There was a time when a blind person had two career options. They could sell pencils on the street corner, or they could beg. Honestly, they were the same option. What a person with low to no vision can do today feels a lot like magic. On no other platform is that more true than iOS. The operating system is an amazing accessibility  platform all by itself. This post is just focusing on a couple of third-party apps that bring the magic in a major way.

Prizmo - Scanning, OCR, and Speech $9.99

When you get a letter in the mail, you open it up and read it. When a visually impaired person gets a letter, they either find someone to read it for them, or they reach for technology. In this case, the technology of choice is  Prizmo - Scanning, OCR, and Speech. This iOS app turns your iPhone or iPad into a handheld document scanner. As with all such applications, you need a good, clean page of text to scan, as well as strong and even lighting. 

With a little practice, a totally blind person will be able to scan a sheet of paper and have the application read back the text within seconds of scanning. The app leverages the VoiceOver functionality already built into iOS. However, it dose not just utilize Apple's work and call it a day. It actually offers a slightly different workflow when VoiceOver is enabled. Additionally, it adds its own reading capability that works in the background, even when the screen is off. That is a trick that even VoiceOver can't pull off. The app can do much more, so expect a review in the near future. For the visually impaired, it is the best document scanner and reader ever to hit the market on any device.

TapTapSee - Blind & Visually Impaired Camera freemium

This unfortunately named app is the spiritual successor to an app called, "Omoby". That app took the world of the blind and visually impaired by storm. It allowed blind people to take a picture from the app, and the app would provide a spoken description of the image. If you are making spaghetti, confusing the cream of mushroom for tomato sauce could be disastrous. If you're not sure which is which, just point the app at the can and snap a picture. Within a few seconds, the app will tell you everything you wanted to know about that can of tomato sauce.

Unfortunately, that app is gone. No worries, TapTapSee is the exact same app, or at least, it has the exact same functionality. The difference is that unlike Omoby when it launched, TapTapSee has a business model. The app gives you 20 recognitions for free. After that, you pay. The service is fairly pricy. Unlimited use of the app will cost you $9.99 per month, or $24.99 every three months. The smallest package is 50 recognitions for $4.99. It can tell the color of clothes and identify money. In many cases, it even properly identifies the contents of a plate of food. It is a bit spendy. But if you happen to be blind or close to blind, there is nothing quite like it.

These are not the only apps that give the blind a measure of sight. But they are two of the best in the business. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, especially if he has an iPhone.

David Johnson

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