Using technology with no sight


Anyone tried using technology with no sight?

Guest Post by Jackie Brown

If you are like me and love gismos and gadgets, you won’t be surprised to know there is something out there to help you do just about anything these days.

But what about trying to use technology with no sight?

You need a new washing-machine, but can you find one with a voice to tell you which programme to use?

You fancy buying a new digital radio, but can you choose one that is accessible?

And you want to replace your dictaphone, but is the one you buy going to be accessible to operate?


The first thing I always have to ask myself before buying anything is: can I access it? But should we, as blind people, be forced to compromise on the limited choices out there? If our sighted counterparts are able to walk into a shop and buy a new digital radio without worrying over whether they can access it, shouldn’t we? You would think so, but manufacturers are still in no hurry to make their goods and services inclusive for everyone.

Over the years, we have seen some useful examples of good accessibility practice: the Sharp talking clock and calculator in the 1980s; the Pure Sonus DAB digital talking radio in the early 2000s; and the TVonics talking Freeview HD box only a couple of years ago. Olympus has also offered speech guidance on some of its recorders, while Apple and Google have climbed to the top of my accessible tree with the inclusion of the Talkback and VoiceOver screenreaders in all their respective products.

The advancement in technology has proved that incorporating a voice chip into appliances can be achieved.

But then manufacturers counter this argument with the notion that because people with a visual impairment are such a minority, it would not be viable. And with no legislation and resources to police accessibility inclusion, we are no further forward. The handful of companies who do manufacture a talking gadget do so as a selling benefit to your average man in the street rather than with blind or visually impaired people in mind. Apple’s Siri, for example, was never designed for a blind person, but it is we who benefit most from its inclusion.

So if the technology is there to include voice chips in appliances, but companies have no incentive to incorporate them, and there is no statutory body to oversee implementation, how do we move forward?

I commend companies who have made an attempt to include some accessibility into their products, such as Olympus, Samsung and LG, but it is the tip of a very large iceberg. Surely the emphasis needs to be on developing existing and future products to speak and have larger display features rather than companies jumping on the disability bandwagon and producing specialist products, adding a nought to every item.

I believe that if lawmakers around the world suddenly lost the use of their eyes, the technology plain would become a very different environment!

So I ask the question, Anyone tried using technology with no sight? Perhaps if all designers were taught more about inclusive design or tried to access their own product without the use of their sight they might think twice about accessibility.