Family / Support Person

An elderly VI lady sitting, holding her smartphone and wearing an earpiece. A sighted young lady standing beside her teaching her to do accessibility settings.

A Guide for Family Members and Support Persons

Introduction
Family members and support persons play a critical role in supporting persons with vision impairment (PVI) in their learning journey to use smartphones. By understanding how smartphones can enable independence and participation for PVI, you can help encourage your family member or friend to learn and overcome any fears or lack of confidence in technology. This guide will provide information on:

Table of Content:
  • Testimonial: A Gift of Independence - Discover how learning to use a smartphone can give independence to a PVI by reading the personal testimonial of Sherriza, who shares how her brother's support changed her life.
  • The Power of Smartphones as Assistive Technology - Smartphones are a popular and affordable assistive technology tool for PVI, with in-built accessibility features and useful third-party apps that can enable them to lead more independent lives.
  • Ways You Can Support PVI Learning - how you can support the learning process and help PVI acquire the necessary skills to use smartphones effectively.
  • Essential Skill to Learn - Learn to turn on/off the smartphone screen reader feature as an essential skill for family members and support persons.
Guide for Family and Support Persons

By taking an active role in supporting PVI learning to use smartphones effectively, you can help them achieve greater independence and participation in their daily lives. With the right support and guidance, PVI can develop the skills they need to operate a smartphone with confidence and ease.


A Gift of Independence

Empowering Your Loved One with Visual Impairment: A Personal Testimonial by Sherriza

Photo of Sherriza Jalil with her brother, Danny Jalil
Sherriza Jalil with her brother, Danny Jalil

A smartphone, be it iPhone or Android, is something most people with vision impairment (PVI) can’t do without these days. Why? Because the screen reader on a smartphone allows us to use many of the apps sighted people can use, and so, it gives us a higher level of independence.

But I admit, learning to use the smartphone, especially for a person with visual impairment who has never used a smartphone before, can be daunting and demoralising. I speak from experience because I was, in 2010, a person with visual impairment who cried when I learned to use the Voiceover screen reader on my iPhone 3GS. It was the first smartphone with a built-in screen reader. (Android's Talkback screen reader was introduced a few years later.)

When you see your loved one with visual impairment floundering with their smartphone, that’s the perfect time for you, as their caregiver, to swoop in and help, just like my brother did for me.

"Your family member or friend with a vision impairment will also be grateful to you when you help them learn to use a smartphone, and give them the ability to be more independent."

Why was it so difficult?

I wasn't used to a touchscreen phone. The design was so exciting, but my excitement cooled when I had trouble mastering the unfamiliar gestures.

Those gestures had alien terms like one-finger/two-finger/three-finger double tap/triple tap, one-finger/two-finger/three-finger double/triple tap and hold, and one-finger/two-finger/three-finger swipe left/right/up/down.

I struggled. Oh, how I struggled. Until my brother realised my frustration, so he took a little time to learn how to use Voiceover. And because he’s sighted, he could see how each gesture performed a different action. The gestures for people with visual impairment are different from the gestures a sighted person uses, but they are not hard for a sighted person to learn.

After that, he demonstrated to me how to execute each gesture and for what desired action. Of course, I had to do my part and learn with an open mind. And I had to practice, practice, practice. And very soon, the gestures became second nature to me.

Today, I'm forever grateful to my brother. And I promise you, your family member or friend with visual impairment will also be grateful to you when you give them the gift of independence.


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The Power of Smartphones as Assistive Technology for PVI

In recent years, smartphones have become an increasingly popular and affordable assistive technology device for people with visual impairments (PVI). This is largely due to the range of in-built accessibility features and useful native or third-party apps that are available. Smartphones can be a powerful assistive technology tool for PVI when in-built accessibility features are turned on, and useful native or third-party apps are installed.

Some of the most common accessibility features on smartphones include screen readers, which can read out the text on the screen, and magnifiers, which can enlarge text and images. These features can be incredibly useful for PVI to navigate and interact with their device.

Moreover, there are also a variety of third-party apps available that can cater to the specific needs of PVI. For instance, there are apps that can identify objects, read barcodes, and even recognise faces. These apps can enable PVI to accomplish tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible without assistance. You can download the list of useful apps for PVIs which our research team has collated.

By turning on these accessibility features and installing useful apps, smartphones can enable PVI to lead more independent and participatory lives. They can help PVI to communicate with others, access information, and perform daily tasks, all without having to rely on others for assistance.


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Ways You Can Support PVI Learning

As a family member or support person, you can play a significant role in supporting PVI learning to use smartphones effectively. Learn about ways to encourage and support their learning journey, such as taking up lessons together, revising what has been taught, and practicing the skills learned in formal training.

One of the most significant ways that you, as a family member or friend can support PVI learners is by learning how to use smartphones' accessibility features yourself. By doing so, you can provide technical assistance to the learner during the learning process, which can help to consolidate the learner's understanding of the features and how they work.

Family members can also assist in ensuring that the PVI has access to stable Wi-Fi during online learning sessions. This can help to prevent disruptions during the learning process, ensuring that the learner is able to remain focused and engaged during the session.

Moreover, family members can also play a role in helping the learner to practice and apply the skills they have learned during the training sessions. For example, they can help the learner to practice using the phone app to call or text someone or practice using navigation apps to find their way around new places. This not only reinforces the skills that have been learned but also helps the learner to become more confident in using their smartphone.

In summary, family support is essential for a PVI learning how to use a smartphone. By providing technical assistance, ensuring access to stable Wi-Fi, and assisting with practice and application of skills learned, family members can greatly enhance the learning experience and contribute to the success of the PVI learner.


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Essential Skill for Family Members and Support Persons to Learn

If you are unable to learn most of the skills needed to operate a smartphone, our team members suggest one essential skill that you can consider learning - how to turn on and off the screen reader feature on the smartphone. Learning how to turn on and off the smartphone screen reader feature is an essential skill for emergency situations because it allows family members or support persons to navigate and operate the smartphone on behalf of PVI when necessary.

This video tutorial on the screen reader feature will guide you through the process and explain the importance of this skill in emergency situations.

Which smartphone platform are you using?


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Android

Basic Gestures for Android Devices with TalkBack

Video Duration: 7:08 minutes

This video showing you how to use three basic set of finger gestures to operate your Android device with Talkback enabled.


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Video Transcript
Basic Gestures for Android Devices with TalkBack

Hi, my name is Hong Sen, I am an IT trainer at Guide Dogs Singapore. Today I’ll be showing you how you can use different finger gestures to operate your Android phone or tablet with Talkback.

Using your fingers, these gestures allow you to navigate through items on screen, scroll, and activating items on the screen.

We will be taking a look in three different gestures today. Mainly, one finger swipe left or right, two fingers scroll, and double tap.

Activating and Using TalkBack
Over here, we have a Google Pixel 6 which we will be demonstrating on today. Before we start on our finger gestures, let’s enable TalkBack. The universal way to enable TalkBack would be to hold down the volume up and down buttons for about two to five seconds. And you should hear a notification tone along with haptic feedback.
[TalkBack reading: TalkBack on, Home, Monday November 28]

So now we have TalkBack enabled. On some devices, you might have to repeat that gestures a second time for TalkBack to be enabled. However, if these gestures does not work, you might need to get sighted assistance to enabled TalkBack. Go to your phone Settings, Accessibility, and you should see a option called “TalkBack”. Tap on that, and tap on the switch to have TalkBack enabled.
Now that we have TalkBack enabled, let’s get start on our finger gestures.

Exploring by Touch
Now before we start talking about finger gestures, TalkBack has a feature called “Explore-by-Touch”. What it does is it reads out what is underneath your finger as you explore the screen with one finger.
[TalkBack reading as his finger moves on]

If we move our finger up to the top left of the phone where the notification bar is, we will hear TalkBack reading our time.
[TalkBack reading: 5:37pm…window…]

Moving right of the notification bar we will hear our battery level,
[TalkBack reading: Battery 64%]
and this is our phone’s current battery level.

Swipe Gestures
Let us now move on to our first gesture – swiping left or right with one finger to navigate through items on screen. To perform a swipe right, simply use one finger to quickly flick right on screen. Let’s give that a try.
[DEMO: One finger swipe to the right. TalkBack reads out “Messages”] Let’s try that again.
We will now perform a swipe right by quickly flicking our finger right on screen with one finger.
[DEMO: One finger swipe to the right. TalkBack reads out “Chrome”]
And now we have moved on to the next app on the screen. We have now learn how to move to the next item. But how do you move back? To do so, quickly flick your finger left with one finger on the screen. Let’s give that a try.
[DEMO: One finger swipe to the left. TalkBack reads out “Messages”]

Now we have moved back to the previous item on the screen. Let’s try that again.
[DEMO: One finger swipe to the left. TalkBack reads out “Phone”]
And we are back on the first app that we started on previously.

Scroll Gestures
Let’s now move on to our next gesture, the scroll gesture. You may want to perform a scroll gesture to move to a different page on screen, or to reveal more information. To do so, use two fingers to swipe left, right, up or down on the screen.
For instance, if I would like to move to the next page on my home screen, I will now perform a two fingers swipe from right to left on the screen.
[DEMO: TalkBack reads “Home”, two fingers swipe left to right, TalkBack reads “home screen 2 of 2”]
Now, to move back to our previous page, I will perform a reverse gesture, swiping with two fingers from left to right on the screen.
[DEMO: Two finger swipe from left to right, TalkBack reads “home screen 1 of 2”]

You can also perform a scroll up or down in certain scenarios to reveal more information. For instance, if I were to do a two fingers scroll up now, by sliding two fingers from the bottom edge of the phone up, we will see a list of apps.
[DEMO: Scroll up with two fingers from bottom edge of the phone, TalkBack reads “apps suggestion, search your phone and more…”]

To scroll up or down through this list, we can perform the same gesture of swiping up with two fingers,
[DEMO: Swiping up with two fingers, TalkBack reads out “Home”]
to move down this list of apps. To move back up through this list of apps, we’ll perform the reverse gesture of using two fingers to swipe down.
[DEMO: Swiping down with two fingers, TalkBack reads out “apps suggestion”]
And now we are at the top of this list of apps.

Double Tap Gestures
The last gesture that we’ll be looking at today is the “Double tap” gesture. The “Double tap” gesture allows you to activate the current item in focus with TalkBack. To perform this gesture, use one finger to quickly tap twice on the screen. Let’s give this a try. We will first find an icon of an app that we would like to open.
[DEMO: Touching the Phone app, Talkback reads “Phone, window home, double tap to activate”]

Now let’s give that gesture a try. Quickly tap twice on the screen with one finger.
[DEMO: One finger double-tap on screen, TalkBack reads “Phone, folder…”]

We now have our Phone app open. Let’s give that gesture a try again. We shall now look at the key pad option to open the key pad to dial a number.
[DEMO: Touch keypad icon on screen (bottom right of the phone interface), TalkBack reads “key pad, button, dialling list…double tap to activate”. Double tap. TalkBack reads “selected”]
And we have successfully opened our dial pad.

These are the three main gestures we have covered today – one finger swipe left and right, two fingers scroll, and activating item with a double tap.
Once again, My name is Hong Sen and we will meet again next time.

Contact Our IT Trainers
If you would like to learn more about operating your phone, you can arrange an appointment with our IT trainers at Guide Dogs Singapore by calling 6339 7900 or email us at IT@guidedogs.org.sg.


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iOS

Basic Gestures for iPhone with VoiceOver

Video Duration: 10:38 minutes

This video showing you how to use basic finger gestures to operate your iPhone with VoiceOver enabled.


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Video Transcript
Basic Gestures for iPhone with VoiceOver

Hi, I’m Dallon, an IT trainer from Guide Dogs Singapore. Today, I will be sharing with you some finger gestures to navigate your iPhone with the use of VoiceOver.

These finger gestures will allow you to navigate a list of items, scroll up and down a page, and activate an item.

There will be three different gestures that we are covering. The first gesture is the one-finger swipe to the left or right. The second gesture is three-fingers scrolling. And the last gesture that we will be learning is the one-finger double tap.

Enabling VoiceOver
Before we begin, let’s turn on our VoiceOver. There are two ways to turn on the VoiceOver. The first way, which is the easiest way is to use the accessibility shortcut. This is the condition if the accessibility shortcut has been set up to turn on VoiceOver, or if you have set up your iPhone with VoiceOver. To turn it on, we just need to press the side button or power button three times rapidly. You should hear “VoiceOver on”. Let’s see that in action.
[DEMO: Turning on VoiceOver by pressing the power button quickly three times. VoiceOver speaks, “VoiceOver on, Calender, Friday”]

The second way is to manually go to Settings, then to Accessibility, then to VoiceOver, and press the ‘On’ toggle.

Explore by Touch
Before we begin to explore the different finger gestures, let me share a feature that VoiceOver has, which is the ‘Explore by touch’. As I move my finger across the screen, VoiceOver will read out what is underneath my finger. For example…
[DEMO: VoiceOver reads out apps as Dallon’s finger moves across the screen]

You notice that VoiceOver read up different apps on the home screen as I was moving around. Now as I move my finger further up to the status bar of the phone, we will find information such as time and battery level. So let’s check the time.
[DEMO: Shows finger touching the top-left of the screen]
[VoiceOver reads time]

So we noticed that the time is at 5:55 pm.
And now if I move my finger to the right of the status bar, it will announce the battery level.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger moves to the right of the status bar, ending up on the top-right of the screen]
[VoiceOver announces battery level]
Which is at 78% and it’s not charging.

One-Finger Swipe Gesture
So we have just explored the “Explore by touch” feature. So let’s move on to the finger gesture. So the first finger gesture that I’ll be talking about today is the one-finger swipe left or right. This gesture allows you to navigate between items sequentially.

To start off with our demonstration, we will be using our home screen to practice our gestures. Starting off from the status bar, which is on the left of the home screen, slightly move your finger downward to the first item on the home screen.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger moves to the top left of the status bar, and then moves down to one of the apps on the home screen]
[VoiceOver reads out time on the upper left of the status bar, then followed by one of the apps where Dallon’s finger lands on]

Notice that the first app that was read out was ‘Calender’. Now, to perform the one-finger swipe to the right gesture, quickly flick the one-finger to the right anywhere on the home screen.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger flick to the right]
[VoiceOver reads the next item on screen]

Notice that the next item that was read up to me was ‘Clock’. Let’s try to perform the gesture again. Remember, it’s one finger flick to the right anywhere on your home screen.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger flick to the right]
[VoiceOver reads ‘Contacts’ on home screen]
Notice that the next item that reads out to us was ‘Contacts’.

Now, let’s move on to the next gesture. We have discovered how to move to the next item, so how do we move backwards to the previous item? Well, we just need to perform a one-finger swipe to the left gesture. It is really similar to the first gesture that we covered. So to perform this gesture, we just need to quickly flick from right to left and it’ll move to the previous item.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger swiping from right to left on the screen]
[VoiceOver reads the item on screen]

In this case, you heard ‘Clock’. So let’s try to perform this gesture again. Same thing, one-finger flick to the left of anywhere on your home screen.
[DEMO: Dallon’s finger flick to the right]
[VoiceOver reads ‘Calender’ on home screen]

This brings us back to where we have started. Do note that these gestures that we have covered could be performed on anywhere on your phone screen. It could be performed in an app say, ‘Settings’, ‘WhatsApp’, or any app that you use, as long as you use VoiceOver.

Three-Fingers Scroll Gesture
The next pair of finger gestures we’ll be looking at is the “Three-finger scrolling gesture”. These gestures allow you to go to the next page, or to reveal more items, or information on the screen. To perform these gestures we have to place three fingers anywhere on our screen, you could either swipe left, right, up or down. For instance, if you want to go to the next page of your home screen, you have a three-finger swipe from right to left. So let’s see that in action.
[DEMO: Dallon uses a three-fingers swipe from right to left to navigate to the next screen on the home screen]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Page 2 of 4.’]
Noticed that it read, ‘page 2 of 4’. And now, the next gesture is to go to the previous page. So to go to the previous page, you just need to swipe three fingers from left to right. Let's see that in action.
[DEMO: Dallon uses three-fingers swipe to the right]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Page 1 of 4’]

Notice we are back to page 1. Depending on where you are, you can use the three-fingers to scroll up or down to perform this scrolling gesture. So for instance, you would use these gestures when you are scrolling through a list of items. In this case, we will be using ‘Settings’ for demonstration.

To perform the scrolling down gesture to reveal more information, we simply place three fingers on the screen and swipe upwards.
[DEMO: Dallon puts three fingers on the screen and swipes upwards]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Rows 20 to 35 of 58’]

Notice it says ‘Rows 20 to 35’. Let’s do the gesture one more time. Three fingers place down on the screen and swipe upwards.
[DEMO: Dallon puts three fingers on the screen and swipes upwards]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Rows 32 to 47 of 58’]

Now it says, ‘Rows 32 to 47’, this shows us that it has gone down the list. Now, how do we go back up? We will use three-fingers swipe downwards. So simply place three fingers on the screen and swipe downwards.
[DEMO: Dallon puts three fingers on the screen and swipes downwards]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Rows 20 to 35 of 58’]

Now we are back to ‘Rows 20 to 35’. Let’s see that gesture one more time. Three fingers place on the screen and swipe downwards.
[DEMO: Dallon puts three fingers on the screen and swipes downwards]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Rows 8 to 23 of 58’]
Now we are back to ‘Rows 8 to 23’.

One-Finger Double-Tap Gesture
The last gesture that we will be looking at today is the one-finger double-tap gesture. This gesture is used when you would like to activate an item. For example, opening an app. To perform this gesture, simply use one finger and tap on your phone screen twice. Do note that this is a fast gesture, which means you should not tap once and lift up your finger for too long before tapping again. Let’s try it now.

First, let’s find an item that we want to activate.
[DEMO: Dallon touching list of items on the ‘Settings’ screen]
[VoiceOver reads out items as Dallon moves his fingers]

For example, ‘General’, so let’s activate it.
[DEMO: Dallon performs a one-finger double-tap on ‘General’]
[VoiceOver reads out the activated item]

So we are currently in ‘General. Let’s try this gesture one more time. Let’s locate another item.
[DEMO: Dallon moves his finger along the list of items, and performs a one-finger double-tap on ‘Software update’]
[VoiceOver announces ‘Automatic updates’]
Notice that we are currently in Updates, we have activated ‘Software Updates’

We’ve come to the end of this video. In this video, we have covered three basic gestures. The gestures are a one-finger swipe left or right to navigate a list of items, three-fingers for scrolling, and lastly one-finger double tap to activate an item.

Once again, I am Dallon, and thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time!

Contact Our IT Trainers
If you would like to learn more about operating your phone, you can arrange an appointment with our IT trainers at Guide Dogs Singapore by calling 6339 7900 or email us at IT@guidedogs.org.sg.


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Useful Resources

Useful Accessories
Here is a list of accessories that you might find helpful when using your smartphone.
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Useful Apps
Here is a list of useful apps that our research team is recommending for use in our local context.
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Basic Terminologies
Find out the abbreviations and terms that are frequently found when discussing the use of smartphones. This alphabetical list of terminologies or jargons include terms in relation to smartphones as well as basic terms used in information technology.
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Useful Research Papers
We have compiled a list of research articles on the topic of smartphone use by PVI and other topics related to this website.
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