Tag Archives: Apple

New book release date and news

I’ve recently finished writing my new book of poetry. The book is called The Edge of Darkness and is released on Amazon Kindle on 28th April 2017 in the UK and 29th April 2017 outside the UK.

 Book cover of The Edge of Darkness by James Goldsworthy

Yesterday evening I recorded a Facebook Live video in which I talk about the book, what it’s about, why I wrote it as well as answering some questions that I’ve been asked about it. So if you’re on Facebook please feel free to click on the link below to watch the video and find out more about the book.




Wishing you all a great Easter weekend.

Audio Described Movies on iTunes

The number of audio described movies on iTunes is slowly but surely increasing. This is really great news if, like me, you use audio description when watching films.


To view the list of audio described movies currently available simply go into the iTunes app on your iOS device or Mac and submit a search using the words Audio Description as the search term. You can view an information page about each movie and purchase them in the same way as you purchase music. Some even give you the option to rent the movie. Once you’ve rented a movie you have 30 days to start watching it and 48 hours to finish it once you’ve started to watch it.


The list is pretty small at the moment but more titles are being added week by week so it’s well worth checking it frequently. I’ve certainly bought a few from the list and very much look forward to increasing my audio described movie library as the list grows.

Colourfully described new book for children now available

Colourfully described new children’s book now available.


I’ve recently released my first book for children. As some of you may know I am blind and work with visually impaired adults and children as an assistive technology trainer/coach. In the interest of making my book as accessible as possible I’ve published it on Amazon Kindle so it can be read by visually impaired and sighted people alike on any device with the Kindle app installed on it.


So what’s the book called and what’s it about? The book is called The Adventures of Larry the Stick Insect: Larry the Dancing King. It’s about a young stick insect, his friends and his adventures as he attends his school’s end of year dance. Larry loves Miranda who is a beautiful Ladybird, but as with any good story there’s a bad guy. That bad guy is Marv, a Praying Mantis who along with his sidekicks Vic and Kane bullies Larry and his friends and acts like he owns the school. In Larry the Dancing King Larry is confronted by Marv in front of his entire school, but Larry has a secret which he reveals to the astonishment of everybody present. The book is funny and paints a vivid picture of the action whilst having a good moral at its core. It’s been well received by children and adults alike.


The book can be purchased on the Amazon Kindle store at:  http://amzn.to/2aee5an



You can follow Larry on Facebook on: http://www.facebook.com/Adventuresoflarryofficial


You can also follow Larry on his very own Twitter page on: @larrythestick1

2016 VoiceOver accessible iOS apps for children and families

I thought I’d write another blog like the one I did last year giving twelve of the best accessible apps for kids that are currently available for Apple iOS devices. So here are the apps I’ve chosen for 2016. All of them are fully accessible with VoiceOver. Just like last year I’ve tried to get a reasonable mixture of apps that are useful, educational and fun, but that can also be used by kids and families alike. This year I’ve only included free apps as there are so many good accessible free apps out there now. Some of them do have optional in-app purchases, but where possible I’ve only gone for completely free ones. In the list below you’ll find the name of the app, a brief description of what it does as well as which devices and operating systems it will work with, whether there are optional in-app purchases and finally a link to its page on the Apple iOS app store.



App name: World Documentary.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a fantastic free app that’s uncomplicated and incredibly easy to use. It pulls together a vast number of documentaries covering a wide variety of topics. Documentaries are organised into categories such as cities and countries, pages of past/history, transportation, the natural world, personalities, all about the universe, military and war and several more. Although the documentaries are not audio described there is so much dialogue in them that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a great app for slightly older kids who are at the stage where watching documentaries is useful to their school work but also if you’re a fan of documentaries in general. Note that you will need to be connected to wi-fi to use this app as you will be streaming the documentaries as you watch them.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/X8GKI.i


App name: Geek Quiz.

Price: Free with optional in-app purchases.

Description: A great quiz about all things geeky including computing, technology, space, science, video games and science fiction. It has single player or multiplayer modes and is completely accessible. Brilliant for kids and/or adults who are not afraid to show their inner geek. Very educational as the questions are so different to those that are normally found in general knowledge quizzes.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 9 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/ZFE4D.i


App name: QuizBang.

Price: Free with optional in-app purchases.

Description: A great general knowledge quiz for single or multiple players. This app regularly and automatically updates its questions each time you use it, so the quiz keeps up with the times. Excellent for general knowledge and educational whilst being fun.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 9 or later. Also offers AppleWatch and AppleTV apps.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/2DwV-.i


App name: TuneClash.

Price: Free.

Description: An absolutely brilliant music quiz in the style of Name That Tune. A huge number of music categories to choose from. The app plays a segment of a song and gives you multiple choices for the answers. Single or multi player modes. Really good fun and completely accessible.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 9 or later. Also offers AppleTV app.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/aol6-.i


App name: Boop.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a superb light detecting app that can be used to determine whether lights have been switched on, if it’s light or dark outside and even if LED lights on electronic devices are on . The app uses the camera of your iOS device to detect light. I’m completely blind and have no light sensitivity at all and this app has proven to be useful time and again. The app emits a tone that increases in pitch the brighter the light is, which means that focusing the camera over an LED actually works.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/8ViPdb.i


App name: Scout Legend.

Price: Free, offers in-app purchases.

Description: This is a really nice little app great for boys and girls. It works along the same lines as Tamagotchi used to in that you play a girl or boy Scout who you feed, water, control activities, choose outfits when you’ve earned enough points from the activities you’ve done. Fully accessible, free and fun, although maybe just a little bit addictive.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/HinC4.i


App name: YesChef.

Price: Free.

Description: This is quite possibly the best app in this list in terms of usefulness, accessibility and fun factor. It’s an app that allows you to search for recipes, get the list of ingredients for the recipe you’re using, listen to step by step instructions and ask questions all hands free and with voice feedback. I’ve used this app with my two nieces who are not visually impaired at all but loved it as it was fun and easy to use; not to mention that they found it hilarious watching their uncle making a mess in the kitchen! This app is absolutely fantastic for kids who are at the stage of needing to come up with recipes and actually cook them at school.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/MiMibb.i


App name: Aipoly Vision.

Price: Free.

Description: An incredibly useful app that has two functions, as a colour detector and an object identifier. Select the colour detector function, point your device’ camera at the item you want to hear the colour of and the app announces the colour out of a list of over 900. I often use this to identify which colour shirt I’m going to wear. Alternatively switch the app to object identification mode, point your device camera at the object you want to identify then single finger double tap the on/off button located on the screen just above the Home button. The app will then announce the object or say that it’s not sure if it can’t identify it. You can also teach the app what items are by taking a photo and submitting it with a description, this is particularly useful as it makes the app more accurate for everybody who uses it. The app does not require a wi-fi connection to use it.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone 5S/6/6+/6S/6S+/SE/7/7+, iPad Air/Air 2, iPad Mini 2/Mini 3/Mini 4, iPad Pro (both sizes) and iPod Touch 6th generation running iOS 9 or later. I suspect that it may also work on iPad 3rd generation and later, but I don’t have one so I’m afraid I cannot confirm that.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/L9IU_.i


App name: Smart Metronome.

Price: Free.

Description: This is one for you musicians out there. Finally a fully accessible metronome app. You can easily increase or decrease the speed and rhythm pattern. Very easy to use and free.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/YNCb1.i


App name: Wikipedia.

Price: Free.

Description: A very useful app for research or just for reading about things you’re interested in. This new Wikipedia app is really very good, it’s fully accessible and easy to use.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 9.3 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/MlSwt.i


App name: Blindfold Word Games.

Price: Free with optional in-app purchases.

Description: A great little app that includes 5 different word games. Great for improving spelling and of course it’s fully accessible.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/m6sK_.i


App name: Blindfold Greeting Card.

Price: Free with optional in-app purchases.

Description: I couldn’t resist including this one as it’s Christmas. This is a really nice little app that allows you to send personalised audio greetings cards. It was my partner’s birthday recently and I used this to send her a card and she liked it very much. The app allows you to choose a sound effect or piece of music as an intro before the person receiving the card hears your personalised voice message. You can send 10 cards for free and then extra cards are are bought through in-app purchases. I thought this would be a nice one for this time of year as most kids will find a use for 10 free cards to send to friends and family.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/LFo0db.i


That wraps up this years list. I hope you find some or all of these apps useful.

How to turn off the “Press home to open” function on iOS 10

If you’ve updated your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to iOS 10 then you may be finding the “Press home to open” function a real pain. Some people like it but a lot of people seem to hate it and find it difficult to get used to. However, as long as it’s on a device that uses touch ID it is possible to turn it off so you can unlock the device in the same way that you used to on iOS 9.


If you’ve updated a device to iOS 10 that does not have the touch ID facility, an iPod Touch for example, then unfortunately the option to turn the function off does not exist.


To turn the “Press home to open” function off do the following:


Step 1: Go to Settings.


Step 2: Go to General.


Step 3: Go to Accessibility. Under the “Interaction” heading go to the “Home” Button.


Step 4: You’ll now find a “Rest finger to open” button at the bottom of the list of options. By default this setting is off. If you’re using VoiceOver single finger double tap this button, if you’re not using VoiceOver simply tap the button once, this turns the setting on and your iOS device will no longer require you to press the Home button to unlock it.

My AppleWatch Experience, Watch 3.0 and how it affects VoiceOver users

Watch 3.0 has been out for a couple of days now, I initially thought it’d just be another update that I’d install only to find it didn’t really change much for me as a VoiceOver user. But I have to admit I was wrong.


I’ve been a fan of the AppleWatch since its release last year and despite a lot of the media gripes about it under performing, not having it’s own cellular connectivity, being too expensive etc, I still think it’s a great device that will evolve into something that many people will end up using. Although I doubt that will be the case for several years, I do feel that the AppleWatch is absolutely fantastic for those of us who are visually impaired or blind and use VoiceOver. It was an absolute revelation for me to finally have a watch that talked in a voice that was clear and understandable, that gave me the ability to adjust its speech volume on the fly and that actually had the potential to be of genuine use on a daily basis. One of the biggest reasons I took the plunge was the ability to check emails and messages etc whilst I’m on the road or with clients. The fact I can do so extremely quickly makes life much easier. I often check these things throughout the day and much of the time my assistant isn’t even aware I’ve done so. This for me is great because it means I don’t need to dig out my iPhone and do so in front of clients at a louder volume.


So getting down to the point of this blog, what’s the release of Watch 3.0 done for VoiceOver users in particular? Well, put simply it’s massively improved the usability of a device that was already pretty damned usable. Let’s be honest about it, Watch 1.0 introduced VoiceOver users to the AppleWatch and made it mostly accessible, Watch 2.0 refined that accessibility  a little more and made using the watch a more pleasurable experience. What Watch 3.0 has done is not only refined accessibility considerably more, but has boosted the overall performance of the watch in a big way and this of course has had a significant, positive impact for AppleWatch owners, including those using VoiceOver.


I’ve installed Watch 3.0 on my first generation AppleWatch so obviously I can only really comment on what has changed on it. Those who purchase a second generation AppleWatch will of course find additional differences in standards of performance etc.


The first thing you notice once you’ve installed Watch 3.0 is just how much faster everything is. This may sound a bit of a vague statement, but with Watch 2.0 apps would take around three seconds on average and sometimes as long as five or six seconds to open. Doesn’t sound long I know but believe me, if you’re trying to do something on the move it feels like an eternity. With Watch 3.0 opening an app is almost instantaneous,. The other thing connected to this is the speed at which the watch switches from the clock face screen to the apps screen when you press the digital crown, as again it’s pretty much instantaneous. These two improvements are brilliant for VoiceOver users as you no longer get that horrible lag between when you double tap on an app or press the digital crown and when the app actually opens or the screen switches.


There are some new additions to Watch 3.0, only two of which I’m going to focus on here. The first is Emergency SOS. This function allows you to choose up to three people from your contacts who will be messaged in the event that you call the emergency services. The way it works is that if you need to call the emergency services you hold down the side button on your AppleWatch and the watch makes the call for you. Whilst you’re on the call the watch sends your current location to the emergency call operator so they can find you. In the meantime any contacts you’ve added are sent a message informing them that you’ve called the emergency services and also sends them your current location. I think this is a brilliant addition to the AppleWatch and can imagine that many people could be helped by it in the future.


If you wish to activate the Emergency SOS function on your AppleWatch go to the AppleWatch app on your iPhone, then go to General and finally go into Emergency SOS.


The next addition, or perhaps I should say change, is the removal of the Friends list to be replaced with the Doc. Where on Watch 1.0 and 2.0 you could press and release the side button to go to a list of friends you had allocated to a list of your most contacted, pressing and releasing the side button on Watch 3.0 opens the Doc. Just like on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch where you have a Doc in which you can place up to four apps that you use most often and/or want to get to quickly, the AppleWatch now has the same. The Doc on the AppleWatch has two additions however, you can place up to four apps in the Doc just as you can on iOS devices. Below those apps the Doc displays the last app you had open so you can go straight back to it. Then below that there’s a “Now Playing” option. Single finger double tapping on the “Now playing” option opens a player controls screen that displays the name of the song, audio book or pod cast you’re listening to as well as allowing you to Play/Pause, skip backwards, skip forwards and adjust volume. I think the addition of the Doc will be welcomed by most VoiceOver users, not only because it works well, but because by using it in conjunction with Digital Crown Navigation the whole process of using it is a pleasurable experience rather than the more frustrating experience we had on Watch 1.0 and 2.0.


To reorder the apps in your Doc go to the AppleWatch app on your iPhone then go into the Doc settings area. Once you’re in there the four apps that are in the Doc by default are displayed at the top of the screen in a list. Below that list there’s a “Do not include” list. You can easily change which apps are in your Doc by single finger double tapping on the Edit button found at the top right corner of the screen. Once you’ve done this a “Reorder” button appears alongside the name of each app up the right side of the screen. Simply single finger double tap and hold on the “Reorder” button of the app you wish to move and drag your finger up or down the list. VoiceOver will announce where you’re moving the app to. For example. “Messages moved below Maps”. You can move apps into or out of the Doc list using this method. Once you’ve finished moving the apps simply single finger double tap on the “Done” button found in the top right corner of the screen.


There are also reported to be battery life improvements with Watch 3.0, but as I’ve only had it for a couple of days I can’t really comment much about that, but time will tell.


In summary, I think that anybody who owns a first generation AppleWatch and uses VoiceOver would benefit from installing the Watch 3.0 update, it’s faster, smoother and I feel more user friendly than its predecessors.

Accessibility of the iStick for iOS

The iStick has been around for a couple of years now, it’s undoubtedly a great concept; after all we all want more storage capability on our iOS devices and many of us would love to be able to use memory sticks with them. But just how accessible is the iStick for those of us who use VoiceOver?


For those of you who are not aware of what an iStick is, it’s basically a very clever memory stick which enables you to store and/or transfer files from your Mac or PC to your iOS device or vice versa. The iStick has both a USB and a lightning connector and a sliding switch style button allows you to expose whichever one you need. At the moment the iStick is only compatible with iOS devices that use lightning connector charging cables, however there’s apparently something in the pipeline that will allow people with older devices to use them. Whether this will be an adaptor for the current iStick or take the form of a purpose built model is unknown. There are currently two models available – the iStick which is plastic, is a USB 2 device and gives you the option of 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity, and the iStick Pro which is aluminium, is a USB 3 device, gives you the option of 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity and is more expensive. Both models come with a neat little keyring pouch to keep the iStick in which is a nice little feature.


To use either model you’ll need to install the free iStick app. I was particularly impressed that not only is the app free but a prompt pops up on your device when you first plug the iStick into it. The prompt allows you to go straight to the app store via a button where you can download and install the app.


So is it accessible to VoiceOver users? The short answer is yes, although there are a few things to be aware of which I’ve listed below.


1: Although not specifically an accessibility issue, protective cases for devices that have narrow holes surrounding the lightning port can stop the iStick from engaging with it enough to work, so you may simply have to remove the case from your device when using the iStick.


2: Once you’ve installed the iStick app it’s as simple as plugging the iStick into the lightning port of your iOS device. A couple of seconds later a dialog box will open telling you that the iStick wants to communicate with the iStick app installed on your device. All of the labels and buttons in the dialog box are accessible with VoiceOver. It gives you an ignore option along with an allow option so all you need to do is single finger double tap on the allow option button to open the iStick app and start using it.


3: Once you have the iStick app open and are on the home screen all but one of the buttons are labelled and are therefore fully accessible with VoiceOver. The button that’s not labelled is actually the Settings button and is found at the bottom of the screen just above the Home button. You can find an operating instructions guide in the settings area which is very useful.


4: You’ll find that very nearly all of the buttons throughout the app are labelled.  However, when in edit mode to delete, copy or move a file there are three buttons running along the bottom of the screen just above the Home button which are not labelled. From left to right these are the delete button, the copy button and the move button.


5: To move back to the previous screen when inside an app VoiceOver users are used to a “Back” button found at the top left corner of the screen. A button that has the same function is located in the same place in the iStick app, however it isn’t labelled in the same way. Instead it’s labelled according to the screen it takes you back to. For example, if you’re in the top level of the “iStick” area in the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “Return” and takes you back to the iStick app home screen. If you’re in a folder full of mp3 files inside the iStick area of the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “iStick” as it takes you back to the top level of the iStick area. Generally this isn’t a problem but it does take a little getting used to.


None of these things make the iStick unusable, in fact with a little playing around a VoiceOver user can become familiar with the app and benefit from using a great functional little device. I’ll certainly be recommending the iStick to clients who express the need for more capacity for their iOS devices.


Ten years on

It was on this day ten years ago that I finally lost my remaining vision. Between February 2004 and December 2005 my eyesight rapidly deteriorated until finally the last of it went literally overnight. I clearly remember sitting up in bed and reading a large print book through the most powerful magnifier it was possible to get at the time. I could only see four words at a time so it was slow going, but I enjoyed reading and was determined to do as much of it as I could before the sight failed completely. Unfortunately the next morning I woke up and found that I couldn’t see anything but dull grey light. I’d already lost my right eye so all I had left was the small amount of vision remaining in my left. Needless to say it was quite a shock to wake up like that and it took me quite some time to get a grip on myself.


Now this blog isn’t a woe is me piece and I’m not going to start going into the details of my adjustment into life as a blind person, but there was nothing that could be done to restore my vision and I knew it. It took me some time to adjust from being a fully sighted, working, driving man in my late twenties to a completely blind, unemployed chap who was not able to drive any more. Anybody who has gone through the same or similar will be fully aware of how it affects your capacity to function on a daily basis and of course your state of mind. Luckily I’m pretty resilient and have a stubborn streak about a mile wide so I made pretty steady progress. I want to make it clear here that I absolutely am not saying that it was easy, it is without exception the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced and quite honestly I wouldn’t ever want to go through it again. It was of course incredibly difficult for my family too and I can say with utter certainty that if it hadn’t have been for the support that my family and friends gave me I wouldn’t be sat here writing this now.


So why am I writing this blog?


Well, as today has approached I’ve spent quite a lot of time reflecting over the past decade of my life, the highs and the lows, my achievements and what’s changed.


If someone had asked me just after my sight had failed if I thought I’d ever have the life I have now and be doing what I am doing now my answer would’ve been entirely negative. Just as most people would have done, there was no way I could imagine anything further ahead than the next twenty four hours.


So what happened to get me out of that situation?


The short answer is sheer bloodymindedness. The full answer is that although I was bloodyminded and refused to curl up in a ball and let it beat me, I had the support and help of my family and friends. More than that, I started getting involved in things and interacting with people.


I started volunteering once a month for my local visual impairment charity BucksVision and as a result got to interact with other people with sight loss as well as fully sighted people. I initially started volunteering at the local resource centre and started learning about assistive technology as well as getting to talk to other people that had either been through or were going through losing their own sight. Before long I found that I was really enjoying helping people as well as being able to learn about how sight loss affects different people. It allowed me to evolve my own coping strategies and use my own experiences to help others. Within a year I was volunteering once a week and ultimately became the person who people met to discuss and try out assistive technology. This went on for several years with my getting more and more involved until in 2011 I became a Trustee/Director of the charity and then in 2012 became the Chairman of the Board for a year. During this time I continued to have a lot of contact with other visually impaired people and did some mentoring and development work with some of them.


This all gave me the inspiration to retrain as a Coach and also to get some proper qualifications to deliver training on assistive technology. I didn’t know exactly what I’d do with the qualifications once I’d got them, but I had the beginnings of an idea. Although I was quite anxious about it at the time I did spend all of my savings and get some help from a local charity to fund my training and I have to say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. By the end of 2013 I had become a certified accredited Executive Coach, become a Dolphin accredited trainer, Dolphin Guide certified software specialist and completed my Apple certified support technician training specialising in VoiceOver. So the next decision I needed to make was, what to do now I’d retrained.


Initially I thought I might get a job as a coach in a local business or perhaps even with the RNIB or similar organisation as some sort of assistive technology trainer or something. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I didn’t actually want to work for anybody else. My previous work background was in retail where I had been a manager and trainer, so I knew I had a good foundation of experience to start from when thinking about running my own business. In the end the decision was really made for me when it became abundantly clear that no local business was interested in employing a blind chap regardless of previous experience and/or qualifications. I’m sure that anybody with any kind of disability reading this will know precisely what I mean as well as how incredibly frustrating it is to be swept under the carpet. So that was what I was going to do, I was going to start my own business as a Coach and assistive technology trainer.


Now I have to say here that starting your own business is not for the faint hearted. Whilst it’s not impossible when you’re blind, it’s certainly not easy and you find yourself having to think about things that wouldn’t even come into consideration normally. After spending a couple of months getting everything set up I started trading as Alternate Visions Coaching and here we are nearly two full years further down the line. I love my job, it’s interesting, I meet some fantastic people, I work with both the sighted and visually impaired, I get to help people by sharing knowledge and experience and I get the satisfaction of seeing people develop. Working as an independent Coach is incredibly varied and working as the only male Coach in an organisation called The Bird Table is fantastic. My colleagues are not only talented Coaches but are also genuinely good people. The Bird Table is a coaching organisation that specialises in business development for women running SMEs or who work in Tech. My work day is never the same from one day to the next and I am constantly learning, which is something that I never want to stop doing.


So, you’re probably reading this thinking that this is all a bit of a pointless blog and that I’m just trying to promote my business. Well no, I’m writing this because if one other person who has been affected by sight loss reads this and can draw even the slightest inspiration from it then surely that’s a good thing. It’s very easy for people to sit and feel sorry for themselves or feel that they are not valued by society; I know because I’ve been there and gone through it myself. I’m also not writing this to boast. At the end of the day my life isn’t perfect, nothing ever is. I still have those down days and feel sorry for myself every now and then wishing I could still see, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t and never will again. What I can say is that if I can do it then there’s very little reason why others couldn’t too. I firmly believe that mindset and attitude contribute hugely to the way in which we all, disabled or not, move through our lives. Would I do things differently if I could live the last decade again? No, definitely not. There have been some horrendous times, some average times and some amazing life changing times and it’s because of this variety of experiences and life events that I am who I am today. The saying goes that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and do you know what, I think that’s spot on.


In the space of ten years I’ve gone from feeling that my life was over to trekking across the Sahara desert, winning bronze and silver medals at national level as a member of a shooting club, flying a microlight, driving a tank, becoming a Trustee/Director/Chairman of a charity for the visually impaired and running my own business and all of it since losing my sight.


I was dreading today, I didn’t know how I’d feel or even if I’d want to acknowledge the significance of the day. But I think it’s important for other people to see that having a disability is not the end of the world or the end of your life and who you are. My life could be a whole lot worse than it is, I’ve only got to listen to the news to know that, but on a more localised personal level I mean that I could easily have made it worse for myself. I’m very grateful for the chances I’ve been given to do these things, but equally I’m glad I took the risks I did and persisted when at times it felt like it would be easier to give up.


I don’t want this to turn into an Oscar acceptance speech, but I owe a lot of thanks to some people and I’m going to do it here. Thanks to the staff and volunteers at BucksVision, all of the medical professionals who got me through my sight loss, my colleagues at The Academy of Executive Coaching, my colleagues at The Bird Table, the team at Dolphin Computer access, John Panarese of Mac For the Blind, my assistant and friend Jan, my friends, my family and finally my partner Sarah. Without all of these people life would be very different and I appreciate everything you’ve done to help and support me more than you can possibly imagine.

Finding the right assistive technology for you

We live in a time in which disabilities such as sight loss are no longer as lonely and isolating as they once were. Some of this is due to more social awareness and acceptance of disabilities as a whole, but most is due to the technology that’s now available to everyday people like you and me. Over the last fifteen years technology has increasingly enabled those of us with varying degrees of visual impairment to become fully interactive with our peers, be they visually impaired or not.


As more assistive technology becomes available we’re faced with the challenge of finding what works well and suits our wants and needs. An added complication is that this technology by its very nature is not cheap, so we are often faced with potentially parting with a lot of money only to find that the piece of equipment or software we’ve bought doesn’t do what we really want it to. So how can you identify what’s going to be best for you?


In terms of Windows and Android devices, it’s relatively easy, particularly if you already own one, as pretty much all assistive technology software manufacturers offer some sort of free demo version of their software. Usually these demo versions last for a limited period of 30 days or so depending on which manufacturer it is. Not only are these demo versions often free, they are also available as downloads so you can install them straight away rather than having to wait for discs to be posted to you. The only slight draw back is that if you’re at the stage of looking for software to help you be able to use your computer or device, you’re likely to need a friend or family member to help you download and install the demos before you can try them out. The great thing about demo versions is that they allow you to try out the software for a decent period of time at your own pace rather than putting you on the spot to make a decision whilst at a shop etc.


In terms of Apple devices, it is even easier if you already own one. All modern Apple computers and devices have built in assistive technology that you don’t need to pay for which can simply be turned on so you can try it out. This is great as you can turn it on or off as many times as you like without being restricted by the time limitations of demo versions. If you don’t already own an Apple device but want to try one or several out, you can go into an Apple store and spend as long as you like doing so. The staff are very accommodating, however it is worth being aware that they may not have full knowledge of how their devices work for the visually impaired. Many stores do now have a learning specialist who should know all about their assistive technology capabilities, so it’s worth asking when you go into the store.


Two further ways of getting to try out software or devices is to go to events that have a variety of manufacturers all under one roof like Sight Village or the RNIB technology open event. These are good because you can speak to people about what the software or device does and in most cases actually try out a fully functioning version whilst there. More often than not you can also pick up demo discs to take home and install on your own computer. The only drawbacks with these sorts of events are that inevitably they’re extremely busy and loud and you never really get very long on the software or devices you are having a go on, so it can be rather frustrating. It can feel like complete information overload when moving around from manufacturer to manufacturer as well, but you can take away a lot of information which comes in handy when trying to remember what you’ve seen.


Another option is having somebody come out to your home with some examples of the devices or software you’re interested in. This is a good option if you’re less mobile and has the bonus of your being in a familiar environment in which you’re comfortable. This works well as you can ask plenty of questions, get your hands on the equipment and of course try it out without feeling rushed. You will often find that the person that visits you will also be able to leave you with demo versions of software if it’s software you’re looking at. You may be able to find an independent company that will come out to you, give you advice and demonstrate equipment from a variety of manufacturers based on what you want assistive technology to do for you rather than being biased towards a manufacturer they work for. There are several of us around the UK that offer this service, but even if having somebody out to your home doesn’t work for you, it’s always worth getting in touch, asking questions and getting some advice.


I often get asked what is the best device or software for visually impaired and blind people. Unfortunately there’s no right or wrong answer to that question. The fact of the matter is that there’s some brilliant technology out there that can help us do pretty much everything a sighted person can, but at the end of the day it comes down to what the individual’s wants and needs are as well as personal choice and budget. My best piece of advice would be to try out as many different devices or pieces of software as you can. Also, if you can speak to other visually impaired people who use assistive technology that’s no bad thing, as they have the day to day experience of using it. If you’re very lucky you may even find that they’ll let you have a go on their device or computer.

VoiceOver accessible iOS apps suitable for kids

As we all know there are literally thousands of third party apps out there for smart phones and tablets, but sadly very few of them are actually accessible to those of us who are visually impaired and rely on using screen reading technology to operate our devices, let alone ones that are good for kids. As I’m a VoiceOver specialist this blog focuses on apps useful and suitable for kids using Apple iOS devices, there are of course apps for Android devices too, but as I’m not a trainer for Android and don’t have specific knowledge about them I’m afraid I’m unable to give any meaningful advice or opinions about them. So, in the spirit of Christmas I’ve pulled together a list of 12 apps that are fully accessible with VoiceOver, are suitable for kids and that work well. I’ve tried to get together a reasonable mixture of apps that are useful, educational and fun, but that can also be used by kids and families alike. In the list below you’ll find the name of the app, a brief description of what it does as well as which devices and operating systems it will work with, its cost and finally a link to its page on the Apple iOS app store.



App name: Accessible Letter Soup.

Price: £0.79.

Description: Learn words and spelling with Accessible Letter Soup. Words can be found vertically, horizontally or diagonally. You can also choose the size of board and difficulty of words. There are lots of different categories of words to choose from including, animals, musical instruments, colours, professions and jobs, human body. Good for most ages, and particularly good for learning spellings as you can start easy and work your way up.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/nKih6.i


App name: Blindfold Bowling.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A good app for all ages. In this game you can play on your own, with friends and family or against computer opponents. The game is fully accessible and relies purely on the player’s hearing. It has excellent sound effects as you hear yourself get strikes and half strikes along with frustrating gutter balls.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/xTC79.i


App name: Blindfold Hopper.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A really fun game for younger kids, this game is audio only and is fully accessible. In the game the player is a frog trying to jump from lily pad to lily pad as they pass by. The further through the game the player gets the quicker the lily pads pass by. Lots of great sound effects of animals give this game a really nice feel. But don’t get too distracted, if you miss the lily pad and fall in you’ll get eaten by an alligator!

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at:  https://appsto.re/gb/8Ibq6.i


App name: Blindfold Simon.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: This is a great fun app for all ages. Really good for the memory and helping kids get used to gestures on the touch screen. Just like the game Simon Says, this app gives the player a sequence, touch screen gestures are then used to replicate the sequence. Each time a sequence is successfully replicated another gesture is added to the next sequence and so on. This app has 1 and 2 player modes. In 2 player mode the iOS device is passed from one player to the next each time a sequence is successfully passed.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at:  https://appsto.re/gb/h5VF7.i


App name: Blindfold Pong.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: Based on the classic arcade game Pong, this app is audio only and the player wears headphones to hear the direction that the ball or balls are travelling. The app uses the gyroscope built into the iOS device to determine when the player is swinging the bat (the phone or iPod) to hit the ball. It has progressive levels that get harder and harder the further you get. Good fun for all ages and also great for developing motor skills.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later. However, it is rather difficult to play the game on an iPad due to the device size.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/UjqE7.i


App name: Braille Reference.

Price: £0.79.

Description: A great app for kids learning braille or for those who don’t use it very often. The app has over 250 braille symbols and contractions that can be easily looked up for reference. The app is fully accessible with VoiceOver and a great tool to have in your bag or pocket if you’re a braille user.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.1 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/TwoZE.i


App name: Chime.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a great little app that enables your iOS device to make quarterly, half hourly or hourly time announcements. You can choose between several different sounds and two voices for the announcements. It’s a very useful app and is fully accessible with VoiceOver.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/c5CUy.i


App name: Double Post.

Price: Free with an optional in app upgrade purchase.

Description: A great app for older kids who have their own Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, it enables you to post to both simultaneously very quickly and easily as well as adding photos etc. It is fully accessible with VoiceOver and even works with AppleWatch.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/IhXdN.i


App name: JumpInSaucers.

Price: Free, there is also a paid version of the game that you can purchase.

Description: This is a game developed by parents of visually impaired children initially to allow their kids to play with their siblings. The game is an alien shoot ‘em up that utilises the iOS device’s gyroscope to allow the player to control the character. It’s fully accessible and suitable for all ages. It has good sound effects and interesting alien noises. This app is also available for Android devices on Google Play.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/kRB54.i


App name: Listerine Smile Detector.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a lovely fun little app that enables visually impaired and blind kids to see when people are smiling at them. The app is supported by the RNIB, is fully accessible with VoiceOver and also has built in magnification. The app can use the front or rear facing cameras and makes sounds or vibrates when a smile is detected. I think this is a really nice app that was created for all the right reasons.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.1 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/K-KV8.i


App name: Pages.

Price: Free.

Description: Pages is actually an Apple app and is fully accessible with VoiceOver. It’s a powerful word processing app that enables you to create, edit, read and save documents in multiple formats including Microsoft Word and PDF. It’s great for general word processing and good for school work as it offers a large selection of pre loaded documents templates for things like reports, posters, flyers, CVs, letters etc as well as enabling you to create your own unique documents. This app is fully accessible when using the touch screen on devices but it becomes even more viable as a tool for school work when a bluetooth keyboard is used with the iOS device.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8.4 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/EysIv.i


App name: Spelling Bee.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A fully accessible spelling app great for improving kids’ spelling. The app comes with 1,000 pre loaded spelling tests organised into different difficulty levels. The spelling tests are made into games to help kids enjoy doing them. This app is aimed at children aged 9 to 11 years.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/lqQY0.i



This blog has made me think about doing the occasional article about apps that I find to be accessible and useful, so watch this space for future instalments.