Can blind people send text messages?

December 18, 2014 • Posted in technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized by

I know, I know. You were so mesmerized by the sweet photo Mike published with his December 8 post that you missed the part about my upgrading my iPhone. I went from a 3gs to a 4, which means…I have Siri now!

Here’s the photo I’m talking about, my 5-month-old great niece with my five-year-old great Seeing Eye dog.

Here’s the photo I’m talking about, my 5-month-old great niece with my five-year-old great Seeing Eye dog.

Plenty of people who are blind have been using speech synthesizers to type text messages into their phones for years now — I’m just not one of them. I learned how to use VoiceOver, the speech synthesizer that comes with every iPhone, And it lets me type texts, but I found it too difficult.

VoiceOver parrots every letter the blind user types into a text message, but have you ever heard the term PICNIC? It stands for “Problem In Chair Not In Computer.” I found typing into a phone cumbersome. I was so slow at it, it made better sense for me to phone my friends rather than texting them.

Siri to the rescue! I’m so tickled by how she helps me text that I’m spelling out the easy way you can use her, too. (Not sure, but I think Siri might be particularly helpful for older adults who are diagnosed with macular degeneration, we’ll see.)

So let’s get started. If you are blind and have an iPhone, or you are helping someone who is blind use their iPhone, you need to make sure you have VoiceOver turned on — go to my How do blind people use iPhones post to learn how to turn VoiceOver on.

Got VoiceOver on? Okay, now for my “Text with Siri” lesson. For this lesson, I assume you already have some people in your “contacts” List, so we’ll start with learning how to turn Siri on.

  • Press down the home key to get your iPhone going –that is the big round button (well, It’s about ½ inch in diameter, I guess) right below your iPhone screen. You can actually feel this button go down if you press it, it’s a real physical button.
  • Double tap anywhere on the screen to unlock the screen. VoiceOver will call out “screen unlocked.”
  • Swipe your pointer finger quickly from the left of the screen to the right of the screen a few times until you hear VoiceOver call out “settings!”
  • If you get overzealous and go past “settings,” swipe your finger from the right side of the screen to the left to go back until you hear “settings.”
  • Once you’re sure you’ve heard settings, double tap anywhere on the screen to activate settings.
  • Now swipe your pointer finger quickly from the left of the screen to the right of the screen over a few times until you hear VoiceOver call out “general!”
  • Double tap anywhere on the screen to activate the “general” button.
  • Swipe your pointer finger quickly from the left of the screen to the right of the screen a few times until you hear VoiceOver either call out “Siri on” or “Siri off.”
  • If VoiceOver says “Siri on” that means Siri is already turned on.
  • If VoiceOver says “Siri off” you need to double tap on the screen, and when it says “Siri on” you know Siri is on.

Phew. Still with me? Okay, Siri is on your phone now. Here’s how you use her to send a text message.

  • Hold down the home button (remember that’s the button you can feel below your phone screen) and keep holding it down until you hear a double bell sound.
  • Don’t let go of that button! Hold it down while you tell Siri who it is you want to text (if the person you want to text isn’t in your “contacts,” you can say their cell phone number). For this exercise, I said, “Text Mike.”
  • When you are finished giving your command, release the button.
  • You won’t have to hold the button down anymore, Siri knows you’re there now. you’ll hear another double bell tone, and Siri will ask, “Okay, what do you want to say to Mike?”
  • Remember, you don’t have to hold the button down anymore, just hold the phone and tell her what you want to text. For this lesson, I simply said “Practicing.”
  • Siri comes back to tell you what your message reads “Your message to Mike says, ‘Practicing.’ Ready to send it?”
  • You say “yes.”
  • Siri says, “Okay, I’ll send it,” and sure enough, in mere second or two, you hear a whoosh sound. Your message is sent.

You can say no to sending, of course, and I’ve even learned how to change the wording when I misspeak or cancel the message altogether. But that’s a lesson for another post. I’ll leave you here with one last tip: If you are not blind and have been helping someone try this out, all you have to do to take VoiceOver off your iPhone is tell Siri, “Turn VoiceOver off.” She’ll do it for you. HTH & TTFN.

Mark Gillingham On December 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

Did you know that you can use Siri to turn Voiceover on and off. I’ve been using Voiceover to read the New York Times during road trips. When I want to go back to Audible or Map I ask Siri to turn off Voiceover first.

bethfinke On December 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Mark, Thanks for this tip — I knew you could ask Siri to turn VoiceOver on or off (i nthis the blog post I told the sighted people who are just trying it out or are helping a friend who is blind that they could ask Siri to turn VoiceOver off) but it hadn’t dawned on me how handy this would be when a person who is blind is switching between reading and using things like audible.com — fantastic. Any other Siri tips? I’m all ears.

_____

brailleerin On December 21, 2014 at 4:17 am

Go to settings > general > accessibility > triple click home to set your phone to turn voice over on or off when you press the home button three times. Super handy!

bethfinke On December 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

Great tips, BrailleErin — thanks! I guess the only reason to go to settings in re: Siri is if for some reason you wanted to turn her *off* then. I’ll try “looking for that dictate button again, and yes, I use that VoiceOver off and on trick all the time and you’re’ right: very handy.

_____

Dave Hyde On December 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Beth, you’re making it too complicated. Use the dictate button at the bottom of the screen. It is a button that appears on the screen. Double tap it. When you are done talking, double tap the screen again. The end send your message. That is how I am doing this one, but I am too lazy to text using the letters on the screen. Ha

Sent from my iPhone

>

bethfinke On December 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Okie-doke. I’ll look for the dictate button and give it a try. Oh, I mean “listen for” the dictate button…stay tuend!

bethfinke On December 20, 2014 at 8:24 am

Dave, Are you sure the iPhone 4 has this “dictate” button? I can’t find it…

_____

brailleerin On December 21, 2014 at 4:14 am

The dictate button is located on your keyboard to the left of the space bar. So if you are anywhere that it says “text field is editing” then the keyboard shows and you can use the dictate button rather than typing.

Deborah Kerr On December 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Yes, my husband has been totally blind for 35 years; no light perception. He will be 70 in May. He has mastered the iPhone. (He also retired from the Federal Govt at the highest level one can achieve…Senior Executive Service. He was the Executive Officer( adm head ) of an institute at The National Institutes of Health. He loves his technology! )

Sent from my iPad

>

bethfinke On December 21, 2014 at 11:34 am

Very cool. Inspiring, too. Thanks for lleaving a comment, Deborah.

_____

brailleerin On December 21, 2014 at 4:10 am

You can turn Siri on just by pressing and holding the home button. No need to go into settings.

Can blind people read emojis? | Safe & Sound blog On October 29, 2015 at 8:32 pm

[…] how some people who are blind access a program called VoiceOver to use an iPhone — VoiceOver parrots every letter we type into a text, but it wasn’t until I upgraded to IOS 9 last month that I came face-to-face with an […]

bethfinke On October 30, 2015 at 6:05 am

Ray app. Never heard of it. Thanks for the tip —

_____

Leave a Response