Tuning in to the Digital Revolution with Vision Loss
American Foundation for the Blind Reviews Apple's iPod Audio Player
New York, NY (March 24, 2005)—From fitness centers and city subway cars to college campuses and teens' bedrooms, Apple's iPods are everywhere, revolutionizing the way we listen to music. But are these popular devices user-friendly for people who are blind or who have low vision? According to a March review in AccessWorld—the American Foundation for the Blind's (AFB) online technology magazine—the answer is yes, and with a few small alterations the iPod could be completely accessible to people with vision loss.
"The iPod has the potential to be a big seller among people who are blind or visually impaired," said AccessWorld editor Jay Leventhal. "With a few small adjustments, which wouldn't be difficult or costly to implement, all of the functions of the device could be usable by everyone-sighted or visually impaired."
AFB determined that, overall, the iPod is a good investment for a person who is blind or has low vision, since most of the basic commands are user-friendly. However, the documentation and more complex functions-such as playlist management, clock, notes, calendar, and contacts-are not yet accessible to people with visual impairments.
For decades, upgrades in audio technology have transformed life for people with vision loss, and Apple's new portable music players are no different. The iPod can hold an amazing amount of music as well as audio books, and any commercial CD audiobook can be converted easily to be played on the iPod. In this respect the iPod is an even more useful tool for people who are blind or visually impaired, who often read documents and audiobooks with text-to-speech software.
People who are blind or visually impaired have utilized audiobook technology since its inception in 1933 with AFB's creation of the Talking Books program and the long playing record. The LP, which made storing books in audio format practical, opened a whole new world of possibilities for people with visual impairments, and portable digital audio players could be just as groundbreaking. Having thousands of books, songs, and text documents literally at your fingertips-what not too long ago would have required a large archive-is the next step for sighted people; for people with low vision it's nothing short of a leap.