Tag Archives: Disability

Useful shopping card info for vulnerable people during the lockdown

Here is some useful info regarding shopping gift cards for volunteer shoppers helping vulnerable people during the lockdown. Check out the links below for more information from each respective store.

Sainsbury’s Volunteer Shopping Card was launched on the 20th April. The card can be purchased online at: http://www.sainsburysgiftcard.co.uk

M&S also have an E-gift card which has a limit of £500. This is available at: http://www.marksandspencer.com/all-in-this-together/p/p60282075.

Asda offer a reloadable shopping card, available at: https://cards.asda.com/asda-

Stay safe everybody.

Sainsbury’s offer dedicated number for elderly & disabled to place food orders by telephone

  1. People who are elderly or disabled and who are self isolating due to the Corona virus, can call a dedicated number to place food orders with Sainsbury’s for home delivery.
  3. Delivery costs £2.95. Payment for the shopping is taken at the point of order over the telephone and can be made using debit or credit card.
  5. The number to call is:
  7. 0800 91 78 557.
  9. Stay safe everybody and watch out for each other.

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.

How to slow down the double tap speed when using VoiceOver on devices running iOS 9.1

I’ve been waiting for the option to slow down the speed of double tapping when using VoiceOver for quite some time and now with iOS 9.1 it is here!


Several of my clients struggle with the speed at which they previously had to single finger double tap the screen to activate buttons, open apps, open links etc, not to mention two finger double tapping to answer or end calls coming in on their iPhones. I’m really pleased that Apple have made this option available as I think it will make the devices that we know and love that little bit more accessible to those who experience difficulty with their dexterity or who simply can’t double tap quite as quickly as other people.


You must have iOS 9.1 installed on each of the devices you wish to slow the double tap speed on for this to work. The steps below are exactly the same for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The slowed down speed also works when two finger double tapping to answer or end calls on the iPhone.


Step 1: Go to settings.


Step 2: Go to General.


Step 3: Go to Accessibility.


Step 4: Go into the VoiceOver area of Accessibility settings.


Step 5: Scroll the screen up as the setting you are looking for is off the bottom of the screen. You are looking for something that says “Double tap time out.” Go into it.


Step 6: You will now be presented with a text box that displays 0.25 seconds.  This is the amount of time allowed by VoiceOver so that two taps in quick succession are recognised by the device as a double tap to open apps, click on buttons etc.


Delete the numbers out of the text box and type in 0.50, this is the new speed that two taps in succession will be recognised by the device as a double tap.


Step 7: Now you’ve done this you can simply return to the main settings screen by repeatedly using the “Back” button found at the top left corner of the screen then pressing and releasing the home button in the bottom centre of the device to return to the home screen.



Note that you can only increase the time to 0.50 seconds. Although this doesn’t sound very much it is surprising how much extra time it gives you to execute that all important double tap. It is effectively doubling the amount of time previously required to do so.


Give it a try and see what you think.

Tick tock, my Apple Watch experience, using Siri on the Apple Watch

Using Siri on the Apple Watch.


Love it or hate it Siri is one of the many reasons that so many visually impaired and blind people buy iOS devices. Although sometimes Siri can be a pain in the backside if it doesn’t understand what you’ve asked it or occasionally gets words wrong when dictating emails or texts, the fact remains that the majority of the time it makes things quick and easy.


The Apple Watch incorporates Siri and as a result many of the things we are familiar with using it for on our iPhones, iPads and iPods are also possible on the watch. There are some differences of course, mainly in the way that the watch communicates to us through Siri, but in most cases it’s possible to make Siri work effectively for us.


The most noticeable difference is that Siri doesn’t speak as he/she does on iOS devices. Instead the response appears on the screen of the watch and the wearer either drags their finger around to have the VoiceOver voice read the content or uses Digital Crown Navigation to do so. This may at first seem a bit odd, but in actual fact you don’t even notice once you’ve got used to it. As the wearer is going to have raised their wrist to use Siri in the first place it’s not a great stretch to using your finger or the Digital Crown to read the screen once Siri responds. As with most new things it’s worth spending some time getting used to the slightly different functionality of the Apple Watch, you will certainly find that it is well worth it.


There are a couple of ways to use Siri on the Apple Watch. The first is to tap the screen once to wake the watch up, raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri.” The second is to press and hold the Digital Crown before giving Siri an instruction or asking it a question. In both cases and assuming that you have haptic feedback enabled on your Apple Watch, you will feel two taps in quick succession on your wrist when Siri is awake and ready to receive instructions/questions. These haptic taps are the Apple Watch equivalent of the audible pips that iOS devices produce when Siri is ready to receive instructions/questions.


Another big difference is when creating new emails. For example, once you’ve told Siri to “send email to Dad” the watch will tell you that he/she can help you create a new email using HAND OFF on your iPhone.


Note: For this to work you will of course need to ensure that you have HAND OFF enabled on your iPhone. This is done by going to SETTINGS, then GENERAL, then HAND OFF AND SUGGESTED APPS. You will find a button near the top centre of the screen that says HAND OFF. Simply single finger double tap to toggle the button on or off.


Once you pick up your iPhone you will find a Siri button displayed at the bottom left corner of the locked screen. Single finger double tap the button and Siri will tell you that you need to unlock the phone first. Once you’ve unlocked the phone Siri takes you through the steps of creating and sending the email as he/she normally would. Interestingly Siri re-locks the phone once the email is sent, which I think is quite useful.


Similarly Siri asks you to use HAND OFF if you ask him/her to check for new emails via the Apple Watch. The process is the same as detailed above for the purposes of opening Siri for HAND OFF and unlocking the phone, Siri will then take you through the normal process of checking for new mail.


In conclusion I think some good advice is to get used to Siri on the Apple Watch by using it and becoming familiar with using HAND OFF for things like emails etc. As you can ask it all of the usual things like what the weather forecast for tomorrow is, what time it is in another country, ask it to tell you a joke etc etc, there’s plenty of things you can do to help familiarise yourself.


In my next blog post I will be talking about using the FRIENDS button on the Apple Watch.

Tick tock, my Apple Watch experience, watch faces and complications

Watch faces and complications.


After having a week away on holiday on the beautiful West coast of Wales I thought I’d return with a blog about the different things you can do with the watch faces on your Apple Watch.


It sounds very technical when you hear people talking about adding and removing complications to your watch face, but don’t worry, it’s really not all that bad.


First I want to explain what complications actually are, as it’s a pretty frightening word when you first come across it on the Apple Watch. To put it simply, complications is a term that has been used by watch makers for quite a while. It encompasses any function on a watch that is not simply telling the time. This includes things like date, moon cycle etc. So a watch that simply tells the time has no complications, whereas a watch that tells the time, shows the moon’s cycle and has a day and date function does have complications.


One of the great things about the Apple Watch is that not only can you choose from a variety of watch faces, you can also customise what, if any, complications you also have displayed on your chosen watch face.


To choose the watch face you would like you first need to bring up the watch face selection screen. To do this you will need to make sure your watch is awake by tapping once with a single finger on the screen. Then single finger double tap and deep press on the screen, the watch will make three ascending tones followed by a popping sound. The deep press gesture does take a bit of getting used to so don’t worry if it takes you a few attempts to master it. I’ve found that I get the best results if I press as if I’m trying to push my watch through my wrist, it really does need to be quite a definite hard press rather than the gentle press and hold that we are all so used to.


Once you’ve done this you will be presented with the watch face selection screen. Here the available watch faces are displayed with he name of the watch face as well as information about what it contains. For example: Utility, analog with optional numbers or colour, analog with coloured tick marks. The watch will also tell you to double tap on the selected watch face to choose it. If you have Digital Crown Navigation switched on simply turn the crown to navigate around the available watch faces. If you have Digital Crown Navigation switched off single finger flick left or right to navigate around the available watch faces. To activate a watch face single finger double tap on it. The watch will now exit the watch face select screen and return you to the standard watch face screen.


Once you’ve chosen your watch face you can navigate around it by dragging your finger around the screen or by using Digital Crown Navigation. You will hear that several of the watch faces already have complications such as date, weather, calendar etc on them. Don’t let this bother you if there are complications on there that you simply don’t want or will never use as you can customise the complications you have on each watch face.


To customise the complications on your chosen watch face do the following:


1. Make sure your watch is awake then single finger double tap, deep press and flick up or down. This brings up a list of three options, customise, delete and activate item.


2. Single finger flick up or down to find the customise option then single finger double tap on it. You will now be presented with a variety of complication options, but which watch face you have chosen dictates how many complications there are to customise.


Apple have really thought this through for VoiceOver users as each complication has a position on the watch face and this position is announced by VoiceOver during the customising process. For example the watch will say: “Editing top left complication”, “Editing top centre complication”, “Editing bottom left complication” etc. It will also tell you if you are editing colours rather than complications. This makes customising watch faces much easier as we can identify what we’re putting where.


3. I recommend toggling between having Digital Crown Navigation on or off during this stage as having it switched on in some instances makes the process easier.


With Digital Crown Navigation on, turn the crown away from you to move to the previous complication or turn it towards you to move to the next complication. Once you’re on the complication you wish to customise, switch Digital Crown Navigation off.


The watch will actually tell you to scroll up or down using the crown to select the complication you want for that particular position of the watch face. Once you’ve selected the complication you want in that position switch Digital Crown Navigation on and move to the next complication you wish to customise and repeat the process.


4. Once you’ve customised all of the complications that you want, simply press and release the Digital Crown once and you will be returned to the watch face selection screen. Press and release the Digital Crown once again and you will be taken to your newly customised watch face.



I’ve had my Apple Watch for nearly a month now and I’m still fiddling around with customising the complications on my watch faces. I’ve even customised the complications on several watch faces so I can experiment with which combinations work best for me. It’s well worth spending some time playing with your complications as you can get some really useful stuff on your watch face that you’ll probably find you will use almost without thinking about it.


Have fun!


In my next blog post I’ll be talking about using Siri on your Apple Watch.

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 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.