here are millions of apps designed for the
average joe, from games that entertain to
utilities that assist in daily life. But for this
particular Joe, and many other individuals out
there who are visually impaired, the selection of apps is at best very limited in scope.
Granted, almost every app available to download is compatible with VoiceOver, the screen reader software built in to iOS
(and MacOS), but some apps don’t play nicely with VoiceOver
and are only 100 percent accessible to the sighted, rendering
Thankfully, there are a handful of great apps created just for
the visually impaired. The following is a roundup of five options that I personally recommend.
Seeing AI is a talking camera app that uses
artificial intelligence to assist the visually im-
paired with everyday tasks. The app reads text
and documents, recognizes handwriting, scans product bar-
codes, describes people and scenes, and even determines
colors and light levels. The app also reads currency, a feature
that’s in an experimental phase at this time. Two special fea-
tures are facial recognition and photo browsing, which scans
pictures from your Photos app, describes the scene, and de-
tects any text present in the image.
My favorite feature is the photo browsing function, which
allows me to identify pictures I took when I still could see, as
well as new images. My most-used features are the ability to
read text and documents as well as recognize handwriting.
I place Seeing AI at the top of my list and rank it the best
app, because of its multiple sets of handy features. And, most
of all? It’s absolutely free! Other apps perform a single function found in Seeing AI—two of which are included in this app
roundup—but having everything in one place with Seeing AI is
BlindSquare is a navigation app that uses
GPS and real-time-data from Foursquare to tell
you about your physical surroundings, including
residential addresses, businesses, streets, and landmarks.
This app can help a visually impaired person be more independent and get around without having to rely on others for
guidance or directions.
BlindSquare works both indoors and outdoors and tells you
how far you are from your chosen destination, whether you
are traveling on foot or using another mode of transportation
such as a car, bus, or subway train. The app also enables registered users to employ functions found in the FourSquare
app (free), including running to-do lists based on location, tips
from fellow members, and a history of locations visited.
Tap TapSee is another app that can help a
visually impaired person determine and identify
objects they encounter in real life. The key fea-
ture that sets it apart from other apps (such as Seeing AI) is
its ability to take video. The app uses artificial intelligence and
your camera to describe what it sees in pictures or videos,
and also has the ability to read text present in the image.
I use the camera option of this app often to choose clothes
and to identify food items (I’m not talking about scanning
barcodes). The results are spot on most of the time—the AI
Technology is truly amazing!
NantMobile Money Reader
Handling and organizing money can be a
challenge for the visually impaired. You can
purchase a small gadget that scans and reads
currency by placing the corner of the bill into the device, but it
requires you to remember to bring the contraption with you.
It’s one more thing to carry along, when you could use the
NantMobile Money Reader app and carry the device you have
with you all the time instead.
NantMobile Money Reader does exactly as its name suggests and reads money with your iPhone’s camera lens. It
detects the denomination of bills in an instant, no matter the
orientation of the bill you’re scanning. The app supports 21
types of currencies, including the US dollar, and does not
require an internet connection to function. NantMobile also
automatically reads the denomination of the bill out loud, even
when VoiceOver is not on. In addition, for those with low vision, the app magnifies the bill on the screen, making it easier
Audio Game Hub
Audio Game Hub offers a suite of 13 games
designed for the blind using sounds combined
with multitouch gestures to control the func-
tions in each game. Each of the games has a tutorial that
teaches you how to play and lets you practice its controls be-
fore you dive in.
There are currently 13 standard games available, including
Blackjack and Slot Machines, Animal Escape, Bomb Disarmer,
Super Simon, Archery, Hunt, Samurai Tournament, Samurai
Dojo, Labyrinth, Memory, Blocks, and Runner (coming soon).
All games require an individual or package subscription to activate. In the case of the two casino games, players purchase
virtual coins, as well.
My three favorite games are Blackjack, Archery, and
Labyrinth. Blackjack is your standard card game and play is
straightforward; just like being at a casino. Archery is a light
action game where you shoot an arrow at the target, but in
this iteration, you use your ears rather than your eyes to aim.
Labyrinth is a strategy game where you use sound and verbal
clues to determine your location in a maze and try to find your
Joe Leo is a freelance journalist and contributor to iPhone Life. Having been totally
blind since 2013, he offers content specifically for the visually impaired on how to use
their iOS devices to assist in daily life. Formerly a technology and journalism educator
and correspondent for Bay Area Newsgroup, he is now a freelance tech journalist writing for Lo wendMac.com and MacPrices.net and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.