I was going back through the blog again today mostly to get rid of old posts that have become irrelevant when I ran into this old post about getting my first smart phone. It was August of 2009. The phone ran Windows Mobile 6.1. I purchased the MobileSpeak screen reader for it , which cost almost as much as the phone itself with contract. It crashed a lot and worked with only a handful of applications. I was happy to have it, but how things have changed! At the time, I was skeptical of the iPhone. It had already been released with Voiceover built in, but I couldn’t imagine how a touch screen could be used without sight.
My next phone ran Android 2.3 and had a slide-out keyboard. You still needed a keyboard to get much use from the Android phones. Google’s TalkBack was available but left much to be desired. Code Factory, the same company that produced the Windows Mobile screen reader, had an Android app that also included a few basic functions such as phone dialing, address book, and web browsing. It also functioned as the screen reader for the rest of the OS. As I became more comfortable with Android and the accessibility improved a little, I got away from the specialized apps and began using the Eyes Free Shell with TalkBack. Still the experience left much to be desired.
Finally, after listing to podcasts with people successfully using all kinds of apps on the iPhone and reading all the great information to be found on Applevis, a website for blind Apple product users, I got my first iPhone. It was a 4S. I’ve never looked back. Later versions of Android are quite usable. I rooted my wife’s old Kindle with Jelly Bean and I mess with it occasionally, but nothing beats iOS for accessibility.
I don’t know if one can ever say there’s a good time to be blind, but now is certainly better than ever before. Accessibility is stil not guaranteed, but chances are that whatever I want to do on my phone I can find an app that will let me do it. That’s in addition to all the great specialized apps that are designed to meet the needs of people who are blind. The amount of technology that is replaced by this one phone is amazing. It represents thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars of technology that would have been required in years past to do the same things.
In one small gadget I have: A book reader that through the agency of a few apps allows access to just about any book I want to read, Bibles and reference materials, a hand-held magnifier, a product identifier, an OCR capable scanner, a note taker, a GPS navigator catered to my needs, a radio, a TV, a music player, and the list goes on. I look back at that first post and marvel at how far we’ve come in such a short time.
I am thankful to the God who is responsible for all of this. I’ve described man’s achievements here, but we done nothing but use the creative minds God gave us to arrange the materials He gave us in new ways. His is the glory for everything we have. So as we give and receive gifts this Christmas, I’m thankful for the gift of technology that makes the life I live possible.