Rating the Accessibility Features on the iPhone

Monday, May 13, 2013

*The following is a guest post by Mark Flores of Handi Enterprises. Mark has 17 years of experience in providing adaptive technology and communication devices and is confident that Handi Enterprise can provide solutions to meet your adaptive technology and communication needs.

When evaluating a product I find it useful to compare it against what the manufacture says about it.  The 1st thing that jumps out at me about Apple’s literature on the iPhone’s accessibility features as relates to motor impairment, is the fact that they are touting features used by everyone, including those without physical disabilities, as accessibility features.  Reading this I have to ask myself the question are features such as Siri or volume buttons really accessibility features when they are used by everyone?  Or is the iPhone just thin on motor impairment accessibility features?  Which leads me to my 2nd question based on the iPhone accessibility features that I use every day: is iPhone motor impairment accessibility at the forefront for people that need it or is it just an afterthought?
I will rate the accessibility features that I used in my 30 day experiment, of the iPhone 5, with these questions in mind.
For the most part, the accessibility features of the iPhone 5 that I used were relatively easy to test.  This is because most of them were located in the assistive touch feature of the iPhone; which places a number of those features right on the home screen in a small translucent ball that you can move around with your fingers as necessary.  With the assistive touch feature enabled I was able to easily do things like: turn on Siri, lock my screen rotation into place; (which turned out to be very important for my level of CP,) use the multitasking feature without having to double tap the home button, control the volume of the phone without having to struggle with the buttons on the side just to name a few.
2 more accessibility features on the iPhone 5 that I found quite helpful and easy to use were the voice texting and the select text to read features.  A recent addition to the iPhone operating system (IOS) is the ability for you now to send text messages inside iPhone’s text messaging app.  You can imagine that for someone like me who has limited use of my hands, the ability to transcribe your voice into text right in the texting app is huge; as opposed to having to use a third-party app to dictate, select, copy and paste my text like I had to previously.  The fact that he uses series voice recognition technology to do the transcription also means that it is very accurate. 
As somebody with a learning disability that requires audio feedback for whatever I read the select text to read feature was great.  I did not have to change the text in any way or copy and paste it to a third-party app to get it to work.  The voice feedback was very smooth and I was the default read speed setting and it was fine.  When pressed me the most about it was that it could read virtually any text in any application including the Internet.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Although I did find that the iPhone 5 was quite responsive there is one accessibility feature that I did not feel was responsive at all.  This was the gestures feature.  The way that this feature is supposed to work is that you can create 1 or 2 finger movements to more easily execute iPhone movements that could be tricky for someone with dexterity issues.  These movements could include things like pinching and stretching or swiping.  I just could not get this to work even and when I was able to create gestures they only worked the way they were supposed to 50% of the time.  Which for someone that needs it to work is not acceptable.  Because I found that gestures were not responsive to me but everything else was, I am giving the iPhone 5 a 3 out of 5 rating when it comes to the responsiveness of their accessibility features.
Does the product perform as advertised?
When I looked at whether or not the iPhone 5’s accessibility features performed as advertised  in helping me use the phone it depended on what I was doing with it.  If I was doing things like dictating text or reading emails they performed fantastically.  The assistive touch features that were already built into the accessibility also performed as advertised but as mentioned before I could not use gestures to help me navigate through the phone.  Because of these reasons I mentioned I will rate the iPhone 5 accessibility features a 4 out of 5 for performing as advertised.
How much physical dexterity is required to use the product i.e. can anyone with any disability utilize it?
The accessibility features of the iPhone 5 are surprisingly stable.  As such once I turned them on they did not all of a sudden stop working as can happen with some different models of phones.  This meant that my need to exercise my dexterity was minimal in most instances.  However, I did have to use my dexterity in navigating through the iOS or selecting text for the phone to read.  This can be difficult for many individuals with physical disabilities to do.  There are some external pieces of adaptive technology you can buy that will minimize the need to use your hands with the iPhone.  We will talk about some of these in a future post. The iPhone does have many different assistive technology features that I do not use to help people with many other types of disabilities in using the phone such as a larger text and voice over.  We will also be talking about some of the accessibility features for people living with visual impairments in a future post. As a result of the phones need to still be used by hand even if some accessibility features are turned on I am giving the iPhone 5 a rating of 3 out of 5 under physical dexterity required.
Overall Rating
Overall the iPhone 5 and its accessibility features receive a rating of 14 out of 20.  I have come to believe that the iPhone 5 is an easy-to-use phone.  This is because there is not much to it.  If you are looking for a phone whose accessibility features function as advertised for the most part and whose operating system is quite easy to learn from a physical accessibility standpoint the iPhone 5 may be for you.  I do believe that the iPhone would become the smart phone of choice for people with physical disabilities if they had stronger voice control functionality, like the ability to answer the phone or turn off the alarm by voice.
Stay tuned for next week’s post and I will begin by talking about my experience with the Samsung Galaxy S3.

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At 9 October 2013 at 02:39 , Blogger Steve Parry said...

It is nice post and i found some interesting information on Ratings For My App. Keep it up


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