iPhone & iPad Apps for the Blind &VisuallyImpaired

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In iOS 8, Medical ID could be a life-saver

Apple iOS 8 Health app

he Health app in iOS 8 has an area for medical information that could be critical to your safety in an emergency. Credit: Apple

Privacy concerns shouldn't stop you from filling out the info in the Health app

Of all the new features in iOS 8, one hasn't gotten a lot of attention -- and it's the one feature that all iOS 8 users should at least consider.

I'm talking about the Medical ID record in the new Health app. Even if you aren't tracking fitness, diet or sleep -- and fortunate enough not to be managing or monitoring a chronic condition like diabetes, COPD or heart disease -- this is one aspect of the health app worth understanding. Althoughall other HealthKit-related functions are on hold for now, Medical ID is fully baked and ready to use.

The Medical ID pane of the Health app is a pretty generic medical information and history form. It contains much of the data that you'd see requested on a form when you visit a new doctor or an urgent care center -- birthdate, existing medical conditions, notes about those conditions or your medical history, allergies (to drugs, foods and environmental factors), medications you're taking, emergency contact (including relationship to you), blood type, whether you're an organ donor and your height and weight. The app automatically pulls your name and photo from the iOS Contacts app.

Medical ID info screen
When you first click on the Medical ID icon in the Health app, you'll see this screen.

To add to or edit that information, launch the Health app, tap on the Medical ID icon (lower right part of the screen), and then click the Edit button at the top. For the most part, all you'll see are text fields where you can type in the appropriate information. The exceptions are the items at the bottom of the pane for adding one or more emergency contacts, which brings up your contact list and allows you to select from a list of predefined relationships and the fields for blood type, organ donor, weight and height -- all of which provide scroll lists of possible entries.
Having that information readily available when you need to provide it during an appointment or treatment is certainly a time-saver, and it ensures that you include everything that's relevant. That isn't where the real value of this feature lies, however.
The real power and value is the option at the top of the pane labeled Emergency Access, which sports a switch to allow access to the Medical ID panel from the lock screen of your iPhone. This means that in an emergency when you're unconscious or otherwise unable to speak or unlock your phone, an EMT, some other first responder or an emergency room staff person will be able to access the information. The same is true for friends, family members or co-workers who may come to your assistance.
They can do so by using the Swipe To Unlock Gesture and tapping the emergency button instead of entering a passcode. Traditionally, this has only allowed someone to call 911 (or the local emergency services number in another country). If you allow lock screen access to the Medical ID panel, however, there will be a Medical ID button to the lower left of the keypad. Tapping that button calls up a non-editable version of the Medical ID panel. In addition to viewing this information, the emergency provider -- or whoever is accessing the information -- can also dial your emergency contact(s) simply by tapping on them.
This is a great resource for emergency workers and first responders, particularly if you have serious or chronic medical conditions that could cause a collapse (hypoglycemia if you're diabetic, for example) or that could affect diagnosis and treatment. It's also a critical source of information on allergies you may have -- particularly allergies to medications or any allergy that can be severe or life-threatening -- because it increases the chances that your condition will be diagnosed appropriately and that treatment (like a dose of epinephrine for severe anaphylaxis) will be provided quickly.
Equally important can be information about medicine you're taking that may cause side effects or interact adversely with other medications an emergency physician might use to treat you.
The medical notes section can be used to keep a record of a range of important details, including recent surgeries or other medical interventions, implanted medical devices and previous hospitalizations. Notes can even be used to indicate the existence of advance directives like a do-not-resuscitate order, a living will or a healthcare proxy. If you observe a particular religion, you could even put in a request for an appropriate member of the clergy to be called if you're critically ill or injured.
You can include your doctor(s) as emergency contacts, something that's helpful in general, but particularly important if you are seeing a specialist for a serious medical condition such as cancer, because emergency personnel may need additional information from that specialist.

Medical IDApple
A sample Medical ID (filled out) from Apple's website.

Even if you don't have any serious medical conditions, using this feature to list your name and your emergency contacts can still be worth the effort. After all, healthy people get into accidents and experience unexpected medical emergencies all the time. This option can also be a useful tool for parents to ensure that they are contacted right away if something happens to one of their children.
There is, of course, a caveat: Allowing lock screen access to the Medical ID panel could be a privacy concern. After all, anyone who has access to your iPhone can access this information -- even people who aren't medical professionals, emergency personnel or close friends or relatives. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that someone must have physical access to your phone to look at the information -- and if your phone is lost or stolen, the possibility that a stranger may be reading about your medical history isn't likely to be your biggest concern. Locating the device or wiping it using Find My iPhone would be your top priority.
If you have serious health issues or allergies, it's a no-brainer that making this information easily available is worth the minimal privacy risk. If that's not the case, you can limit the information that you present and disable access from the lock screen. (If privacy is a concern, you should know that Apple separates your Medical ID information from other Health app data and doesn't allow it to be shared with other apps that access HealthKit.) Or you can decide not to use it at all.
In the end, it's your private medical information and you have control of how to use it -- or not -- on your iPhone.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New in iOS 8: Vastly Improved Zoom

New in iOS 8: Vastly Improved Zoom

In previous versions of iOS, zoom was only  a simple full screen magnification. WithiOS 8, Apple has vastly improved zoom with partial screen window zoom, filters, and smarter magnification options. Zoom is a vital feature for people with low vision and its new features in iOS 8 makes it even more useful.

One of the most noticeable enhancements is the ability to magnify certain areas of the screen while leaving the rest of the screen unmagnified. As opposed to full screen zoom, the zoom lens allows for more easy navigation while still allowing certain important areas to be magnified. Users can change the size of the magnified area and pan around the screen in order to magnify different areas. An option is available to add a zoom control to the screen which acts like a virtual joystick for controlling which areas of the screen are magnified.Within the magnified area, users can apply filters to make viewing easier.  The filters available are inverse colors, greyscale, low light, and greyscale inverse.

As pictured above, iOS 8 allows users to choose not to magnify the keyboard. This can make typing on software keyboards much easier while still allowing the text being entered to be enlarged. When the keyboard is magnified some keys are cut off requiring panning to type, iOS 8 eliminates this problem. Zoom also includes the ability to follow the VoiceOver cursor focus. Meaning when the VoiceOver cursor is focused on an app or button, that app or button will be enlarged in the zoom window.

These new zoom options are just one of many exciting accessibility enhancements included in iOS 8. The improved zoom will benefit many users with visual impairments and is a huge improvement over zoom in iOS 7. To enable zoom go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom. For more screenshots of zoom in action click read more below.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Want to know how to maximise the battery life on your iPhone or iPadrunning iOS 8?

Sometime ago we did an article on 11 ways to conserve your battery with iOS 7 . Those who were running iOS 7 I hope red that existing article and followed some of those steps. This article expands on things that you can do with iOS 8. If you are new to IOS or did not read the article here are the key things we covered.  Background App Refresh  Location-Tracking Apps  Parallax  Automatic Updating  Turn Off AirDrop  Stop searching for Wi-Fi  Turn Down the Brightness  Spotlight   Disable location services (for apps that don't need it)   Go on a push notification diet   Don't push; fetch

 If you like Steph I step instructions on each one of the steps please go to 11 Ways to Stop iOS 7 From Killing Your iPhone Battery

Want to know how to maximise the battery life on your iPhone or iPad? In this guide we'll share some advice to help keep your phone alive for as long as humanly possible.

It's written with iOS 8 in mind, which adds new features to assess your battery usage. And some new fancy features that will guzzle your battery fast if left unchecked.

Battery usage

First things first, you want to see what is killing your battery in the first place. iOS 8 lets you assess your battery drain on an app-by-app basis so you can easily detect energy hogs.

Simply go into the Settings app, choose 'General', tap 'Usage', and go into 'Battery Usage'. From here you can see the time since last full charge and battery usage in the last day and week.

If one app is taking up a lot of battery you may want to turn off that app's background refresh or notifications, or stop using it altogether.

Background app

Background App Refresh, which was added in iOS 7, is a way for apps to get new data when not in use, so they're up to date as soon as you load them.

It's a cool feature, but it can be a major battery drain. Either turn off individual apps that you don't need to update continually, or shut off the feature entirely. You can find it in 'General', 'Background App Refresh' in the Settings app.

Think about the way you use each app. It takes a couple seconds to grab your latest tweets when you load up a Twitter client - do you need to continuously update your timeline when you're not using it?

Location services

Location Services are another battery hog. Open Settings, go to 'Privacy', and find 'Location Services'.

Keep it on for apps where you want it to know your location. If you like to share your location when you Tweet, keep it on for Twitter. But if you never use IMDB's cinema show times feature, revoke its access to your location, here.

Push notifications

Push notifications can also hurt your battery life. And like background app refresh and location services, you've probably got some turned on that you don't need.

To tweak these settings open the Settings app and choose 'Notifications'. Now you'll see a list of every installed app that can send notifications. Go into apps that you don't care about and uncheck 'Allow Notifications'.


You have more options when dealing with the default Mail app. Find 'Mail, Contacts, Calendars' in Settings and tap on 'Fetch New Data'.

Push email will send emails from the mail server to your iOS device as soon as they arrive, which can hurt your battery. You may wish it to turn this setting off and use a fetch schedule.

This only looks for emails every 15 or 30 minutes, or every hour, or only when you go into the Mail app and refresh your inbox. Use whichever suits you best.

Kill apps

A couple tips from ex-Apple Genius Bar staffer Scotty Loveless, who has got a huge and exhaustive guide to battery drain if you want even more information.

First, stop manually closing all your apps. For starters, it's unnecessary: iOS is automatically juggling memory, putting apps in suspended animation, and killing unused memory hogs all by itself.

But more importantly for this article, constantly having to load and unload apps from your phone's random access memory is bad for battery. "All of that loading and unloading puts more stress on your device than just leaving it alone', says Loveless.

Airplane Mode

Another tip from Loveless: using your iPhone when you're in an area with crappy service can also kill the battery as the phone puts strain on its antenna to try to keep receiving phone calls and text messages.

If you're in the middle of nowhere (or inside a building that cuts off phone signal) and you don't need to use the phone right now, turn on airplane mode.

Plus, you can actually turn wi-fi back on after you enter airplane mode to continue using the web.


Changing your screen brightness can have a massive impact on your phone's battery life. Keeping it at the highest setting is a sure fire way to drain your battery (and destroy your corneas).

Set it to about 60 percent. You'll soon get used to it, and you can squeeze many minutes of battery out of your device.

When your iPhone or iPad battery is running low and you do not have a charger nearby, you could switch the device’s full-color screen to grayscale mode to extend its battery life. This feature is also great for those who are completely blind and do not need the color screen. 
Go to the Settings app on your phone. Inside the app, scroll down, and choose the General setting. Among the numerous options available under the General option, we are only looking for theAccessibility option. This is the hub for many settings which improve the usability of the device. inally, turn on the Grayscale option which can be found under the Vision section. As soon as you activate the feature, your device’s screen will turn to grayscale mode. 

The results may not be obvious in the Settings screen since the background is white already. However, when you go back to the home screen, you will notice that all the icons are displayed in black and white.
Please note that the feature affects the screen only. If you take a screenshot, the results will be in full-color.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to enable and use Hey Siri handsfree mode in iOS 8

Apple's voice-controlled personal assistant Siri becomes even more powerful with iOS 8, including an entirely hands-free mode that allows users to ask questions and accomplish tasks by simply first saying the words "Hey, Siri."

After installing iOS 8, users can enable Siri's new handsfree mode by opening their iPhone or iPad's Settings application, choosing General, and then Siri. From there, simply ensure that the switch for "Allow 'Hey Siri'" is turned on.

"You can speak to Siri without pressing the home button by saying 'Hey Siri' when connected to power," iOS 8 notifies users.

"Hey, Siri" works in any situation as long as the iPhone or iPad is plugged in, even if the screen is locked or if an application is open and running. Users can simply speak naturally, and do not need to pause after saying "Hey, Siri."

In addition to the new handsfree mode, will Siri also tap into the HomeKit features Apple has baked into iOS 8. As new applications and third-party accessories hit the market, users will be able to use Siri to accomplish tasks like adjusting the temperature in their home, closing the garage door, or even locking the front door.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Coolest 21 Features IOS8 You Didn't Know About

Tomorrow September 17 iOS 8 is available for us all to download.
The Coolest 21 Features in iOS 8 You Didn't Know About or remember.
Some of these features may or may not be useful for those who are blind or visually impaired but we will add them all anyway just so you can learn more. This will be a brief overview. We will be covering each one of these features in the future one at a time.
Apple's newest mobile operating system, iOS 8, is almost out for the general public, and we've got a rundown on the best new features you can expect on your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. While there's not a huge visual change as there was from iOS 6 to iOS 7, there's still plenty of cool new features in iOS 8 to be excited about.

1. Find Out What Apps Are Killing Your Battery
Don't you just hate it when you get the dreaded low battery screen on your eye device. Now monitoring battery usage has never been easier on iOS. Now you can easily view battery usage on a per-app basis to aid in tracking down battery-hogging apps.

2. Reply to Texts Faster with Interactive Notifications

Notification banners and alerts are interactive! From anywhere on your device, even your lock screen, pull down on the notification to quickly respond to text messages, trash emails (or mark them as read), snooze a reminder (or mark it as complete), and accept/decline calendar invites. Through Facebook and other third-party apps, you'll be able to perform similar functions from the banners, like commenting on or liking a post.

If you're afraid of your privacy being invaded—since friends and family could potentially do something destructive through these notifications on your lock screen—you can disable notifications for each app through the "Notifications" settings. Additionally, developers will require passcodes for certain lock screen notifications.

3. Use Siri with No Hands

With the addition of a voice-activation feature, you can now activate Siri by saying "Hey, Siri" out loud whenever the device is connected to a power source, although the iPhone will be able to utilize this feature without a power connection.Siri will then listen for your commands, which is especially useful when your hands are busy while you're driving, which makes calling someone or finding directions a completely hands-free experience.

4. Siri Makes Shazam Super Easy

Another new feature with Siri is the built-in Shazam integration. Just activate Siri and ask "What song is playing?" or "What song is this?" Siri will then listen and pull up a listing of the song and artist, with a link to purchase it directly from iTunes. 

5. There's Predictive Text in the Keyboard

With predictive text, called QuickType, you can type in a few letters and your keyboard will provide options for it thinks you might type next. Once you type a complete word, you'll see suggestions for common quotes or phrases, celebrities and musicians, movies and television shows, and more.
QuickType also intelligently analyzes the last text sent to you. When asked questions through text messaging, QuickType will usually offer options likeyesnosure thing, or I'll get back to you.
If you receive a message with two options and an "or" in-between them, QuickType intelligently pulls the two options from the message sent to you, as suggestions.

6. You Can Now Use Third-Party Keyboards

Another huge addition to the iOS keyboard is third-party keyboard integration, bringing the likes of Fleksy, SwiftKey, TouchPal, and more.
With a keyboard such as TouchPal, you can use swipe gestures to spell out words and phrases without lifting a finger, as well as the ability to enter numbers and punctuation without changing keyboards.
Image via wonderhowto.com
Other keyboards like TextExpander provide useful tools such as easy-to-use keyboard shortcuts, while QuickBoard for iOS 8 integrates copy and paste boards directly on the keyboard; all of which will make typing on iOS 8 something spectacular.

7. There's Snapchat-Like Self-Destructing Media

Inspired by Snapchat's ephemeral nature, iOS 8 now brings self-destructing audio, imagess, and videos to the stock Messages app. Hold down on the microphone or camera icon and quickly take a photo, record a video, or lay down some audio. When you release the icon, the files will send, but will then self-destruct after a set period of time.
Vice president of iOS product marketing Greg Joswiak says about this feature, "You don't want to have to clean these up. Audio and video messages can take up space, so they're set to self-destruct unless you choose to keep them."
However, you can save these files if you want by adjusting your settings.

8. Scan Payment Cards to Auto-Fill Data

When making online purchases through Safari, you can now save yourself the hassle of manually inputting card information. Instead, just snap a picture of it and watch your relevant information automatically fill in the form. This worked extremely well on Amazon, but failed when using Midtowncomics, so while it's not universal, it should work with most major online retailers.

9. Battery-Saving Grayscale Mode

With the iPhone 6 stocked with a crisp, Sapphire AMOLED display, placing the device in grayscale mode will help extend battery life. By rendering pixels black and inactive, therefore not utilizing the backlight, grayscale reduces battery drain. 

Battery-Saving Grayscale Mode Will be useful for those who are completely blind. Turning on grayscale mode Will help you save some battery.

10. FaceTime Gets "Call Waiting"

By popular demand, FaceTime now has a "call waiting" function displayed when receiving a request during a current FaceTime session. Now it's easy to decline the incoming call, or end your current one while accepting the new one. Of course, accepting the new call ends the old one, so it's not exactly like the call waiting we all know and love.
[1] Oh cool. [2] You can FaceTime with yourself!

11. There's Wi-Fi Calling Now

Wi-Fi calling won't just help save your data, but according to those who have used it, the calls sound clearer. As of now, this feature is only present on the T-Mobile variant. Expect this function to roll out to all carriers in the very near future.
To enable it, head into Settings -> Phone -> Wi-Fi Calling, then simply toggle it on. When enabling Wi-Fi calling, you must enter a physical address, presumably on the off-chance that you'll need to make an emergency call.

12. You Can Now Leave Annoying Group Chats

Leaving group chats is one feature that many have long asked for (including myself), simply because group messages can become an annoyance after a while, accumulating hundreds of texts and, subsequently, notifications.

13. Access All Attachments in a Message Thread

Accessing all attachments in Messages is a very useful feature, allowing you to easily find and save all of the pictures, videos, and audio files shared between you and another person, without having to scroll through the entire conversation.

14. Send Multiple (Recent) Pictures at Once

Sharing pictures is also now easier do, with a preview of recent photos showing up when you tap on the keyboard's camera icon.
Image via wonderhowto.com

15. There's Widgets in the Notification Center

While not as good as they could be, widgets are finally available in iOS 8, accessible only through the Notification Center. Just scroll down from the top of the screen and you'll be able to access important information from your favorite apps, as well as perform truncated functions.
Image via BGR

16. Get Faster Access to Recent Contacts

By double-pressing the Home button in iOS 8, you not only get access to the app switcher, but you can now see "Phone Favorites" and "Recents" in theretoo. Just tap on a contact bubble to get options for phone calls, text messages, and FaceTime (or FaceTime audio) to keep in touch quicker with the people you contact the most.

17. Time-Lapse Videos!
Apple has now added a native time-lapse feature to their stock camera in iOS 8, shooting photos in dynamically selected intervals.  If you don't want this feature enabled, maybe to prevent others from knowing who you've recently contacted, you can disable it. Actually, you can disable "Phone Favorites" or just "Recents"—even both if you want. See how here.

18. New Photo-Editing Tools

In the stock photo-editing tools, you can now fine-tune every aspect of a photo, such as automatically straighten horizons, modify light and adjust exposure, brightness, contrast and more.

19. Set Timers & Control Exposure in the Camera

Set a three or ten second timer directly from the camera viewfinder, as well as manually change the exposure by swiping up and down on the screen.

20. Do More in Notes

In the new version of Notes for iOS 8, you'll be able to jot down your notes in rich text (bold, italics, and underline), as well as be able to include photos.

21. Recover Deleted iPhone Photos

In iOS 8, you'll no longer have to worry about recovery tools or performing backups to get back your deleted photos. Apple is taking a preemptive approach to accidental deletions by allowing you to easily recover pictures or videos directly from your iPad or iPhone. 

What do you think of the new iOS 8 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Share your thoughts below, or chat with us on Facebook.