alt=an arm wearing a smart watch that brightly displays the time and speaks other information.

A Smart Watch for the Visually Impaired

Some of us complain that we can’t see the icons on our phone or make out exactly which is which on our phone or our tablet. But today, I’m talking with a friend who considers herself lucky if she’s able to see the phone itself.

My friend

This friend has had 2% vision for over 10 years, and that 2% is gradually darkening. She’s not a Pollyanna, but she has a very practical attitude. This is her life, and she has decided to make the best of what she was given. It was about two years ago when she decided to try and learn how to use an iPhone. Thinking correctly that it would be a big help, whether that was at home or when she bravely went out on her own.

Using Siri

She can now easily ask Siri to call her son if she needs help, which hasn’t happened, thank goodness. She still takes the bus and occasionally will go to a shopping mall. Siri can tell her when the next bus will arrive at whichever bus stop she happens to be. Although she does still check with the driver that it’s the correct one.

Learning new smart technology

She recently took the next big step on her technology journey by buying an Apple Watch. Her son set it up for her with the apps she would need, as that’s a job that requires a bit more vision, as well as an understanding of technology.

Where am I? Getting help with my location

One of her favorite things about the watch is the ability to ask Siri: “Where am I?”

In her garden one day, she showed me how Siri answered with her address. Then we moved over by her fence and it gave her neighbour’s address. She knows if she gets turned around while out shopping, Siri can help. When out for a walk, she can just say “I’m going home” and receive turn-by-turn directions. She probably doesn’t need this, but it’s reassuring.

What time is it?

The time display can be set to different options. She chose one that takes up the complete watch face, which allows her to check the time quietly if she doesn’t want Siri to interrupt. The watch easily recharges each night when it’s placed on the charging disc.

Calls and texts

When she’s outside in her garden or greenhouse, her watch lets her know she has a phone call or an incoming text. She has “voice over” activated, so can hear and respond to the texts. After dictating her text, Siri will read back what she has said, then just lowering her wrist sends it. But to answer a call, her iPhone needs to be within Bluetooth range of the watch. There is an Apple watch available with a cellular option that wouldn’t require this, but she decided it wasn’t a necessity.

Fall detection

An important safety feature in the Apple Watch is fall detection. If she fell and didn’t answer the watch’s alert within 60 seconds, a call would go to 911, and another to her emergency contact number. I had always thought of an Apple Watch as a “nice to have” luxury, but perhaps it’s almost time to look at it as a necessary “safety tool“. At least, it’s a good excuse.

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