Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Talking Email Keyboard for the iPhone

I've mentioned that talking products, created for sighted people, often benefit the blind and visually impaired. I'm going to tell you about another product that fits into this catagory, but before I do, let me give you the description of this product from the manufacturer and let you decide its best use.

"With the Internet in your pocket, it’s hard to not take advantage of it in every situation possible. However, there are some instances in which iPhone use is limited, particularly if you’re behind the wheel of a car. Talking Email Keyboard from G.P. Imports attempts to change that by allowing you to type e-mails as you drive."

Typing email as you drive? How many blind and visually impaired people have been hit while trying to cross the street? Let's see if we can't find a better use for this nifty product.

Talking Email Keyboard works by announcing each letter you’ve typed after you tap a key, saving you the trouble of having to look down at the screen as you type, at least in theory. The voice used by the app is pleasant and can clearly enunciate the letters you type. However, when typing fast, the voice can lag, decreasing your productivity.

Still, even with Talking Email Keyboard’s oral confirmation, it remains hard to know what you’re about to type without sneaking a peak at your iPhone. For instance, it’s impossible to know that you’re about to type the letter “y” until after you’ve hit the key and Talking Email Keyboard confirms it. It would be great if the application would announce letters as you scroll over them, like a screen reader. The application doesn’t announce any auto-correct words suggested by iPhone. And it doesn’t let you know when you’ve switched to the numbers/symbols keyboard. It may be something for a person with low vision, but I think the blind would have problems successfully using it.

As I noted above, G.P. Imports touts this app as something you can use while driving “if your local law permits”, I wouldn’t recommend the app for that use, no matter what your local laws are. That said, the app might be more appealing to visually impaired users who would appreciate the audio cues as they type, it certainly seems like a better use than having distracted motorists fumbling for their iPhones to tap out an email, when they should be focusing on the road. Talking Email Keyboard is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.

Click this link to learn more about the Talking Email Keyboard from AppBeacon.

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