Tag Archives: Blind

Tick Tock, my Apple Watch experience, VoiceOver gestures and glances/notification navigation

13th July: VoiceOver gestures, Glances and Notifications navigation.


Once your Apple Watch basic set up is done you will of course need to know how to navigate around the watch to find things and generally use it. What I will say here is that the Apple Watch is very very accessible with VoiceOver but it does take a little getting used to as the screen is so much smaller. Luckily Apple have managed to make the watch give you relevant information on screen without bombarding you with so much stuff that you simply can’t interact with the thing! I really think this is to their credit. With some very simple and in most cases familiar gestures VoiceOver users can use the full range of available features on the watch. Add to that the awesome Digital Crown navigation function and we are at no real disadvantage in using the watch compared to sighted users.


First I thought I’d share with you the gestures you’ll need to navigate around the touch screen. In the list below I’ve stated the gesture followed by what it does.


Single finger single tap on the screen: Wakes the watch up.


Drag one finger onto an item: Selects the item and VoiceOver reads the item out.


Single finger double tap on a selected item: Activates or opens that item.


Single finger swipe from left to right: Jumps to next item.


Single finger swipe from right to left: Jumps to previous item.

Two finger swipe up: Opens glances.


Two finger swipe down: opens notifications.



Two finger swipe from left to right: Moves you backwards through glances.


Two finger swipe from right to left: Moves you forwards through glances.


Single finger double tap and deep press on watch face screen: Opens watch faces selection screen.


Single finger double tap and deep press within apps, glances or notifications: Opens additional options such as delete, clear all, mark as read etc.


Two finger double tap, hold and swipe up: Increases volume of VoiceOver.


Two finger double tap, hold and swipe down: Decreases volume of VoiceOver.


Two finger triple tap: Toggles Digital Crown navigation on and off.


Lay palm of hand over entire watch screen for three seconds: Mutes notifications and ringer so you only get haptic feedback on the wrist; this is assuming that you have haptic feedback switched on in your settings.


Single finger single tap then say “Hey Siri”: Allows you to ask Siri a question or give Siri a command. For example, single finger single tap on the screen and say “Hey Siri open mail.” This is assuming that you have Siri enabled in your settings.



For completeness I thought I’d also list the functions of the Digital Crown and Friends button for you below.


Single press and release on the Digital Crown: Wakes the watch up. In addition it toggles you between the watch face screen and home screen. It also returns you to your home screen if you are in an app.


Press and hold the Digital Crown: Allows you to ask Siri a question or give Siri a command. This is assuming that you have Siri enabled in your settings.


Press and release the Digital Crown twice in quick succession: Opens the last visited app.


Press and release the Digital Crown three times in quick succession: Toggles VoiceOver on and off. This is assuming you’ve set the accessibility shortcut in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to VoiceOver.


Turning the Digital Crown towards you with Digital Crown navigation function switched on: Moves you to the next item on screen.


Turning the Digital Crown away from you with the Digital Crown navigation function switched on: Moves you to the previous item on screen.


Turning the Digital Crown towards you with the Digital Crown navigation function switched off: Decreases volume of media when on media player screen.


Turning the Digital Crown away from you with the Digital Crown navigation function switched off: Increases volume of media when on media player screen.


Press and release Friends button: Opens list of favourites from contacts.


Press and hold Friends button for two seconds: Switches Apple Watch on or off. Note that when switching the Apple Watch on the watch takes approximately 90 seconds to boot up.



So, that gives you an idea of how you will interact with your Apple Watch and get around it. I found that before I started playing with watch faces etc it was useful to get used to these gestures and controls. I highly recommend that you try out the Digital Crown navigation function and switching it on and off as this will really enhance your experience of using your watch.



In my next blog post I’ll talk about watch faces, complications and what they are, as well as how to add complications to your chosen watch face.

Tick tock, my Apple Watch experience, the set up

9th July: The set up.


Having spent some time unpacking both my Apple Watch and the additional Leather Loop strap I’d bought for it I got on with setting the watch up. I will state here that although I’ve read a fair bit about the Apple Watch I had, until now, never actually handled one let alone set one up. I also set the watch up with no sighted assistance at all, I’d been looking forward to setting it up myself, plus I wanted to see how the set up worked for a blind person doing it on their own.


It’s best to have the watch on your wrist when setting it up so first I put it on and noticed that despite my misgivings about the rubber sports strap that came with the Watch it is really very comfortable and robust with an easy to secure pin arrangement.


Next the watch needed to be switched on. This is done by pressing the Friends button for two seconds. Once pressed the watch takes about 90 seconds to boot up. Now it is worth mentioning here that I already knew to expect this so I simply went off and made a cup of tea whilst it did so. Once I’d got my freshly made cuppa it was time to turn on VoiceOver. Those of you who have iPhones, iPads or iPods will no doubt be familiar with the shortcut method for turning it on during set up, which of course is to press the Home key three times in quick succession. It’s exactly the same on the Apple Watch except that you press the Digital Crown instead. The Digital Crown gives a nice positive click as you press it which I found quite reassuring. VoiceOver takes two or three seconds to start, but once on you’re presented with a language selection screen where you can single finger flick left or right to find the language you wish to use. Then you simply single finger double tap on the screen to select that language.


Next the watch requires you to pair it with an iPhone. I have an iPhone 5s, but the Apple Watch is compatible with the iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6+ so as long as you have one of these you’ll be fine. Having said that, I doubt there is anybody who’s interested in buying an Apple Watch who isn’t aware of this.


When the watch announces the pairing screen, single finger flick right to scroll along each segment to listen to the information it gives you. At this point you’ll need to have your iPhone handy and have the Apple Watch app open. All you need to do then is follow the instructions that both the watch and the iPhone give you. I say the watch and the iPhone as VoiceOver announces each stage as you go through it and depending on which stage you are at determines whether you’re using the watch or the app on the iPhone. It’s worth pointing out here that there’s a time limit on putting the pairing code into the watch when the iPhone app asks you to, so this may mean you take a few attempts to type the code in quickly enough. I managed to do it on the second attempt, I think it was probably because the virtual number pad on the watch screen is so small that it takes a bit of getting used to.


Once you’ve completed the initial set up of your watch you can start taking a look around it and setting it up to suit your own needs. The first thing I’d recommend you do is make the accessibility shortcut switch VoiceOver on and off. To do this do the following:


1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and single finger double tap on the GENERAL button.

2. Single finger double tap on the ACCESSIBILITY button.

3. Three finger swipe up the screen to scroll up then single finger double tap on the ACCESSIBILITY SHORTCUT button.

4. Single finger double tap on the VOICEOVER button.


You can now return to your Apple Watch and confirm this setting is active by pressing the Digital Crown three times in quick succession to switch VoiceOver off. Simply repeat the three Digital Crown presses to switch it back on. You can now control VoiceOver easily using this shortcut.


The last thing I’m going to talk about in this blog post is how to find the Apple Watch user guide. To get to the user guide do the following:


1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.

2. Single finger double tap on the ABOUT button.

3. Three finger swipe up the screen to scroll up.

4. Single finger double tap on the APPLE WATCH USER GUIDE button.


You are then presented with a list of sections to browse. To expand a section and see what topics are within it simply single finger double tap on the name of the section. You can collapse the topics list by single finger double tapping on the section name again.


To read a topic, single finger double tap on the topic name. You can then do a two finger swipe down on the screen and VoiceOver will read the page to you.


Once you’ve finished reading the page single finger double tap on the TABLE OF CONTENTS button found at the top left of the screen under the signal strength status bar item and you will be returned to the user guide table of contents. When you’ve finished reading the user guide and wish to come out of it, single finger double tap on the DONE button found at the top right corner of the screen under the battery power display.



In my next blog post I’ll be talking about VoiceOver gestures for use on the Apple Watch as well as how to navigate around glances and notifications.

Tick tock, my Apple Watch experience, the watch arrives!

9th July: The Apple Watch arrives!


As you will recall from my first Apple Watch Experience blog post, I placed the order for my Apple Watch online on 6th July and received an email telling me to expect delivery of it sometime between 20th and 27th July. Imagine my astonishment then when on Wednesday night (8th) at around 9.30pm I received another email from the online Apple store telling me that my watch had been dispatched and that I’d receive it on Thursday 9th!


I had read that many people were disappointed with the waiting time for their watches once their order had been placed, so I’d already resigned myself to waiting two or three weeks to receive mine. I’m not sure whether Apple have stepped up production of the watch so more are immediately available to go out, but I was genuinely impressed that in the end my wait was a mere 3 days. For any of you who are thinking of buying an Apple Watch a piece of advice I would give is to place your order on the online store and then contact your local Apple retail store if you have one to see if they have the model you want in stock. That way if the retail store has one you can reserve it and go get it then cancel your online order. If they haven’t got the model you want in stock then at least you know you’ve placed the order online and will receive it, albeit not as instantly as picking one up. I did this and I’m glad, as I’d have been utterly disappointed if I’d have gone into a retail store only to find they didn’t have any.


So what were my first impressions?


I had ordered an Apple Watch Sport 42mm in Space Grey along with an additional Leather Loop strap which meant that the order came in two packages. Apple’s presentation and packaging of products has always been superb and the Apple Watch is no exception. The Sport model comes in a long smooth contoured case that displays the watch with the rubber Sport strap that comes with it attached and laid out flat. The charging plug, magnetic charging cable and quick start guide are all neatly tucked away in a compartment under a cardboard separator much as we are used to in iPhone boxes. The Leather Loop Strap also comes in a long contoured case and is presented laid out flat much in the same way. The cases are clearly designed to last and I imagine many people will use them to store their watches and straps in simply because they are so practical; I know I am.


Before I start talking about the watch itself I must mention the charging plug. There’s been a lot of talk about how great the new fold away pin design is and how brilliant they are for saving space when popping in a bag when travelling etc. Well, I had not handled one of these new plugs until unpacking my watch but I have to say, the plugs are really very cool indeed.


So, the watch itself. The first thing that struck me was how sleek and light it is. I mentioned in my earlier blog post how I would be interested to compare my new Apple Watch Sport with my old battered speaking watch, naturally that was pretty much the first thing I did as I took the old watch off my wrist. A lot of people have said that the Sports model’s light weight puts them off, but to be honest it weighs pretty much the same as my old speaking watch so this really isn’t an issue for me. The Apple Watch is definitely larger than my old watch though, but actually I quite like that.


In terms of how the watch feels, it’s basically a smooth oblong that is slightly longer on its vertical sides than its horizontal top and bottom sides. The watch face/touch screen is completely smooth and has rounded edges that curve over the sides, top and bottom. Down the right hand side of the unit are two tactile controls. The first is found approximately 3mm from the top and is a flat disc. This is the digital crown, it can be pressed in and acts very much like the home button on an iPhone, iPad or iPod. It can also be turned using a fingertip to navigate using something called crown navigation, this is fantastic for us VoiceOver users, but I will come back to that in a later post. Below the digital crown and approximately 3mm from the bottom is a slightly raised oblong button, this is the Friends button and allows you to quickly access people you’ve put in your favourites list in your contacts, it is also the power button for the watch. The left side of the watch feels completely smooth, however both the speaker and microphone are housed here with the speaker near the top and the microphone near the bottom. Turning the watch over you feel a slightly raised dome shape, this presses into the top of your wrist and provides you with vibrations and haptic feedback as well as allowing the watch to track your heart rate etc.


The rubber Sport Band strap that comes with the watch actually feels very nice and robust. I must admit that I didn’t much like the idea of a rubber strap, but actually it’s very comfortable and easy to fasten to your wrist.


The additional Leather Loop strap I bought to use on my watch for more formal or work events feels fantastic. The strap is divided into segments that make me think of tank tracks. This of course makes the strap very tactile and it really does feel great against the wrist. The only thing I think makes me not want to wear this strap all the time is that the watch doesn’t feel as secure on the wrist as it does with the rubber Sports strap. The Leather Loop strap secures by feeding through a D ring, folding back on itself and a small magnetic weight at the end of the strap magnetising to one of the other tank track segments. It may very well be that because I’m not used to this type of fastening it makes me more wary, but the strap itself is most definitely worthy of use for more formal or special occasions.


In summary the Apple Watch Sport is very light, has tactile controls that are easy to find and operate, feels and looks sleek, and overall is a beautiful piece of engineering.


In my next post I’ll share with you my experience of setting the watch up and my first impressions of operating it.

Tick tock, my Apple Watch experience, The big purchase

6th July 2015: The big purchase.


After many weeks of trying to convince myself that I didn’t actually want an Apple Watch, today I ordered one. I’ll make no bones about it, I was intrigued when the watch was first announced and my interest was piqued once it was revealed that it would in fact have a variety of accessibility features built in; the most relevant of these for me being VoiceOver. I’m completely blind and rely on VoiceOver to use my iPhone and iPad, so understandably it being included on the watch made me sit up and take notice. Then when you consider that I’m a real tech geek and love playing with and learning about cool new gadgets, it’s no great surprise that my willpower failed. In fairness the number of positive comments and reviews I’ve read from the visually impaired community since the watch release in April of this year also make it difficult to dismiss as a gimmick or toy. Having said that, the price of even the cheapest Apple Watch doesn’t really scream “TOY” to me. I decided to go for the 42mm Sport model in space grey as although the stainless steel version is apparently very nice, it just sounds too shiny for my tastes. I went for the 42mm as I’m a pretty tall guy at 6’ 1” so felt the larger size would suit me better, not to mention that it reportedly has a considerable edge over the 38mm model when it comes to battery life. By all accounts the Sport model is very light indeed and this has put some people off. But in all honesty the rather old and battered speaking watch I currently wear weighs next to nothing anyway, so I’ll be interested to see how it compares. The email I received after placing the order tells me that my watch will be with me sometime between 20th and 27th July, so now all I have to do is wait!


I will be back once I’ve received my watch to tell you more about my Apple Watch experience.

5 benefits of using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iOS device when running VoiceOver

When training visually impaired individuals on iOS devices that are running VoiceOver I often find that many of them have the same frustrations in using their devices. Most commonly these are  struggling with using the hand gestures, getting frustrated with not being able to type quickly when emailing or sending messages and not liking to use dictation due to its occasional inaccuracy. Using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iOS device can help greatly in alleviating these frustrations. I often take my own along with me so they can try it out and see the benefits. Nine out of ten decide to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard once they’ve tried one out and I believe that many more visually impaired people could get a great deal more practical use out of their iOS devices if they were to use one too.


So, below I have created a list of my top 5 benefits of using a Bluetooth keyboard with your iOS device if you are visually impaired and running VoiceOver.


1. If you are not a fan of using dictation or find using the virtual keyboard very slow, using a Bluetooth keyboard makes typing text much easier, faster and more accurate.


2. General navigation of the iOS device is very easy using a Bluetooth keyboard and using features like the rota are made much easier without the need for hand gestures that can sometimes be awkward to execute.


3. All VoiceOver accessible apps remain accessible when using a Bluetooth keyboard. In many instances the apps are easier to use as a result.


4. You can use a Bluetooth keyboard with more than one iOS device. By pairing a Bluetooth keyboard with all of your iOS devices you can really use them to their full potential. It is as easy as switching the Bluetooth setting on/off on each device to use the Bluetooth keyboard from one device to the next.


5. Using a Bluetooth keyboard with something like an iPad or iPhone enables you to access  all of the features on the iOS device when you’re on the move without the need to carry around a bulky or heavy laptop. A Bluetooth keyboard is compact and light enough to fit in a small satchel bag/handbag along with an iPad for example. This makes purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard to use with your iOS device an affordable alternative to buying a laptop. This is particularly the case if you use a desktop or MacBook/Laptop at home with free apps like Pages, Dropbox etc and they are also used on the iOS device as productivity can be maximised.