Siri continues trend of Apple products being extremely friendly to the blind

Tue, Oct 11, 2011

Featured, News

Apple’s new Siri app for the iPhone 4S has gotten pretty stellar reviews from those lucky enough to give it a go thus far. Here, in the Apple produced video below, we see some of the many uses of Siri.

Interestingly, though not at all surprising, the last use-case in the video depicts a blind woman reading braille who uses Siri-enabled voice recognition to confirm dinner plans via speech-to-text.

This isn’t surprising for a few reasons.

Apple has historically been at the forefront of making consumer technology accessible to the differently abled, and nowhere is this more apparent than in how their products are designed to be easy to use for the blind and otherwise visually challenged. Some of the more notable examples include VoiceOver support on the iPod Nano, full-screen magnification on the iPhone and in OS X, and iOS support for Bluetooth braille displays.

As a result of Apple’s cumulative efforts over the years, the National Federation of the Blind this past July awarded Apple $10,000 on account of its groundbreaking work in accessibility.

Sometimes, as is the case with the iPad, even Apple’s design choices result in unexpected and charmingly heartwarming results.

For example, back in May we highlighted how the large screen of the iPad helped a woman diagnosed with Macular degeneration see her kids for the first time in more than 30 years.

In an equally charming example, Steve Jobs this past June was taken aback when he received an email from the mother of a 9-year old daughter suffering from albinism. While we typically associate the condition with the absence of pigmentation, one of the lesser known effects is that it can affect one’s vision as well. Consequently, 9-year old Holly Bligh struggled to keep up in school because she had problems visualizing her school materials as well as her classmates.

The iPad, with its big screen and ability to zoom in on objects, changed all that. Blight’s mother was so thrilled that her daughter could now keep up in school that she sent an email to Jobs explaining, “Holly’s enthusiasm to read has grown so much, and it’s definitely increased her independence.”

The email also added: “All the other kids think it’s awesome that she gets an iPad! Sometimes in the past Holly has found her extra equipment embarrassing … But the iPad has a coolness factor!”

Jobs was so touched by the email that he asked, and received, permission to forward Holly’s story to the top 100 leaders at Apple.

And just recently, Stevie Wonder gave a special shout out to Steve Jobs in the middle of a performance thanking him for making Apple products so accessible to people with disabilities.

And I want you all to give a hand to someone that you know whose health is very bad at this time… his company took the challenge in making his technology accessible to everyone. In the spirit of caring and moving the world forward – Steve Jobs. Because there’s nothing on the iPhone or iPad that you can do that I can’t do. As a matter of fact, i can be talking to you, you can be looking at me, and I can be doing whatever I need to do and you don’t even know what I’m doing. Yeah!

That said, it’s hardly a coincidence that the Siri promo video at the top of this post uses a song by Ray Charles – “What I’d Say” – as the background music. And of course, the song title it’s also a play on Siri itself.


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