Blind or Visually Impaired
The wireless industry is committed to providing accessible devices to those who are blind or have low vision.
Overview & Tips
Generally, the accessibility features on a wireless device can be found in the “settings” menu. The settings menu is always a good place to learn about the different features and functions of a wireless device.
There are two types of wireless handsets: feature phones and smartphones. Feature phones (which tend to have a physical keypad or number pad) and smartphones can make and receive voice telephone calls and text messages. Smartphones usually have very few buttons and one large touch screen, and they add the ability for the user to connect to the Internet, use helpful apps for services like ride sharing, listen to music or step-by-step GPS instructions, leverage voice controls, and much more. The operating system of a smartphone, such as iOS for Apple iPhones and Google’s Android, enables the accessibility features.
For consumers who are blind or visually impaired, the right combination of device, operating system, and applications can make wireless work for you.
List of Suggested Features
Listed below are accessibility features that may be built-in (native) to a wireless device or available via downloadable software that can make wireless products and services easier for you to use.
- Adjustable Fonts – This is the option to change the size of icons and text on the wireless device’s display to make it more readable. This feature varies by phone; some devices have a choice of several font sizes, and some have an adjustable slider to adjust for spacing of the text. The feature is built-in to most smartphones and some feature phones. Combined with the magnification feature on smartphones, a consumer has greater options.
- Alternate Formats – Product and billing information is available in alternate formats (Braille, large print, electronic (plain text or HTML), etc.) upon your request. Accessible manuals may be available from the manufacturer or accessed through the manufacturer’s website.
- Audio, Visual, and Vibrating Features – These features allow you to assign specific audible, visual, and vibrating alerts for different functions, including incoming calls or messages, calendar events, and keyboard input confirmations. You can also assign, create, purchase, and download distinctive ringtones.
- Braille – Some smartphones have the capability (either built-in or through downloadable app) of connecting via Bluetooth to a Braille device. When this function is set up, it supports navigation and text input from a Braille keyboard.
- Magnification – Magnification is found built-in to most smartphones, and is variously called Zoom, Screen Magnify, or Magnify. The feature enables consumers to increase the size of everything displayed on the screen.
- Screen Contrast – This feature enables consumers with low vision to maximize seeing what is on the screen with high contrast display. Adjustable color schemes for the display make text and symbols easier to see. Many smartphones have built-in high contrast and color inversion features.
- Screen Reader – Screen readers offer a screen access application that provides individuals who are blind or visually impaired the ability to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. It is similar to a voice output feature, but with a distinct and different method for accessing the device. Screen readers are built-in to several smartphone operating systems and are available as apps that may be downloaded onto other feature phones and smartphones.
- Tactile or Clearly Defined Keys – Tactile keys are physical keys for both functions and alphanumeric keys. The keys are designed for ease of feel and marking nibs are often used. Some keys are convex in shape and/or larger in size. Some feature phones include a QWERTY keyboard. Other phones with keys and controls have a high contrast color scheme and large print, helpful for persons with low vision. Most smartphones use touch screen controls and keys which can be explored by touch and have speech to identify each key and control. It is also possible to download software with a larger touch screen key pad. Predictive text and word completion (AutoText) features also help to quickly enter text.
- Voice Output – This feature “reads” aloud function and feature information on a wireless device. This is also called text-to-speech (TTS). Examples of TTS include Apple’s VoiceOver and Google’s TalkBack. Voice output enables a person who is blind or visually impaired to use menus and sub-menus common on most wireless devices to access such features as entering contacts, using the phone book, setting alarms, talking to caller ID, and changing ringtones. The voice output function varies and should be checked out by consumers when selecting a device.
- Voice Recognition – This feature lets consumers interact with their phone with the power of their voice. Such tasks as dialing the phone, choosing a contact, entering calendar or contact information, surfing the web, and accessing applications are accomplished without lifting a finger. Voice Recognition is variously called Voice Control or Speech Commands. Common examples of voice recognition, include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s “OK Google” services. Many of your smartphones settings can be paired with a smart speaker in your home that can also listen to spoken commands.