help set up Windows

After installing Windows, you can activate Cortana to help with the out-of-box experience.

Choose a Network

Enter your Microsoft account info. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, select No account? Create One!

Select either Customize or Use Express Settings

Choose Yes to make Cortana your personal assistant.

Set up accessibility options in Windows 10

Ease of Access lets you set up accessibility settings and programs available in Windows.

Turn on Ease of Access options

In Windows, you can access commonly used accessibility options right from the sign-in screen. Press the Windows Logo Key + U to open theEase of Access settings.

To open Ease of Access settings on a touchscreen device, swipe in from the right edge of the screen and select All Settings > Ease of Access.

Hear text read aloud with Narrator

Narrator is the built-in screen reader that reads text on your screen aloud and describes events, such as notifications or calendar appointments. To start or stop Narrator, press Ctrl + Windows Logo Key + Enter. On Windows Mobile devices, press Windows Logo Key + Volume Up key to toggle Narrator on/off. To open Narrator settings, press Ctrl + Windows Logo Key + N

Narrator can jump between headings and landmarks in apps. To enable scan mode, press Caps Lock + Space then use the following keyboard shortcuts:

Buttons: Press B/Shift + B

Combo box: Press C/ Shift + C

Landmarks:Press D/Shift + D

Edit field: Press E/Shift + E

Form field: Press F/Shift + F

Headings: Press H/Shift + H

Item: Press I/Shift + I

Link: Press K/Shift + K

Paragraph: Press P/Shift + P

Radio Button: Press R/Shift + R

Table: Press T/Shift + T

Check Box: Press X/Shift + X

Move between Heading Levels: Press 1 to 9 or Shift/1-9

Use Magnifier to see items on the screen

Magnifier is a tool that enlarges your screen, so you can see words and images better. You can magnify the entire screen or just a part of it and move the magnifier where you want it on your desktop. Magnifier can also smooth edges of images and text when it’s zoomed in.

Other keyboard shortcuts:

Open Magnifier settings: Press Ctrl + Windows Logo Key + M

Turn on Magnifier and Zoom in: Press Windows Logo Key + Plus sign ( +)

Zoom out: Press Windows Logo Key + Minus sign ( –)

Exit Magnifier: Press Windows Logo Key + Esc

Improve visibility with high contrast

High contrast increases the color contrast between the foreground and background on your screen, making text and images more distinct and easier to identify. To turn on high contrast, press left Alt + left Shift + Print Screen.

You can choose different themes in high contrast settings. Press the Windows Logo Key + U , then select High contrast. Choose a high contrast theme from the drop-down menu and select Apply

Change the size of text, apps, and other items

If text and other items on the desktop are too small, you can make them larger without changing the screen resolution or turning on Magnifier.

To change the sizes:

Open Settingsby pressing Windows Logo Key + I

Select System > Display

Under Change the size of text, apps, and other items, select the size that you want.

Use accessibility features in Office

Microsoft Office comes with built-in accessibility features designed for people who are blind or low vision. You can also customize options in Office to meet your individual vision needs and preferences.

Ease of Access options in Office

You can customize common accessibility settings within the Ease of Access options in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

To find the Ease of Access options:

Open an Office application.

Select File > Options > Ease of Access

Customize your accessibility options.

Zoom in or out of documents

You can increase the size of pages in Word documents, PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets and other documents in Office.

To quickly zoom in or out, press Ctrl + Mouse Wheel Button Up/Down

Or, you can use the slider on the status bar to zoom in and out. You can also specify the Zoom from the View tab on the Ribbon. ­­

Use Learning Tools in Word

Learning Tools is available in the Microsoft 365 version of Microsoft Word.

To use Learning Tools in Word 2016:

Open any Microsoft Word document.

On the Viewtab, in the Immersive section, select Learning Tools

How can you dial a telephone number on a completely smooth screen you cannot see? How can you type a message without embossed keys? At first glance, the smartphone should be synonymous with inaccessibility for blind people. And yet, it has become an indispensable companion for many of them: a trove of functions that pushes the boundaries of their independence.

How Can a Person with Vision Loss Use a Smartphone?

With the 2009 launch of its iPhone 3GS, Apple incorporated a screen reader called VoiceOver into its famous smartphone. Google quickly followed suit by adding TalkBack to Android.

To compensate for the lack of buttons, the principle is to touch or swipe the screen with a finger to hear aloud the item displayed on screen. Next, a specific gesture produces interactions with that item. The gestures are specific to each operating system (iOS or Android).

For people whose eyesight still allows them to read the screen, zoom options along with visual contrast and color settings improve their reading comfort.

As for entering text, the manufacturers have thought of everything. Options like virtual talking keyboard, dictation and connection to a regular or braille keyboard via Bluetooth are all available. The iPhone screen even converts into an actual braille keyboard for unrivaled quick typing.

And finally, those with visual impairment are often very fond of voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant which allow them to avoid many complicated hand movements.

Which Smartphones Are Most Used by Blind People?

According to the results of the Screen Reader User Survey #7, 88% of people with impaired vision questioned use a screen reader on their cellphone. Of those, 69% use VoiceOver and 29.5% TalkBack. Apple’s success can be explained by both VoiceOver’s effectiveness and the number of apps developed on its platform that are made specifically for visually impaired people.

What Have Smartphones Changed in the Life of Blind and Visually Impaired People?

Quite simply, the vast majority of everyday actions that needed the help of a third person a few years ago can now be done on the phone.

There is one qualification, however. Mastering a smartphone when you cannot see anything or next to nothing is no simple task. It takes time, patience and dexterity. This is why the visually impaired, especially older people, do not all have access to this technological wonder. Yet, for the adept, the list of possibilities is long. They can obviously make phone calls or send messages (SMS or email), as well as manage their schedule and bank accounts, shop, read emails thanks to character recognition, book transportation or tickets to a show, talk on social media, read e-books, listen to music or podcasts, watch videos, play audio descriptions to TV shows or movies, read subtitles of a foreign film, use maps and calculate a journey on foot or by public transport, set off audio beacons, and even get help via a video call.

A Focus on Some Popular Apps for Visually Impaired People

The ability to travel is without doubt a principal issue for people who have lost their sight. Although GPS is still not precise enough to allow a person to find the entrance to a store, a bus stop or subway station without seeing, it is extremely useful to know where they are and in which direction they are going. Thus, people with visual impairments gladly use GPS apps for the general public like M aps or Google Maps . In addition to real-time directions, these apps offer the ability to prepare for a journey by going over the different stages from the comfort of their living room. Thinking ahead about a journey to an unfamiliar place is a very important step, especially since noise and the sense of vulnerability felt by some people with a visual impairment put them off from using their smartphone outside. Other transport apps, like Moovit and Transit , are also greatly welcomed. Thanks to GPS tracking, these apps can also alert a person that they are nearing their stop on a bus, train or tram—an invaluable option when announcements are not in service.

Other applications using GPS tracking have been developed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. BlindSquare, despite being expensive, is without doubt the most popular of them. However, it suffers from competition from Microsoft’s free application Soundscape. These apps describe surroundings and give alerts to intersections and nearby points of interest. They can also be used while the phone is in their pocket, which is a huge benefit.

Digital Accessibility is a topic for you? Check this article!

Another mention should go to Ariadne GPS, which allows real-time position tracking and browsing of a virtual map through the aid of VoiceOver’s speech synthesis. It is very useful for tracking a bus or taxi trip as well as for exploring a new neighborhood.
In the area of audio signs, MyMoveo triggers the latest generation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) aBeacon and audio beacons NAVIGUEO+HIFI manufactured by the French company Okeenea . The desired message can then be chosen along with its language and volume.

Another revolution in the lives of those with a visual impairment comes from apps based on a support network that can be used at any time. Be My Eyes for example, as its name indicates, invites those with eyesight to lend their eyes for a moment to those who need them. Users get in contact through a video call. Choosing a shirt, finding out the use-by date of a yogurt or locating something that fell on the ground is then possible without having to wait for a friend or family member to pass by. For travel, Be My Eyes can also be used for finding a building’s entrance or a name on an intercom or letterbox.

Smartphones also have some multi-purpose apps for blind people. These include Microsoft’s Seeing AI and Google’s Lookout. These allow any printed document to be read by placing the phone’s camera over the document. But they can also detect light, recognize banknotes, colors and even images and faces.

Finally, to navigate indoor environments where satellite signals cannot be received, there is now the Evelity app. Already used in some places, it’s currently being installed in the Marseilles metro network in France where it will soon be available. It allows to go from point A to point B inside a station, but also between several stations. For example: a blind person can locate the metro platform from the entrance of a station and walk to the exit of the arrival station following the app’s voice instructions. Evelity works for everyone but adapts to the user’s disabilities to offer the best route.

The possibilities offered by smartphones today open up extraordinary opportunities for the inclusion of people living with a visual impairment. All that remains is for everyone to have access to these resources! You can help by passing this article on to everyone you know.

Three of the major mobile phone companies offer special resources for customers with visual impairments. In addition, there is a phone company that specializes in providing accessible cell phone service for people with visual impairments.

AT&T National Center for Customers with Disabilities customer service representatives can offer specialized product and service support for individuals with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired.

Representatives can be reached by phone (866-241-6568) Monday through Friday, 7 am to 9 pm Eastern, or by e-mail.

Representatives can offer help with:

  • Device activations, setup, and support
  • Plans and services
  • Suggesting devices that best meet your individual accessibility needs
  • Accessible product documentation
  • Troubleshooting information, including help with accessibility software
  • Questions about your account, transactions, or service
  • Braille or large print billing

Additionally, AT&T also offers their Android phone customers a free copy of Code Factory’s Mobile Access for Android, a suite of 11 accessible applications designed for people who are visually impaired.

Sprint

Sprint Support for Customers with Disabilities specializes in providing customer care and support for individuals with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired.

You can reach a representative by phone (855-885-7568) from 6 am to11 pm Central, or by e-mail.

Representatives can provide support for:

  • Device activations, setup, and support
  • Plans and services
  • Suggesting devices that best meet your individual accessibility needs
  • Accessible product documentation
  • Troubleshooting information, including help with accessibility software
  • Questions about your account, transactions, or service
  • Braille or large print billing

People with visual impairments may also obtain accessible device recommendations at the Sprint Accessibility Store.

Sprint also offers dedicated customer care support for individuals who are interested in registering for Sprint IP Relay. IP Relay is a form of text-based telecommunications relay service (TRS) that allows individuals who are deaf, deafblind, have hearing loss, or have speech disabilities to place relay calls over the Internet via a laptop or computer. Currently, Sprint is the only IP Relay service provider in the US.

To register, visit the Sprint relay page, or send an e-mail.

T-Mobile and Odin Mobile

If you’re considering a T-Mobile plan, you may wish to check out Odin Mobile (855-217-9459). This third-party cell provider offers service and cell phones customized to meet the accessibility needs of people who are blind. They offer accessible feature and smartphones that run over the T-Mobile network. Both subscription and “pay-as-you-go” plans are available. Tech support is free, including help from the company’s accessibility representative.

Verizon

Verizon recently opened their National Accessibility Customer Service Center. Representatives are available by phone (888-262-1999) Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm Eastern.

The center is staffed with representatives who are trained to support customers who may need additional assistance due to a physical or cognitive impairment.

Representatives can provide support for:

  • Products and services
  • Suggesting devices that work best with accessibility
  • Plans
  • Accessible product documentation
  • Troubleshooting information, including help with accessibility software
  • Questions about your account, transactions, or service

I have a love-hate relationship with Siri.

When I tell Siri to set my alarm just before I go to bed, I appreciate the convenience of being able to simply tell my phone something and it get done. I’m the type of person who might possibly sleep through my first alarm, so I set several as an extra precaution. When I wake up and am sure I’m out of bed, I tell Siri, “Turn off all of my alarms,” and go on with my day. The same goes for setting my monthly hair cut appointments; almost always, it just works.

When I ask Siri things like, “What’s zero divided by zero?” I laugh, because its response is funny and because whoever programmed it clearly has a good sense of humor.

But when I dictate certain words, such as “horn,” (something I do regularly, as I am a railroad enthusiast and often send train horn recordings to friends) and Siri hears and inserts another four-letter word instead, I get really, really mad. But I know that text dictation will never be 100% accurate, and thus I either check all of my texts (paying particular attention to the ones I think it might have difficulties interpreting), or I just enter them by hand.

My biggest gripe with Siri isn’t about anything it does or doesn’t do, however. Rather, it is that Siri’s potential to assist blind and low vision users is generally misunderstood and overstated. Too often, I read articles in the mainstream (that is, not specifically written for an audience of users with visual impairments) media about iOS accessibility which extol the access Siri provides blind users. While Siri is one of many accessibility tools, the sighted public’s idea of how we use it is ripe with misconceptions.

Many of the articles I’ve read over the years have generally touted Siri’s ability to dictate text, thereby negating the need for typing on the touchscreen. But as we saw with the “horn” example, dictation is far from perfect. Since the blind user relies only on speech (rather than being able to quickly scan the text Siri has dictated), closely reviewing the text—either by word, or better yet, by character—is necessary if there is any concern about erroneous dictation. If time is of the essence, I either must decide to send an imperfect text (hopefully with most of the correct words), take the time to proofread it and make any changes, or just enter it by hand from the outset.

That the sighted public, more often than not, assumes blind people would benefit from dictation rather than typing is nothing new. I’ve been asked many a time if I use Dragon Naturally Speaking on my computer, and my response is now usually a variant of, “Why would I need that?” Dragon and other speech-to-text software is great for people who aren’t able to type, but the idea that a blind person, with no other disabilities or extenuating circumstances, wouldn’t be able to type and needs dictation software has always bothered me.

Sadly, this “Voice-controlled technology is easiest for blind people” mentality has seeped into peoples’ perceptions of how the blind use iPhones. In a recent iMore article, “Making the iPhone camera accessible for the blind,” the author asserts that the first step Apple took in the process of making camera use accessible to blind users was making sure everyone could easily get to the camera app:

The first step in making the Camera app accessible is making Camera.app accessible. In other words, making sure everyone can get to it whenever they need it.

You can navigate to Camera using VoiceOver, but Apple’s made it even easier. Simply tell Siri “Open the camera”. Even “Siri, take a selfie” works. It doesn’t automagically switch it to the front-facing mode or take a picture, though—at least not yet—but it gets you where you want to be.

While I hate to destroy the image of the courageous blind man who, just by talking to his iPhone, has a whole new world opened up to him. Siri generally does not make things easier for me. Anyone who has asked Siri a question and gotten the response, “Here’s what I found. take a look!” will know what I mean; there is often a lot more involved than just Asking Siri any question and it directly telling you the answer—enough so that I often am faster at just looking the information up myself. The same goes for launching apps; when all is said and done, I’m quicker at using my iPhone by hand than I would be asking Siri to do it for me.

While on its face this may look like a criticism of Siri (and, by extension, Apple), I think my quarrel is really with automation and “smart” technology in general. What it comes down to is that I usually don’t want to talk to my phone, and I usually don’t want my phone to automate things I could simply do better myself. (Don’t even get me started on “smart” canes.)

Coming back to the iMore article, I think it’s wonderful that mainstream journalists are giving much-needed coverage to accessibility. The more developers who can be made aware that blind people use their apps, the better for everyone. There’s no shortage of work to be done, and that one article may be the article a developer reads and realizes, “Hey, I should really make sure my app works for blind and low vision users.”

On the other hand, when I read articles which (albeit indirectly) suggest that the easiest way for a blind user to accomplish a task like opening the camera is to ask Siri, I can’t help but think that the expectations for my best possible user experience have just been lowered. Reading it as a blind user, I can’t help but think that the assumption, even if subconscious, is that I need voice-controlled devices because I can’t see.

Of course, I know lowering of accessibility expectations was certainly not the author’s intent, and that misconceptions almost always arise because people simply do not know any better. But I can’t help but wonder: how much more productive could the accessibility conversation be if sighted journalists and developers better understood how people with disabilities actually use the accessibility features of assistive technology? What would happen if a person looking to undertake the development of an assistive app started the process by asking real users with disabilities, “What areas of daily life could an app help you with?” What would happen if a journalist writing a story, instead of assuming that Siri was the simplest way for a blind user to accomplish a task, researched the topic or asked a group of blind users their opinions? (On this latter question, I informally surveyed my Twitter followers, and about half of those who responded indicated they launch apps with Siri, either some of the time or all of the time. Others said they did not use Siri to launch apps, with reasoning ranging from simply not adjusting their usage habits to take advantage of the new Siri features, to finding apps with VoiceOver being faster and preferring to rely on themselves.)

In the end, I want the same great experience that sighted users have. I want fully accessible app interfaces, not simplified “blind-friendly” apps with voice control. While there is certainly a market for this type of app (such as for very new users or those who have physical disabilities), simplification and voice control should never be the first thing a sighted person thinks of when they consider accessibility or how the blind use iPhones. Accessibility is inclusion, and inclusion is designing a great user experience for as many people as possible—from those who cannot type at all to power users like myself. Thankfully, Apple has demonstrated time and time again that they get it, and that accessibility for blind and low vision users goes well beyond voice control.

How to use a phone if you're blind or visually impaired

Did you just pick up your phone, and it starts talking to you? Like it’s reading aloud what’s on your screen to you? Well, you might be wondering at first, but you don’t need to. It’s the Android TalkBack feature at work. And here, we’ll tell you how to turn off TalkBack on Android if you don’t need it.

TalkBack is an accessibility service developed to help visually impaired and blind people use Android devices to their fullest. It acts as a screen-reader and controller when activated. With that, the visually impaired, blind, or anyone who chooses to enable it can have eyes-free control of their device. Meaning, you’ll be able to control your device without looking at the screen.

TalkBack has continued to be a beneficial feature on Android. Of course, it brings the fullest of Android to anyone alive. However, if your eyes are clearly working and you’re not feeling lazy, waking up to see your phone speak to you can be worrisome. Not just that, using TalkBack for the first time can be tiring, at least if you’re used to controlling your device in one tap.

Well, you’re probably not here to learn how to turn off TalkBack. Instead, let us help you get rid of it. The following content contains various ways on how to turn off TalkBack on your Android. Try any of them to see which one works for you.

How to permanently turn off TalkBack on Android

Turning off TalkBack on Android devices is straightforward. You can turn it off using the volume keys, Google Assistant, or by going to the Accessibility settings on your device. Here are the three ways in which you can disable TalkBack on Android.

Before you start, the procedures might be slightly different on different Android phones, Android versions, or the TalkBack app version. However, the steps are pretty simple to follow.

Method 1: How to disable TalkBack using the volume key shortcut

The fastest way to disable TalkBack on your Android device is using the Volume buttons. While setting up TalkBack on your phone, you’ll see an option to enable an Accessibility shortcut for it. If you enabled it, then you can disable TalkBack easily with the volume buttons.

  • Locate the Volume keys on your device.
  • Press and hold the two Volume keys for 3 seconds.
  • You’ll hear theTalkBackvoice saying “TalkBack OFF”. That means you’ve disabled the accessibility feature on your device.

If TalkBack won’t turn off using the volume key accessibility shortcut on Android, try the next method below.

Method 2: Turn off TalkBack from the device’s Accessibility settings

The second and standard method of disabling TalkBack on Android devices is via the Settings app. You need to find the Accessibility options and disable the TalkBack feature from there.

Note: Since TalkBack is activated already, you’ll need to double-tap to select anything on the screen. Keep that in mind and follow these steps to disable TalkBack.

  • Launch the Settings app on your device.
  • Click on Accessibility.
  • TapTalkBack
  • Click on the switch next to “UseTalkBack
  • Finally, tap STOP to permanently disableTalkBackon your Android device

Method 3: How To Turn off TalkBack using Google Assistant

Asides from going to the device settings or long-pressing the two-volume buttons for 3 seconds, another way to turn off TalkBack on Android is talking to the Assistant. As you probably already know, the Google Assistant is capable of doing nearly anything on your Android phone. The same goes for disabling TalkBack. Here’s how:

  • Launch the Assistant by any means
  • Say “Turn of talk back”
  • You should receive a response confirming the request.

How to turn off Accessibility Shortcut on Android

As earlier mentioned, the accessibility shortcut on Android lets you disable or enable any accessibility service installed on your device with the volume buttons. You’ll usually see an option to turn on “Volume key shortcut” whenever you enable an accessibility service, like TalkBack.

However, there are chances you want to disable it, maybe you no longer need it, or you need the volume buttons for another shortcut. If that’s it, follow these steps to turn off Accessibility Shortcut on Android:

Android 11:

  • Launch the Settings app and select Accessibility.
  • Tap the Service/App you want to turn off its shortcut. You can selectTalkBack, for instance.
  • Then, tap theTalkBackshortcut.
  • Turn off the two shortcuts, then tap Save.

Android 10 and below:

  • Launch the Settings app and select Accessibility.
  • Tap Volume key shortcuts.
  • Tap “Use service” to disable any accessibility shortcut service you’ve registered already.

How to turn off TalkBack on the lock screen

Asides from disabling the accessibility shortcut on Android completely, you may also turn off TalkBack on the lock screen. That doesn’t mean it won’t work on the lock screen. Rather, you or anyone won’t be able to enable TalkBack or any other accessibility service from the lock screen using the volume buttons gesture.

Turning off TalkBack on the lock screen can be advantageous for privacy reasons or in the sense that your phone won’t start talking to you when locked. Follow these steps to disallow TalkBack from the lock screen.

Android 11:

  • Launch the Settings app
  • Select Accessibility, then scroll to the bottom.
  • Under EXPERIMENTAL, turn off “Shortcut from lock screen”

Android 10 and below:

  • Open your device Settings.
  • Tap Accessibility
  • Select Volume key shortcut
  • Turn off “Allow from lock screen”.

That’s it. You’ve gotten rid of TalkBack on your device successfully. If you ever need to re-enable it, you can always reverse the procedures.

With no compromise, Accessibility services are quite useful on Android. And when it comes to TalkBack, it’s indeed a beneficial feature on Android that aims to connect more people, bringing the best of a modern smartphone to the disabled.

However, if you’ve mistakenly enabled TalkBack on your device and you don’t know how to disable it, the methods and steps mentioned in this article will surely help you. And if you later change your mind, or someone needs to activate TalkBack on his/her device, be cheerful to help them with this article.

How Do People who are Blind and Visually Impaired use the iPhone?

How Do People who are Blind and Visually Impaired use the iPhone?

The first iPhone was sold 10 years ago on June 28, 2007. While it immediately became popular among millions of people throughout the world, those of us with disabilities were unable to use, let alone enjoy all of the iPhone’s exciting and (at the time) new features. That all changed in 2009 with the launch of the iPhone 3GS, when Apple included screen-reading technology for blind and visually impaired users. Subsequent models also provided accessibility features for people with hearing, physical and learning disabilities. I began using an iPhone in 2012 – you can read more about how it has helped me in this commentary.

Although the iPhone has been accessible to the blind since 2009, many people from the general public still do not know how someone without sight can use smartphones or tablets. In the case of the iPhone, Apple has included a screen-reading program called Voiceover. This software – which comes already preinstalled in every Apple device – reads out loud what is on the screen when we tap on it. To open an app, we tap on it twice. Other gestures help us read text, type and adjust various Voiceover settings, like the speaking rate. Various Braille display devices are also compatible with Voiceover. This allows us to read what’s on the phone’s screen by using Braille if we so wish. Other settings, like text enlargement are also available for users with low vision in the iPhone’s accessibility menu.

So, what exactly can people who are blind or visually impaired do on the iPhone? Pretty much everything sighted people can and more! Besides being able to make and receive phone calls, read and send text messages, play music and check our social media pages, people who are blind or have other disabilities can become more independent with everyday tasks. I can listen to audio books, know what color something is, read print materials, identify household items and even take pictures! Nowadays, numerous apps allow people with vision and other disabilities to do these and many other things independently. All of this was virtually impossible prior to the development of the iPhone.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would one day be able to use the iPhone, I would’ve simply laughed at them. Using a touch screen by someone who is blind was a concept never even dreamed of in 2007. Technology is constantly evolving, and I am sure it will continue surprising all of us. Speaking of surprises, I am not amazed that non-disabled individuals still ask me how I use my iPhone when they see me flicking and tapping the screen with ease. After all, I myself did not think I would be able to ever enjoy this innovative device when it came out 10 years ago. My hat goes off to Apple and the other developers who strive to make modern technology accessible and inclusive for all. Not only is it a good business practice, it is the right thing to do.

How to use a phone if you're blind or visually impaired

Sandy Murillo works at The Chicago Lighthouse, an organization serving the blind and visually impaired. She is the author of Sandy’s View, a bi-weekly Lighthouse blog about blindness and low vision. The blog covers topics of interest to those living with blindness and vision impairments. Being a blind journalist and blogger herself, Sandy shares her unique perspective about ways to live and cope with vision loss.

Exemptions and Special Assistance for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As a result of advocacy efforts over the years, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal government and many states offer assistance and exemptions for people who are blind or visually impaired. These cut across many areas of life, and we cover a few examples below. You may also want to read our post Everyday Implications of the ADA for People with Vision Loss, which highlights some of the ways the ADA has been useful in the lives of people with low or no vision.

Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Under the law, passed in 1899, in the U.S. and its territories, specialized reading materials or equipment may be sent free of charge to people who are legally blind, those whose visual impairment prohibits them from reading comfortably, or those who have a physical or perceptual condition which prevents them from accessing printed material in a conventional way. Examples of mail that qualifies as Free Matter include large-type (14-point type) documents, braille, audio recordings, and talking-book players. Mail must contain the wording “Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped” where postal stamps are normally placed. Items must be unsealed to allow for inspection by postal authorities.

I have been receiving and sending items via Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped since childhood. My friends and I reused two large brown envelopes with clasps that allowed postal inspection. We would braille the recipient’s name on one envelope to send a letter along with a “return envelope” that had the sender’s address, with “Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped printed on the outside of the return envelope. It was easy to fold the return envelope and insert it into the sender’s envelope along with the letter. When a friend matched me with PenPal, a blind man in a nearby state, he was excited that he was able to send the letter to me back to himself!

How to Apply to Use Free Matter

Certified participants in the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are eligible to use this service. According to USPS, a “competent authority” such as a social worker, registered nurse, ophthalmologist, doctor, or librarian can certify your eligibility as a person who meets the criteria of legal blindness or other stipulations laid out in the USPS guidelines. According to those guidelines, “you must submit the evidence of eligibility to the Post Office™ where you will make or receive postage-free mailings. Upon verification, you will then be considered eligible to use the free mailing privilege.” A detailed question and answer resource is available on the United States Postal Service website.

Free Matter for the Blind Labels

According to the Postal Service, place the words “FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND OR HANDICAPPED” in the upper right corner of the address side of the envelope or parcel where the postage would normally be placed. The words may be printed, rubber stamped, or handwritten. You can purchase labels and a “Free Matter for the Blind” rubber stamp imprinted with those words from many sources including Free Matter for the Blind Self Inking Stamp | Independent Living Aids and Walmart, among other vendors.

Talking Books

The National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) was established in 1931, this program is among the oldest available to people who are blind or visually impaired and others unable to hold a book due to a disability. You must establish your eligibility through “competent authorities” (outlined in the free matter section above) by having your application for services signed by one of these individuals.

Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS offers books in braille or audio formats. These can be mailed to your door for free. Materials can also be downloaded from the NLS website. These books are free to borrow and NLS provides the equipment on which audio books can be played. Their talking-book players feature large buttons, braille letters beside the controls, a sleep timer, and built-in audio instructions. They also offer the books through the BARD Mobile App that can be used on iPhones or Android phones.

You can sign up in a variety of ways, including downloading an application, calling your local library to ask for an application, or calling NLS toll free at 1-800-424-8567.

VisionAware Peer Advisor, Maribel Steel, wrote a great post on How to Get the Most from the Bard in Your Book.

Currency Readers

The National Library Service also offers currency readers free of charge through a partnership with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The NLS website states, “The currency reader, called the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier, is a compact device that announces a note’s value in one of three ways: voice, pattern of tones, or pattern of vibrations. Just insert a note into the device and press the button on the side to have the denomination identified.” It does not identify foreign or counterfeit bills. Call 844-815-9388 for more information.

Shopping Assistance

Shopping assistance is not covered under the ADA however many stores provide assistance with shopping if you call ahead. Check out these posts written by VisionAware Peer Advisors: Lenore Dillon’s post on Shopping Wisely for some tips on shopping and Empish Thomas’s post on pickup and delivery services.

Other Programs and Services to Check Out

We have covered just a few of the special programs available for people with vision loss. There are many other areas that are covered by state and federal laws that you should consider.

Blindness Identification Card (varies by state. Massachusetts provides a guide and Benefits for Individuals who are Legally Blind | Mass.gov

Income Tax exemptions and tax assistance: Tax Guide – VisionAware and Disability Tax Benefits

Property tax exemptions in some states—Example Indiana

Specialized Equipment for People with Vision and Hearing Loss (computers, phones, tablets, and others: iCanConnect.org | The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

Transportation: Learn about transportation resources in your community through the Eldercare locator at 800-677-1116 or their website: https://eldercare.acl.gov.

Summary

Thanks too many years of advocacy efforts and laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, governments and companies now provide numerous exemptions and supports to ensure access and provide assistance to people with physical and sensory disabilities (blindness, visual impairment, hearing impairment/deafness, and deafblindness). While we have covered quite a few examples here, there may be more programs available in your specific city or state. For more information read the article about the services that the ADA Network provides by VisionAware Peer Advisor, Audrey Demmitt.