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The Apple iPhone: High Tech for Low Vision

Every three months I see my congenital glaucoma specialist, Andrew Iwach, MD, hoping to save what is left of the sight in my one remaining eye.

When he saw the large type of the book I was reading via the “Kindle” app on my iPhone, he was excited about the amazing potential the iPhone held for people with low vision.

Blind in my left eye since soon after birth from congenital glaucoma, I’ve never had an easy time reading. In elementary school I read from big print books under very bright lights and learned to type for eye-hand coordination. Today at age 62, technology and big print are still valued assets.

The big news for people with low vision is that high tech, big print, voice control, and screen reading are brought together in a single hand-held device: the Apple iPhone — a fully functioning computer with high-resolution screen and multiple magnification capabilities, small enough to carry in my pocket.


The iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 both offer new accessibility features:

  • Zoom allows instant enlargement of the home screen or any application, so I can read anything on my iPhone
  • Voice Control allows you to just say the name of the person you want to call, e.g. “call Thomas Brunner, work” to make a phone call. I can also voice command the built-in iPod by saying, for example, “Play Bob Dylan” and it will play all Dylan’s songs.
  • VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that, when turned on, allows even a totally blind person to use the iPhone since it will read out loud anything on the screen below the user’s finger. Tap once to hear the control button name or text section. Tap twice, and the application is opened or action taken.

VoiceOver along with Voice Command, Zoom, voice recorder and more, make the iPhone 3GS the state-of-the-art communications device for people with low vision.

Article by Paul Otterness, M.A. Counseling Psychology, MFTi. Since 1989 Paul has been a “Mac evangelist” helping others make the move to Apple’s technology. If you would like his help as a GRF volunteer, at no charge, please feel free to send him an email.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

This article appeared in the September 2009 issue of Gleams.


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