[accesscomp] Article on the iPhone

  • From: "Bob Acosta" <boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bob Acosta" <boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 9 Jun 2011 21:47:18 -0700

        My Trials and Tribulations Learning the iPhone with VoiceOver
Janet Ingber

When I heard Verizon Wireless would be offering the iPhone, I was ecstatic. I 
immediately started learning about the phone and VoiceOver, its built-in screen 
reader. Though in the end it was well worth it, I didn't know how steep or 
frustrating the learning curve would be.

In their book Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users 
(reviewed in this issue of AccessWorld ), Anna Dresner and Dean Martineau write:

  You'll enjoy learning the phone more if you are gentle with yourself. This is 
a new skill, and the only way to learn is to make mistakes, probably repeated 
ones. Be assured that by trying to learn the phone, you will not harm it, even 
when you make mistakes, or when things seem to be getting out of control. Keep 
breathing fully and relax! If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a 

Those are great words of advice and encouragement.

Even though I researched the iPhone before getting it, when it was finally in 
my hands I realized that I had a lot to learn. My plan for the first day was to 
learn how to text, make and receive phone calls, and set up my voice mail. 
Although my computer skills are very good, using the iPhone was different. At 
first it seemed almost overwhelming and I did not accomplish the above tasks in 
one day.

As I was learning to use the phone, I got information from many sources. After 
struggling on my own for a few days, I purchased Dresner and Martineau's book, 
and it was extremely helpful. Apple's accessibility website and blindness 
related e-mail lists were also very useful. I had an in-person meeting with a 
device specialist at the Verizon Wireless store, but that was less helpful. I 
also used Google on occasion if I needed a quick answer. For example, I'd 
forgotten how to delete old voice mail messages on the iPhone, so I typed, 
"iPhone VoiceOver, delete voice mails" and activated the search button. I went 
through the results and quickly found my answer.

Unlike Windows-based screen readers, Apple's VoiceOver has the user interact 
with the phone by touching various locations on the screen. The iPhone 4 and 
iPhone 3 do not have physical QWERTY keyboards, but instead use a virtual 
keyboard that comes up on the touchscreen when it is needed. The only tactile 
button is below the actual touch screen. Pressing this button will bring you 
back to the home screen, so don't be afraid to use it.

Aside from entering information, most interaction with the iPhone is done 
through gestures. Sometimes there is more than one way to accomplish a task. 
For example, to activate a button you can find the button, keep your finger on 
it, and tap the screen with another finger, or you can locate the button, wait 
for VoiceOver to say that the button is selected, and then double tap the 
screen anywhere. It's important to learn all the gestures that VoiceOver uses. 
A good place to start is in the VoiceOver practice section, located in the 
settings menu. Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility, and select 
VoiceOver/VoiceOver Practice. There you can do the various gestures on the 
screen and VoiceOver will say the name of the gesture and what it accomplishes. 
For me, the toughest gesture was "flick," where you quickly move a finger or 
fingers across, up, or down the screen. Flicking one finger to the right will 
activate the next element and flicking to the left will bring up the previous 
one. This is a good way to review the items on a screen. If you accidentally do 
a three finger double tap, which I've done, this will turn VoiceOver off. The 
only way to get VoiceOver to come on again is to do another three finger double 
tap. There is an option in the VoiceOver menu to have hints speak, which 
explains what to do in a specific situation. This helped me a lot. I still keep 
my hints turned on even though I know all the gestures and what they 
accomplish. Sometimes there are applications where having hints turned on is 
very useful such as with setting a clock or entering information into the 
phone's calendar.

Here are some problems I had and how I was able to solve them.

Answering and ending a call. One way to answer a call is to quickly double tap 
with two fingers, but I found that method didn't work consistently. Another way 
is to use the headset that comes with the phone and press its middle button. 
Although that method works, I didn't want to be carrying a headset with me all 
the time. The third option is to activate the answer button, slightly above and 
to the right of the home button. To end a call, select the end button, slightly 
above and left of the home button. This is the method that I use. If your 
screen is locked when you receive a call, it's necessary to tap the screen once 
and then double tap it. This will answer the call and you don't have to worry 
about finding specific buttons. In the beginning, I'll admit that I didn't 
unlock the screen on time for the first few calls I received.

Setting up voice mail. The first thing I wanted to do was let people who called 
know that I was learning the iPhone and if they received a voice mail message 
to please call me again. It's possible to do this directly on the phone, but 
since it was my first day with the unit I wanted a method that didn't involve 
activating any buttons. All I needed to do was call my phone from another 
phone. When the standard voice message came on I pressed the pound (#) key. I 
was then prompted to create a password and record an outgoing voice mail 

Making calls. Making calls can be done by voice command, choosing someone from 
the contacts or favorites lists, or by bringing up the virtual phone keypad. I 
found that using voice controls usually worked, but I wanted additional 
options. A few times I accidentally called someone when browsing through my 
contacts list. It's a good thing I didn't accidentally call my cousin in 
Australia. One way to avoid making calls by accident is to go into the Settings 
menu. The first control is Airplane Mode. Turning on this option will block the 
phone's ability to make calls. This option is also initially useful when 
editing your contacts list. In the contacts list is an option to add the 
contact to the favorites list. Basically it's a list of the numbers you call 
most frequently. It's Apple's answer to speed dial. Once a contact is added to 
the favorites list, it takes fewer steps to call him or her. Open the phone 
application, then activate the "Favorites" button, which is the first button. 
This will bring up a list of your favorites. Locate the name of the person you 
wish to call and double tap it.

Typing. My previous phone was an LG EnV2. It had some accessibility including 
the ability to send and receive text messages. The phone had a QWERTY keyboard 
and I learned how to type with my thumbs. Unless you choose to use a braille or 
Bluetooth keyboard, you will need to use the phone's virtual keyboard.

There are several ways to type on the iPhone. I tried double tapping, where you 
tap the designated character twice to add it to a document, and touch typing, 
where you put a finger on the character, wait for VoiceOver to say the letter 
or number, and when the finger is lifted, the character is added. This method 
was definitely the one I preferred. There are settings to have the iPhone use 
auto-correct which will anticipate what you want to type. Learning to type on 
the phone's virtual keyboard took practice, but eventually my speed increased. 
The Notes app, which comes on the phone, is a good place to practice. Should 
you decide that you don't like the virtual keyboard, the app Dragon Dictation 
is free from the App Store and allows you to record your message rather than 
type it. Even with this app, you will have to type in at least the recipient's 
name if you are sending an e-mail or text message.

Texting. In order to send a text message, you need to choose a recipient. As 
with many things on the iPhone, there are several ways to do this. One way is 
to go through the Contacts list, find the person you want to text, open the 
contact, and activate the text message button. If the person is someone you 
text frequently, it might be easier to put the person in your Favorites list. 
In that list, select the "more info" button to the right of each person's name. 
This will open the contact information, where the text message button is 
located. I found this extremely useful, especially in the beginning while I was 
learning to use the keyboard.

Another way is to start typing the recipient's name in the "To" edit box. The 
more letters you type, the fewer results you will get. A list of people with 
the names beginning with the letters you typed will come up. From there, double 
tap the person you wish to text. If a contact has more than one phone number, 
you will need to be careful to select the one you want.

On my old EnV2, I was able to bring up the person's name by voice, even though 
the phone's voice recognition wasn't always correct, so it took time for me to 
learn how to choose a recipient. The first text message I sent from my iPhone 
was to my husband. The message said, "I hate this phone." Now, I absolutely 
love it.

Here are a few of my favorite resources.

AppleVis. This is an excellent website which rates apps, gives information on 
how to accomplish tasks, has links to informative articles and podcasts, and 
much more.

Apple's accessibility site. The site contains information about VoiceOver.

All With My iPhone. Cory Ballard presents tutorials on a wide variety of apps, 
some of which are developed specifically for users with vision loss, while 
others are mainstream.

Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users by Anna 
Dresner and Dean Martineau, published by National Braille Press.

Robert Acosta, President
Helping Hands for the Blind
Email: boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx
Web Site: www.helpinghands4theblind.org

You can assist Helping Hands for the Blind by donating your used computers to 
us. If you have a blind friend in need of a computer, please mail us at the 
above address.

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