Recently, Clara Van Gerven published an article on the National Federation of the Blind website entitled, “The Sighted Guide to VoiceOver”. In the article, the author, a sighted assistive technology specialist, undertook an experiment to use only VoiceOver on her iPhone for forty days. That any sighted person, even an assistive technology professional, would undertake using only VoiceOver for forty days is to be commended, as one cannot even begin to imagine the amount of frustration the author experienced being sighted but having to rely only on speech.
In the article, the author asserts that the built-in iOS keyboard is “a pain to type on,” even for expert users:
Let me start with one piece of advice that I would dispense to anyone attempting VoiceOver, blind or sighted: for the love of all that you hold dear, please use a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPhone (or Braille input, if you’re so lucky). I promise you that otherwise you will inevitably throw your precious device into the nearest hard surface. Reader, we don’t want to be held responsible for damage. Find a Bluetooth keyboard. Buy one. Borrow one. Because unpleasant fact numero uno of VoiceOver on iOS is this:
It is a pain to type on. Even for the experts.
The article continues, highlighting (among other things) issues with Safari, non-uniform speech feedback, latency, and inconsistent third-party app accessibility—all issues which affect VoiceOver users in varying degrees. The author then extols the benefits afforded only to VoiceOver users when compared to the sighted population, adding a nice sense of balance to the otherwise edgy piece. This is all fine and well, as peoples’ experiences with and perceptions of things are bound to be varied in life.
The article concludes with the author asserting that, in many cases, the iOS experience for blind users is not equivalent to that for sighted users:
As for the bottom line, is it as good as the experience for a sighted person is, the outcome is clear. Sometimes it’s better; often it’s similar; but quite often it is worse; and that’s a shame, because it’s not inevitable. Speech on phones has come such a long way – but it would be a mistake to take the current improved state of affairs for an equivalent experience.
So, what do you think? Is Apple providing an equivalent experience for VoiceOver users? Sound off in the comments!