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RNIB Praises Ipad As ‘Great Gadget’ For Blind People

June 7, 2010

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has praised Apple for the accessibility features built in to the iPad, which makes it easier for blind and partially-sighted people to use the touch-screen, tablet-style computer.

“When it comes to embedding accessibility, Apple has set the standard in recent years,” said Robin Spinks, principal manager of digital accessibility at the RNIB. “It is now up to other manufacturers to follow their lead.”

The iPad has a number of features that make it easier for people with disabilities or physical limitations to use the device, such as the ability to increase the size of text, an option to change the colour of the screen background and text to make it more legible, and voice-over software to read out the words that appear on-screen.

The charity said the voice-over feature was particularly useful for ebooks, allowing iPad users to download dozens of titles from Apple’s iBookstore and have them read aloud. Accessibility features can be activated by users the first time they register their iPad through iTunes.

Applications built by developers for the iPad are accessible by default, but some apps have been criticised for removing this capability. Wired‘s iPad application, for instance, does not have “live”, searchable text, instead using “pictures” of text. Another blogger pointed out that Google‘s Chrome web browser running on Apple computers running the Mac OS X platform also lacks accessibility features.

In a recent email to one iPhone user, Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, confirmed that the new iPhone OS 4.0 software update would allow iPhone users to increase the size of font in text messages.

I’m very pleased to read this article, as I have been reading, and blogging, stories for some time of children whose physical DisAbilities mean they can’t communicate verbally, who now, through iPad applications, can communicate with their parents using pictures or similar systems. This is real and clear progress for many DisAbled people with many different Disabilities. The IPad may not have been intended to be used for these reasons, but this just shows me the power of technology.

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