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iPhone Replaces ‘Shopping Cart’ Full of Gadgets for the Blind



When I first read the headline Smartphones Flunk for Blind Users in an email newsletter my father forwarded to me, I though I was about to read that touch-enabled smartphones are completely unusable for the visually impaired. Instead, I was absolutely floored by how Joshua Miele, a  Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute scientist is using his iPhone and other gadgets to navigate San Francisco. It’s not all roses however. Google’s Android screenreader is half-baked and screenreader software for Blackberry smartphones costs a whopping $450.

To be honest, I was completely unaware that the iPhone had all of the features demonstrated in the above video. I guess you learn a little something everyday.

The reason my father signed up for such a newsletter is because he’s donating his time and teaching a group of blind students some woodworking skills. The program, and others like it, are to instill confidence and independence in young people. Joshua Miele is an outstanding example of how one can overcome challenges and have a fulfilling career.



  1. Joshua A. Miele

    07/12/2010 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks very much for finding this of interest. Of course, one of the big accessibility problems on any platform is getting the third-party apps to comply with accessibility guidelines. iPhone apps that ship with the iPhone all work quite well with VoiceOver. On the other hand, third-party apps are a crap shoot. Many have unlabeled buttons and other custom controls that make it difficult to use the app with a screen reader. One of the most important issues in promoting accessibility, whether on a mobile platform or the desktop, is getting app developers to understand the simple steps they can take to make their apps accessible. Accessibility is almost always a game of catch-up. Apple, and google to some extent, have been trying to make it an easier game for all concerned by including screen readers and magnifiers in the mobile OS, but the app developers have to play the catch-up game also in order for the blind and visually-impaired community to benefit.

    It also sounds like your dad is doing really cool stuff!

    Keep it up!

    • Xavier Lanier

      07/12/2010 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Joshua, thanks very much for the comments and for sharing your story with us.

    • Xavier lanier Sr

      07/14/2010 at 9:59 pm

      Joshua, I was fascinate by the video in the story. I would enjoy talking with you whenever you had a free moment, e-mail is fine or a phone call (415-269-8751) would be better. best, xavier sr.

  2. Dwporter1

    12/15/2010 at 1:45 am

    all this is great, but why is it that no one has developed a shopping cart for the visually impaired. If there is one please refer it to me, I would loveto put it on my site vs. telephone access

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