September 2016 Issue  Volume 17  Number 9

Book Reviews

Book Review: Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 9: Step-by-Step Instruction for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner

There are two characteristics, in my view, that are absolutely essential for any nonfiction book worth reading. One is a solid foundation of researched material. The other is the ability to present that material in straightforward, comprehensible language.

Anna Dresner's latest offering in her series of manuals guiding users with visual impairments through the often convoluted waters of using an iPhone contains both of these elements in abundance. The result, Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 9: Step-by-Step Instruction for Blind Users, is a book that every blind and low vision iPhone user, whether neophyte or veteran, will want to own.

The book is wonderfully organized and blissfully clear. Dresner delivers solid step-by-step instructions in as few words as possible.

Useful Information for New and Experienced iPhone Users with Visual Impairments

This book is of value to both the iOS newcomer as well as the seasoned user. The first section of the book gives clear and concise information that can guide a new or experienced user through the process of selecting and purchasing an iPhone, case, screen protector, and/or extra battery.

Dresner provides detailed instruction and explanation for enabling the phone's accessibility features, followed by all of the elements in the sequence for setting up a new iPhone. She explains the basic VoiceOver gestures in a manner that is clear enough for the first-time user to follow and yet not so detailed that the experienced user would find it tedious.

Next up is an excellent group of instructions for the various ways you can set up and backup your iPhone. There is, of course, a fantastic explanation for navigating and using iTunes as well as information on other ways to transfer content to your phone. Wondering about new versions versus older versions of apps? Wondering how to sync the Calendars and Contacts lists on your phone and your computer? All of it is here.

Once the phone is set up satisfactorily and VoiceOver is running, the book works through a commendably large number of the functions the iPhone presents. The new user will learn how to navigate home screens, and will receive gentle encouragement from the author to expect mistakes and not fear them.

Remember It's a Phone

The smartphone craze has turned so many of us into humans with an extra appendage. Though you can accomplish amazing tasks with the iPhone it is, after all, also a phone! With that in mind, the author does provide a thorough discussion of initiating, accepting, and ignoring phone calls before leading the reader off into explorations of some slightly more complex features. With all features, if there is more than one way to accomplish a task (such as typing a phone number or using voice dialing to place a call), those options are clearly presented. Also included are explanations for how to access and make use of the Control Center, Notification Center, and Spotlight.

Especially useful is the detailed discussion of the voluminous number of gestures available to the VoiceOver user for moving around the screen, through apps, to turn pages, start and stop reading and music, and more. Even the most seasoned user is likely to find some hidden or overlooked nugget of value in the discussion of Settings, particularly with regard to the rotor and other accessibility features.

Take Note

When it comes to text-related apps alone, such as sending and receiving e-mail messages, iMessages, or using the native Notes app, so many approaches are available that multiple books could be written on several of them. In this book, you can learn about manipulating text (composing, erasing, selecting, copying, cutting, and pasting), along with the many and varied ways in which you can get that text onto your iPhone. The author does a thorough job of discussing using the onscreen keyboard, the braille onscreen keyboard, and Siri, all of which are already available, out of the box, on every iOS device. She also covers third-party apps for entering and manipulating text such as MBraille and Fleksy.

And then there are the external devices for those users who are more comfortable with physical buttons to press. The book covers Bluetooth keyboards and braille displays with sufficient explanation to get any user, experienced or not, up and running. From pairing the Bluetooth keyboard or braille display with your iPhone to experimenting with specific keystrokes, all necessary information is included.

For many readers, there will likely be one particular section or another that will render the book invaluable. The author tells readers how to explore the action connected with individual keystrokes by going into VoiceOver Practice. In the spirit of thoroughness, however, she also has included lists of key commands germane to a given external accessory. There is a list of keystrokes for using a wireless keyboard with the iPhone and another list for using a braille device for input and output. There is a list of keystrokes required for entering special symbols. For those who use a variety of tools for different situations, such as sometimes using the onscreen keyboard, sometimes a braille display, and sometimes a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard, the opportunity to have such lists in one convenient location will definitely be welcome.

In addition to the lists included in the body of the book, a few lists at the back of the book are equally well thought out and succinctly constructed. Some readers will undoubtedly find themselves referring again and again to one or more of the four appendices appearing at the end of the book. Appendix A provides a quick reference describing the various VoiceOver gestures and the location and function of the buttons on the iPhone. Appendix B is a list of frequently asked questions. Appendix C gives links to those apps mentioned in the book, and Appendix D is an excellent compilation of additional resources.

Bottom Line

National Braille Press and Anna Dresner have, once again, produced a manual that many blind and low vision iOS device users will find indispensable as a guide for learning or refining their understanding of the iPhone and iOS 9. As Dresner herself points out, the whole world of iOS (and all technology, for that matter) is a moving target, but even if small nuances have shifted by the time you read this book, you will nevertheless find it a highly useful tool. Read it from cover to cover the first time, and then keep it on your desk for dipping into one section or another, one list or another, or just to look up an isolated resource.

The book is available in a variety of formats.

Product Information

Book: Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 9: Step-by-Step Instructions for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner
Price: $24.00
Available from: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115; 800-548-7323, Ext. 520.
Formats: print, braille, DAISY text, and ePub formats

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