With my low vision needs, the Accessibility features of a new platform, both hardware and software, are of paramount importance. In fact, Accessibility was one of the enticements that lured me to the Mac platform in 2005.
While the Zoom feature of Mac OS X is first class, the built-in Text-to-Speech feature provides these tired eyes with the help they need. just highlight the text, hit the keyboard shortcut and let the nice lady inside the Mac read to you. I also use the feature to proofread outgoing documents and emails. I couldn’t operate without Zoom and Text-to-Speech.
With later releases of the iPhone OS and the advent of the App Store, I have been able to put together a similar use of Text-to-Speech using the iPhone Copy & Paste in tandum with an App called Speak-It from Future Apps, Inc.
First, I highlight the desired text inside the current application and select the iPhone Copyfunction. It’s sometimes a little tricky to get the desired selection, but, with persistence it can be done.
Once the Copy operation has been performed, you now need to exit the current App and launch Speak-It. Note: With the release of iPhone OS 4.0 and the right iPhone hardware, you will be able to switch between the two Apps.
Once Speak-It is up and running, you tap and hold in the text entry area until the Paste option appears. Select Paste and voila!. The text from the other App pops in. Press the “Speak It” button and let the soothing tones of the little lady inside the Speak-It App read the story.
It would be nice to be able to invoke Text-To-Speech function from the first App. Add a “Speak” option to the Copy pop-up. The Speak option would be available if the user had selected Text-to-Speech in his/her Accessibility preference pane. The operation would be performed directly in the current App, eliminating the need to exit or switch to a different App.
The iPhoneVirtual Keyboard
The original iPhone (2007) was my first Smartphone. I had never really used text messaging or any other keyboard intensive operations. The iPhone virtual keyboard with it’s pop-up letter indications was a game-changer for me. I press a virtual key and the key pressed is displayed above my typing digit. I press and hold and slide left, right, up or down in the event my first press was quite right. Using this method, I can type out text messages and Tweets and emails in an acceptable time period.
I noticed that the iPad’s virtual keyboard has lost this function. I realize that the keys are larger, but the lettering on the key is still somewhat small to me. It would be comforting to see the face of the little Letter, Number or Symbol peek up at me from the touch screen.
Another enhancement would be to allow increased contrast between the key and the displayed symbol; a Black Key with White Text without affecting the rest of the display.. This is the keyboard layout for the Unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops (one of the reasons I purchased the first Unibody MacBook in 2008).
Anyway, those are some suggestions for improvements in iPhone and iPad Accessibility. Do you have any other ideas that would aid those of us that love the technology, but need a little assist in using it?