At Monday’s WWDC conference, Apple announced the inclusion of VoiceOver on its new iPhone 3 GS, making a unique touch screen interface accessible to a cautiously optimistic blind user community for the first time.
“iPhone 3G S provides new accessibility features including VoiceOver, a screen reader that speaks what appears on the iPhone 3G S display, enabling visually impaired users to make calls, read email, browse web pages, play music and run applications,” said Apple representatives in a June 8 press release.
Loyal Apple fans in the blind community are ecstatic to have been granted access to the iPhone after waiting over two years.
“It’s the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, enabling you to enjoy the fun and simplicity of the iPhone even if you can’t see the screen,” said Apple representatives on the company’s iPhone Accessibility page. “Instead of memorizing hundreds of keyboard commands, or endlessly pressing tiny arrow keys to find what you’re looking for, with VoiceOver, you simply touch the screen to hear a description of the item under your finger, then gesture with a double-tap, drag, or flick to control the phone.”
Some blind technology users are uncertain about the practicality of making a native touch screen interface accessible, but they are reserving judgment as they wait to see the new iPhone in action. “I am very very concerned about the touch interface. That could be a deal breaker but will wait and see,” said Jeff Bishop, a blind database developer at a major university.