An accessible iPhone?
Until now, most visually impaired people and people with coordination issues saw Apple's iPhone as a no go area. It relies solely on touch-screen technology, which requires tiny gestures to manipulate. It also provided no solution for screenreader users or those of us who need magnification. All we could do was sit back and be bitter about the disappearance of buttons you could feel, while our friends chatted gaily about the merits of having their iTunes library on their phone, and how all the downloadable applications just rock their worlds. Apple obviously felt our pain and took it into account when designing the new iPhone 3GS.
Announced yesterday at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, the iPhone 3GS will be available in the UK and US on the 19th of June. It promises a whole raft of new accessibility features, including Apple's VoiceOver screen-reading software, a magnification solution called Zoom and a white on black colour contrast option.
Although it has a couple of buttons, the new iPhone 3GS still works primarily using a touch-screen. Apple sees this as a positive thing for the screen-reader user, and has created special gestures to be used in VoiceOver mode. Here's what the Apple website says:
Because VoiceOver works with iPhone's touchscreen, you interact directly with objects on the screen and can naturally understand their location and context. So, when you touch the upper left corner of the screen, you'll hear what's in the upper left corner of a web page, and as you drag your finger around the screen, you'll learn what's nearby, providing an amazing new sense of context and relationship between the items you hear."
So there you have it. Maybe the days of wondering about the iPhone from afar are over. Only time will tell whether the touch screen will become completely accessible, or whether my personal 'Bring Back Buttons' campaign will win out and convince Apple to completely change the iPhone's design.