Watching Rios and Tatum navigate the world with the aid of their iPhones is a lesson in the transformative and often unpredictable impacts that
technology has on our lives. After getting dressed, they strap on their backpacks, canes in hand, and walk out the door. They can't see the sign
someone hung in the elevator, informing them the building is switching to FIOS, but the minute they're outside the fact they can't see is a minor
detail. They use Sendero -- "an app made for the blind, by the blind," says Tatum -- an accessible GPS that announces the user's current street, city,
cross street, and nearby points of interest. What it's missing, adds Tatum, is a feature that tells you which bus is arriving and
what its next stop is. In the meantime they walk a couple of blocks south to catch the M1 downtown.
Rios pulls out coins from her purse and pays the driver. She tells the coins apart by their size and the ridges. Bills are another story -- but there's
an app for that. It's called the LookTel Money Reader and with it you can scan the bill you're being handed, instead of depending on the kindness of
Romeo Edmead, 32, who's been blind since the age of two, is a prominent member of the blind community in New York, taking pride in who he is and all
that he can do. He's a guide at the Dialog in The Dark exhibit, a writer for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the blind, and an athlete. But he hasn't
caught up with the iProducts yet. "It's revolutionary in all that it can do," admits Edmead. "Now, if I want to tell money, I have a standalone
device," he demonstrates its size with the palm of his hand. "It's a kind of box you slide the bill into and it tells you what the bill is, but it
means carrying something extra. That's inconvenient."
Tatum is what Edmead calls "a techie." She had a previous, failed experience with the Android, which almost made her give up the touch technology.
Luckily, she kept her mind open enough to see how those around her are adapting to the iPhone. "I started 'Info share' five years ago, where a group
for visually impaired people can share information. A young lady, Eliza, got an iPhone, and she was entranced." The sales representatives at the
Verizon store, she says, were very nice and helped her set up her email account and sync her contacts. They didn't know much besides that, and she had
to teach them how accessibility is turned on (through Settings.) "They all went 'Whoa!'," she says.
Tatum and Rios happily volunteer to show off all their iPhone can do. "See, I tap it," says Tatum, her iPhone stretched in front of her, "and it
started reading out what is on the screen."
Blind people use their iPhones slightly different than the sighted because, well, they can't see what they're tapping on. So instead of pressing down
and opening up an app, they can press anywhere on the screen and hear where their finger is. If it's where they want to be, they can double-tap to
enter. If it isn't, they'll flick their finger to the right, to the left, towards the top or the bottom, to navigate themselves. The same for the
simple "slide to unlock" command.