Blind man making apps more 'Appcessible'

  • Breaking
  • 05/02/2014

With their flat touchscreens, smartphones might not look like the most user-friendly device for the blind.

Voice technology has changed that, but not entirely. 

Now a Wellington entrepreneur has launched a company called Appcessible to make apps more helpful for those who can't see.

Jonathan Mosen has been blind since birth and describes blindness as an "information handicap".

With the advent of smartphones with voiceover he says, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, now is a "good time to be blind".

"The phone will speak to me. My fingers are hovering over and enter the text when I lift my finger. So as long as the app is accessible I can use the app that everybody else is using," he says.

Some iPhone and Android apps are accessible to the blind, but not all.

Mr Mosen's launched an audit service to help app developers cater to people with disabilities.

"A sighted person can turn on the technology but not fully understand how a blind person uses it," he says.

It's not his first foray into assistive technology; he's already designed this Braille reader that plugs into his computer.

There are 12,000 registered blind people in New Zealand, and 100,000 in the United States.

Mr Mosen says developers can't afford to turn their nose up at that sort of market.

"A sighted person has always been able to go and pick up a newspaper or read a bank statement, but for a blind person the iPhone, when apps are done right, it's giving them a degree of dignity and independence we've never had before."  

Appcessible currently employs five people, all blind, including Mr Mosen and partner Bonnie Lannom in New Zealand and three overseas.

He hopes it'll grow and employ others because he says unemployment among the blind is as high as 70 percent.

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