From Speech Synthesis Developer to Accessibility Advocate: My iPhone Story

Accessibility Advocacy

Hello World! When I purchased my iPhone 6S+, 69 days ago, of this writing, I did not know what to expect, after being 100% satisfied with Google Talkback on my Android SmartPhone, in compensating for my blindness. Many blind & visually-impaired iPhone users kept trying to convince me to buy an iPhone!
When I lost my vision in December 2017, after surviving disability hate crime, I was too hesitant to use a screen reader, for one big reason: I was an independent developer of speech synthesis projects, aka "speech synthesizers" from 1986 to 2017, whereas my interest began in 1982, when I was 12 years old in Seattle.
Prior to my blindness, I completed 35 wonderful years of Computer Science, whereas speech synthesis was common in the majority of my projects. My tweets over the past decade, had caused Suzanne Bennett, the original voice of Siri, to always follow me.during the mid-1980s, I wrote code on the original Apple Macintosh computers, that interfaces with its onboard speech synthesizer. I never owned an original Mac, but my deaf friend & classmate had one in his bedroom, where I compiled & tested my code. From 1987 to 1988, I was making talking programs on the Mac at my high school's business lab.
Also, I interfaced a Radio Shack SP0256 speech synthesizer circuit to my other friends' Apple II computer. This was in Seattle in 1987. I was able to get the Apple II to talk, but because I was a beginner at computer science at that time, I was not that successful.
In 2006, I bought the Apple iBook G4 and the 1st generation of the Intel Mac mini. I developed talking programs in Mac OS X Tiger & Leopard, but nobody was interested, and thought my talking programs were a joke! VoiceOver existed back then, but I was not blind at that time, so there was no need for VoiceOver. I developed talking, windowless apps using Xcode and FreeBSD gcc from the command-line. -- Most of what my programs did back then, are done with Siri today!
A week ago, when I registered into this AppleVis website, I was surprised to have noticed the "Accessibility Advocacy" category! It's like having my own category for my lifelong work of speech synthesizers! Added to that, I was also inventing speech synthesis technology that does not use a display screen!
Tomorrow will mark 70 days with my iPhone 6S+. Prior to purchase, I had the salesman activate VoiceOver on the demo unit, to see if I can work an iPhone without vision; the salesman had to visit the website on how to enable VoiceOver for me! When I noticed the iPhone acts like my Amazon Fire 7 tablet, it was easier to work with! I then noticed, Garageband, Pages, etc., causing me to ask the salesman, "Is this a pocket-sized Mac?" After agreeing to purchase with my sighted wife, I had the salesman upgrade the iOS to the latest version, 12.2 at that time. In fact, I had him do the initial setup, including downloading my requested apps. I discovered how to activate Siri on my own, because the sales staff don't use Siri. When I arrived home, I had my wife's nephew link my Bluetooth keyboard to my new iPhone, because I'm Generation X and still not used to a touchscreen for touch-typing!
For those that wondering, my reasons for buying iPhone, is to experience VoiceOver & Siri, learn the Swift programming language, and to tinker with Seeing AI; tools not found in Android! I entered my WiFi details on my own, using the on-screen keyboard. Downloading voices for Siri & VoiceOver was slow, here in the Philippines, but I did it! Within 6 hours of my iPhone purchase, accessibility became 100% active at my disposal!
At the 7 hour mark, I paid to remove ads from ScannerRadio, as I'm in regular contact with the ScannerRadio developers, helping to improve accessibility. I also bought LiveATC, to compare VoiceOver support with their Android version; I also correspond with the LiveATC developers, in terms of improving accessibility support. -- I'm not afraid to buy apps from developers that I'm already corresponding with!
In addition to speech synthesis development, I have been an independent software developer since my 1st Hello World program in 1982 in Seattle. For the next 35 years, I have wrote code in nearly operating systems. That's why I can easily be an Accessibility Advocate!
Though I now have an iPhone, I'm not the common smartphone addict! No, I'm not in Facebook, not anymore; I deleted my Facebook account on February 15! I'll be leaving Twitter on June 30, 2019. I don't have games because that's not my interest! Other than the App Store, I deleted the Apple bloatware that costs money! I correspond with developers via E-Mail. I've not used Facetime because my Real-World iOS friends don't use it. I disabled nearly all notifications. Now my iPhone is more like a REAL Computer!
As a sidenote, in my air conditioned room, is my Android smartphone, Chromecast-connected HDTV, Google Home mini & Amazon Echo dot smartspeakers. I gave my Amazon Fire 7 tablet to my wife's nephew when I bought the iPhone.
My 49th birthday has come & gone. I was hoping my iPhone 6S+ would be receiving iOS 13 because I was born on the 13th of May, but I heard the sad news. I cannot afford a newer iPhone, so I won't be able to experience accessibility features of newer models.I have been requesting "Dark Mode" for decades, but my request were always ignored; now it's too late!
Thanks for reading my latest forum post at AppleVis! I'm touch-typing this message using my LogicTech Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard with VoiceOver active on my iPhone! (I'm wearing the corded earbuds because my wife is sleeping!) Have a Great Day, Everybody!




Submitted by Jeff on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Welcome, Marcos. Perhaps I misunderstood your comment about it being too late for your ability to get iOS 13 on your 6S Plus. According to the articles I've read, the 6S and 6S Plus will get iOS 13. Only the 6 and older models will not get iOS 13. It won't be released until the fall, though, unless you want to join the beta test group.

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Welcome Marcos! red your story. I too have an iPhone accept it's a 7, which also supports iOS 13. as the previous poster stated, you could join the beta team to test out the features, but might I add that the first beta it's buggy, but I haven't notice any bugs, and I will not participate this year, so I'm going to wait until official release.

Submitted by Ekaj on Thursday, June 6, 2019

Hi Marcos and welcome from me too! I have an iPhone 7 as well, but have not joined the beta program only because I'm not advanced enough in my technology skills and due to time constraints. But I love my iPhone and don't know what I'd do without it. I was born blind and my parents and I weren't sure I could even use an i-device, due to low muscle tone caused by my Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. But my dad and I managed to purchase one last year after some good advice from my brother, who is also a VoiceOver user and has had more than one iPhone. My mom and I also talked with someone at Second Sense. I had 2 sessions at Second Sense here in Chicago from another VoiceOver user, and they were very helpful. I've been meaning to go back and work with him on some stuff, but that hasn't happened yet due to a busy social life. But I have to thank Apple for such a great experience, both on my iPhone and MacBook! Thank you also to AppleVis for providing a space where we can talk and sometimes commiserate on all things Apple, lol! Also the email discussion lists have been helpful. Belated happy birthday to you, and have a great day.