Apple Profiles Blind Veteran and Competition Longboard Surfer to Showcase how iPhone Accessibility Features Remove Barriers

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today shared a profile of Scott Leason, a blind veteran and competition longboard surfer from San Diego, in which it showcases his use of the accessibility features of iPhone and Apple Watch to prepare for his daily surfing sessions:

Scott Leason is an early riser. By 5:30 a.m., he’s checked his email, social media, the news and the weather. He’s reviewed the day’s surf reports via the Surfline app on his new iPhone XR, prepping for the day’s ride. Before the sun rises on this particular Friday, he’s geared up and ready to go for his session at Mission Bay Aquatics Center in San Diego where he’ll surf Mission Beach.

Scott is a US Navy veteran who was blinded in 1993 by a robber's bullet, making him unable to continue in his role as a visual communications expert.

He was provided with his first iPhone by the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach in 2012, and says that he thinks “a lot of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do everything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty darn good.”

Paul Lang, instructional coordinator at the Mission Bay Aquatics Center, offers a description of watching Scott using his iPhone which most blind iPhone users and their sighted family and friends will be able to relate to:

The first time he got an iPhone and learned how to use VoiceOver, I asked him to show it to me because you just see him tapping the screen and to me it made no sense what he was doing cause it’s just like this flurry of tapping and these words coming out of the phone really really fast ... And when he showed me all the stuff he could do with it, it just blew my mind that he had learned how to interact with it to get all of that out of it. … He’s no different than anybody else. He’s just sitting in the corner over there getting caught up on his phone or listening to music, reading, and sending text messages.

An interesting snippet in Apple's profile of Scott, is that roughly 70% of veterans that have passed through the VA's 13 blind rehabilitation centers were provided with iOS devices and accessibility training.

Apple also states that VoiceOver is being used by more people in the blind community than any other mobile screen-reading software combined. Considering that TalkBack on Android is the only other mobile screen-reading software with a significant user base, this claim is perhaps not as impressive as Apple's phrasing would want readers to believe. It would, however, be very interesting to hear some actual raw user numbers. So, Apple, if you are reading this and would like to share, you have our email address.

It's easy and perhaps a little tempting to dismiss Apple profiles such as this one, as little more than PR ‘fluff’. However, regardless of the motives, this makes for an interesting and inspiring read, and we suspect that most in our community would agree with Scott that “VoiceOver works pretty darn good”.

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5 Comments

#1 Agree Wholeheartedly

Subject line pretty much sums it up. I just got my first iPhone earlier this year and am still learning, but Scott is definitely correct. I for one, never would've even dreamt I could use a rectangular device resembling a window. But I've thoroughly enjoyed mine thus far, and I'm told it will only get better. Hats off to Apple for really raising the bar with regards to accessibility.

#2 Yes. I agree

Love my iPhone X X. However I am a window user and happy with it. Use jaws and no issues. It will be nice to know the percentage of blind people using iPhone.

#3 A nice feature

Agree. This was an inspirational read, and it's always good to see Apple promoting accessibility - it gives other companies a nudge to do likewise, and also gives Apple a standard to maintain.

#4 I am an iOS user and also an OS user

I transferred from a Windows PC to a Mac and I am happy with my choice. For the things I do, the Mack works even better than the PC. I am happy with VoiceOver and the idea of going back to Jaws For Windows has not crossed my mind not even ones. In the end, it all comes down to whatever works for you. At the beginning, I thought that it would be difficult to learn how to use VoiceOver on the Mac but now I like it very, very much. I enjoy learning new things everyday and, to me, it was satisfactory to see that I could overcome this challenging situation. I am very happy with Apple for everything they do and their commitment to make their devices accessible for all of us.
Not everything is perfect. Nothing ever is. But I am happy with what we have. I feel very much in control of my devices.
Cheers. :-)

#5 How about asking Apple to fix bugs instead?

I can't pull/copy files from and into any of my iPhone apps using iTunes (iTunes file-sharing). I tried both USB and Wi-Fi. It's not working. Yes. Did factory reset/iTunes recovery. No help.
Yes. hardware/software need to be accessible, but they also need to be usable, specially if the user paid a premium price for both.