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An accessible iPhone?

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Emma Emma | 16:38 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    If Apple really have pulled this off, it'll be a phenomenal achievement. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

    Apple have stated that the VoiceOver application can be turned on by going to the Settings option on the home screen and then to Accessibility. That's what I'll have in my head anyway to ask someone in a shop when it comes out.

    This new iPhone could be a mainstream phone which doesn't require any additional screen reader software to operate. Nokia, Sony, Blackbury, Palm, take heed! Definitely worth bearing in mind if you're having trouble convincing a mobile operator to subsidise use of Talks/MobileSpeak/Smart Hal etc.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm not blind, and my co-ordination is fine.

    I just *like* buttons.

    The one kind of phone that was inaccessible to me were those smartphones with a stupid pokey pen thing - I couldn't use those because of my poor grip. Thankfully they seem to have died a death.

    But it was those stupid pokey pen things that drove me in the direction of the BlackBerry - a smartphone that didn't have them. And I'm still in love with it.

  • Comment number 3.

    ?why is it that apple are more fawords with accessibility .
    i have a apple iphone 3gs, and i am happy with the accessibility features, if you can"t see to turn voiceover you can turn it on in itunes settings. at lest you don"t need to put software on to a phone to make it speak like mobile speak and talks.
    with the iphone if you are signed with mobile me you can find you if you lose it & you can remotely remove your data if it gets stolem, mobile me works with pc and apple mac, the only thing is to buy from the itune store on the phone you need a wireless connection

  • Comment number 4.


    Is there any mention of Apple using Resistive touch screen technology so that people who use pointers are able to use Iphone. I'm desperate to get an Iphone but can't use it yet as the screen relies on the heat and elctronic pulses from your finger to operate.

    Any aadvice would be amazing!

    Thanks, Jx

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