Q: Is is accessible for blind or visually impaired users?
A: Many blind or visually impaired users tell us Speaking Email has been a "life saver" or "changed my life". The app reads out the contents of your inbox continuously (ie speaks each email in turn). It skips over email signatures, disclaimers and other email-specific clutter - making for a smooth and seamless reading experience.
Speaking Email is fully accessible with VoiceOver, the screen reader that blind people use to interact with their iPhone. VoiceOver is useful for normal apps but doesn't make sense for a speech based app that is voice controlled, so once you have completed the setup and signed into your email account, we recommend switching VoiceOver off. We’ve been reviewed as a fully accessible app on AppleVis, the online community for visually impaired iPhone users.
Tips for blind or visually impaired users:
- Blind users typically use VoiceOver (on iOS) to navigate and use apps. While Speaking Email is fully operable with VoiceOver, we don't recommend using it except in the settings screens. This is because Speaking Email can hear VoiceOver talking and interpret it as voice commands, and the two speech systems often talk at the same time, making the experience less than ideal.
- To sign in to your email account, you will require a screenreader (such as VoiceOver on iOS), or a sighted helper. This is because it involves entering a password and depending on your email provider may involve going through permission screens that are controlled by the provider (such as Microsoft or Google permission screens) which we are unable to make voice controlled.
- Everyday use of Speaking Email is fully voice controlled. We strongly recommend having your screenreader available on a shortcut for ease of switching it off when using Speaking Email and then back on when using other apps.
- On the main menu screen you can say "play" to hear your emails. Other commands you can say in this context include "search", "account" to change accounts, "folder" to select a folder, "preferences" for setting preferences by voice control, and "upgrade" to pay for premium edition.
- After saying "play" you will hear your email being checked, and then the latest message will be read out to you. There are frequent pauses with "listening" prompts, allowing you to give voice commands. You can also tap anywhere on the screen to activate voice commands.
- The main voice commands you will need are "next", "previous", "archive", "trash", and "reply". There are many voice commands and we encourage you to explore these by saying "help" at any point to find out the available commands.
- When replying, forwarding or composing a new email, there are other voice commands (such as "read back", "replace", "delete sentence" and "send"), which are also activated when you tap anywhere on the screen while in dictation mode.
- Speaking Email started out as an inbox reader, rather than a full email client, but has since evolved to handle all the commonly used email functions. Its focus is on reading our the content of the emails in your inbox. But it also handles composing short emails and managing mail. Some of our blind users also still use a regular desktop email client (controlled with a screenreader or dictation software) for more advanced tasks such as longer form emails, adding attachments, creating folders and setting up accounts.
What users say
Here is a quote from a blind VoiceOver user Joanne Tran who helped beta test the app to ensure it is fully accessible:
I personally like having Speaking Email as an additional tool in my toolbox. I find it's nice to have the app automatically open any unread messages and having it start reading each message after it checks for new messages. I also like having the ability to skip over the information that I don't want to listen to such as the signatures. The option to automatically read the next message is a plus for me. This includes the option to skip the promotional messages. I think this app is worth it in my book.
We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic and supportive feedback from blind and visually impaired users, which makes this effort really feel worthwhile:
“I just wanted to say this app is awesome! It makes reading emails a lot easier.”
“Your app is one of a handful that could assist people with visual problems and I strongly support your efforts.”
“I want to thank you for this app because my 93 year old mother is almost blind from macular degeneration. She can now listen to her emails without needing someone to read them to her”
“Speaking Email totally rocks! The accessibility is awesome!”
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