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Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) in the United States has been doing pioneering work in terms of informing patients with retinal conditions about research in finding a cure, besides helping them cope with the diminishing vision. Importantly, the not for profit organization is funding several scientific and medical researches that would eventually help restore vision. Some of the research has been very promising.

FFB is holding its annual conference called Visions 2014 at Denver Colorado between June 19 and 22. Among several interesting sessions, the conference will host a session by assistive technology expert Douglas Walker, who will demonstrate how Apple products make life easy for persons with retinal conditions, who suffer varying degrees of vision impairments due to a host of genetic conditions affecting retina.

FFB’s newsletter “In Focus” reports that Douglas, a 24 year veteran in accessible technology domain as a trainer and expert and is also affected with Best disease, a condition that has gradually diminished his central vision, will present accessibility of Apple devices in two separate sessions. He is doing it after he held a similar session last year and learnt that there was a lot more to talk about how the devices are friendly to low vision persons.

Douglas would focus on the accessibility of the devices in the session “insight into iDevices”, while he would specifically discuss Apple’s screen reader in the session “insight into Apple Voiceover”.

“We call what Apple is doing “universal design,” meaning you can take a product off the shelf and it can pretty much work across the board with any disability,” Douglas tells in an interview for the FFB newsletter.

“If you look at all the iDevices, or the Mac, MacBook or Apple TV, it’s doing a fantastic job with universal design. There are options for people with motor issues; you can hook switches up to the iPhone and iPad, or even program them to detect hand gestures. So these devices are not just for people in the visually impaired community; they’re for the entire community of people with disabilities.”
“People assume that when you’re talking about low-vision accessibility, you’re just talking about enlarging the screen. But that just scratches the surface. You can do so many other things — like invert the color schemes, have it speak different things you’ve selected. You can change the contrast and the font sizes,” Douglas tells the FFB newsletter.

“I’ll present the newest software, IOS7, assuming most people upgrade. Apple says 75 percent do, and it’s been out a while. I’m going to present on an iPad, which will be hooked up to a screen. They’ll see what I’m doing, all the different accessibility features built in there,” he says, talking about his session at the Visions 2014 in Denver.

As someone using iPhone, albeit the 4s version of it, I personally find iPhones much more comprehensive in addressing issues faced by persons with different kinds of disability. Even if you are an ‘able bodied’ user, you can check out by going to Settings/General/Accessibility on your iPhone device and play around with the features there just for fun. It would be much more instructive than any elaborate article on accessibility. Also, Douglas has done a video on iDevice accessibility which you would enjoy watching on YouTube. Just search or find his video at FFB’s site.

For more on Douglas and his session, please visit FFB’s website and click on ‘In Focus’, where you would find much more about Vision 2014.

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