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Visually Impaired Turn to Smartphones to See Their World


A visually impaired man accesses a smartphone app.

Many smartphone apps aimed at the visually impaired have appeared in recent years.

Credit: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Advocates for the visually impaired say smartphones and tablets could be the most helpful assistive aid to emerge since the invention of Braille.

The visually impaired can employ a smartphone's voice commands to read or write, navigate using global positioning systems and compass apps, determine denominations of money with a camera app, and also take photographs.

The Apple iPhone includes features designed to help people with vision problems snap pictures. For example, an assistive mode enables the device to vocalize how many heads are in a picture and their position in the frame. Another Apple technology of help to the blind or near-blind is VoiceOver, billed as the world's first gesture-based screen reader. The app lets blind people engage with their devices using multi-touch gestures on the screen, for example prompting the phone to read displayed text aloud by swiping two fingers down the screen. Additional apps can help users visualize colors by pointing their phones at an object to trigger a detailed audio description of its hue. The iPhone also supports more than 40 distinctive Braille Bluetooth keyboards.

From The New York Times
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