5 ways to go digital like someone who's blind

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, learn how to browse websites, use smartphones and much more without vision

A hand holds an iPhone showing the Voiceover screen.

Try using Voiceover on an iPhone, navigating your computer with just your keyboard or watching TV with your back to the screen today to understand how people who are blind use technology.

May 18, 2017

Technology is everywhere in our lives: You tap on a touchscreen to grab cash from an ATM. You scroll through Outlook to check your emails at work. You flip through TV channels from your couch. People who can’t see do all these things too – but they use different methods to accomplish those tasks.

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 18, 2017, here are five ways you can experience how people who are blind or visually impaired navigate the digital world:

  1. Watch gamers who are blind play live on Twitch: Head over at noon today to Twitch, an online community where users broadcast themselves playing video games, and see how people who are visually impaired use audio cues and clues from fellow gamers to play their favorite games. This livestream from BlindNewWorld, in partnership with AbleGamers, will also feature a Q&A with several players about their experiences with blindness and technology.  
  2. Navigate your computer using just your keyboard: Say someone took away your mouse – how would you access all the different programs on your computer? Try downloading and installing NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), a free screen reader. Use the tab, arrows, the “enter” key and the space bar to open your browser to surf the internet, or to launch Microsoft Word to write a document.
  3. Try Voiceover on your iPhone: Voiceover is the audio way to use your iPhone. It’s easy: Go to Settings, General, then Accessibility, which brings up a plethora of built-in options for users with visual impairment. Enable Voiceover and experiment with it as you browse through your apps. It reads aloud everything from menu items to your emails and texts. You can even turn up the speed of Voiceover – like many skilled users who are blind do to navigate quickly – and see if you can still understand what’s being read.
  4. Watch a TV show with your back to the screen: Put on a random television drama and look away. How do you know who’s shouting during an argument? What’s happening during a musical interlude? What does a new character look like? For people who are visually impaired, audio description is essential to understanding what they’re watching. It’s inserted between lines of dialogue to bring scenes to life with vivid descriptions of action, scenery and facial expressions.
  5. Listen to a visually impaired expert discuss the importance of accessible websites: Check out Marla Runyan, Director of Digital Accessibility for Perkins Access, on the latest episode of “The Dirt” podcast from Boston-based digital design firm Fresh Tilled Soil. This tech-savvy former Olympian explains how accessible websites benefit everyone, including customers and companies.

Could your organization or company do more for digital accessibility – from websites to workplaces? Learn from experts like disability rights attorney Bobby Silverstein, architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), at Perkins Access’ upcoming workshop, “Achieving Web Accessibility,” on June 14. For Global Accessibility Awareness Day only, sign up for a special rate of just $249!