Texting Etiquette for Low Vision


One of my friends found a post online that was telling people not to include several emojis in the middle of a text message if the recipient is visually impaired.  I thought it was really awesome that so many people were learning from this post, and decided to create a texting etiquette guide for messaging people with blindness or low vision.

“Wait, blind people can text?”

Yes, people with blindness or low vision are capable of reading and writing text messages.  This is made possible through accessibility settings in the phone (read my post on Android accessibility here) as well as third party apps (read my post on making Android accessible with third party apps here).  Typically, users speak their reply into a speech-to-text software or have a large print keyboard.  Unless someone explicitly says they cannot read or write text messages, it’s okay to send a text.

Case sensitivity

No need to write in all capital letters so the recipient can read the message clearly.  This will not affect the display size of the font.  Rather, it will seem like the recipient is being yelled at.  Writing in all lowercase letters is okay, though proper grammar is always nice.  When composing a reply, the speech-to-text software may ignore capitalization and send messages in all lowercase letters.

Abbreviations

Try not to use a lot of abbreviations when typing, as some screen reading technology may pronounce the abbreviations as a word- for example L-O-L is pronounced similar to the first syllable in “lollipop” or the first syllable in “lullaby.”  Don’t add additional letters to abbreviations either- it took my phone screen reader nearly thirty seconds to read “lol” with several “ol”s added at the end.

Punctuation

Most screen readers do not read normal punctuation, with the exception of quotation marks.  If large amounts of punctuation are added, such as adding six exclamation points, the screen reader may read the word exclamation point six times.  Ellipses are usually read as “dot dot dot” or simply as “ellipses.”

Emoji

The maximum amount of emoji I can handle in a text message is about three, though I can tolerate more if they are at the end of a text message.  It’s a bit annoying when someone puts twenty emoji in the middle of a text message, as the phone will read each individual emoji description, and the recipient may lose interest in continuing to read the text if they have to listen to the word “birthday cake” a dozen times.  Users with low vision may also have difficulty distinguishing emoji- I frequently confuse the different hand emojis and facial expressions.  Avoid conveying critical information with emoji.

Sending web links

When sending a web link, use the shortest possible link available.  Many websites have link shorteners built in for social media services.  While not all screen readers do this, some will read out entire links.  Make sure to note what the link is to- for example, my friend sent me a message saying “here’s a link to the restaurant we’re going to” and then added the link in a shortened form.

Picture messaging

Understandably, people with blindness and low vision may not be able to distinguish pictures very well.  While there are lots of apps that use automatic alt text (which describes the picture), alt text is not always completely correct- automatic alt text described a picture of my brother outside as being a picture of a car.  While pictures can be enlarged, it helps to include a description of the image along with the message, such as “this is your brother sitting outside.”

Word choice

Don’t worry about using words like see, walk, read, view, watch, or look, as these are not considered offensive terms.  In addition, the terms vision impairment, visually impaired, blind, and low vision aren’t considered offensive either.  Read more about my views on these terms here.

Misspellings

Typically, it is easy to infer what a word is in a message, even if it is misspelled.  Avoid adding extra letters to the end of words for emphasis, as it may become difficult to decipher the word.  Some screen readers spell out unfamiliar words, or if several letters are added to a normal word.

Long messages

If a phone sends long messages in several parts, instead of one large message, have the messages numbered so they can be read in order.  These may take longer to read, since the user has to figure out the order of all of the messages.

This may seem like a lot of information, but it’s really simple- write text messages with proper grammar and spelling, and everything will be fine.

 

Make Any Android Smartphone Accessible For $8

Make Any Android Phone Accessible for $8.png

I have been an avid android user since I got my first smartphone almost seven years ago. While I love exploring new apps, there are some things that I just don’t like messing with, and those are the ones that control basic functions on my phone. Without these, I wouldn’t be able to use my phone as efficiently as I do. Here are five apps that I use multiple times a day and that are so simple, I don’t even have to think about using them.

Buzz Launcher

This app replaces the typical home screen layout with icons that are difficult to see, and allows the user to enlarge icons or even switch to a fully gesture based layout with no icons at all. No account is required to use it, and there are no ads. I have uploaded the theme for my home screen here  so users can download it. Another cool function is a built in light filter that filters out blue lights that cause eye strain (read more about reducing eye strain with technology here). I use a gray tint for my phone display and it helps me greatly, without being distracting for other people who may borrow my phone. The entire app is free, and always will be. It is the first thing I download when I get a new phone as I have used this app for four years.  Get it here.

Thumb Dialer by welldonecom

This is a gesture based dialer. To set it up, the user chooses a gesture and assigns a phone number to it. For example, by swiping from left to right on the top of my screen, I can call my family’s landline number. It can support up to twelve phone numbers with the presets, and after the initial set up, it can be used without looking down at the screen. It costs $1.37, but I have been using it for over five years and never had a problem with it.  Get it here.

Big Font by Sam Lu

When the largest font on the system font isn’t big enough, this app can increase the font size by up to 250% for free, and up to 1000% for $3. I set my system font to the largest, high contrast version of the system font (learn how to do that here), and then use this app to increase it by 250%. I have never felt a need to have it larger than that. One downside is that I can’t see the clock in the top status bar on my phone, however that does not bother me because I can’t see it with the smaller font. I have used this app for four years and never had any issues with it.  Get it here,

Mood Messenger by caLea

While the Big Font app makes it possible to use the messaging app that came with my phone, I prefer to use this well designed messaging app. It displays texts on a dark background when night mode is enabled, a setting I recommend enabling whenever possible. The user can also choose custom colors as the message background- I chose teal and orange. Different fonts for the messages are also available- I chose a bold weighted font that I can easily read. This app is free and also integrates well with the built in screen reader.  Get it here.

a.i Type by a.i

This app replaces the standard keyboard on the phone, and does not store the information you type, meaning that the company cannot see your data. The text can be scaled to fill up the entire slot for a letter, and flashing effects can be turned off. Touch tones and vibration can be customized or turned off. Themes and colors for the keyboard can also be customized- I use the around the clock theme which changes depending on the time of day. One function I really like is the custom autocorrect dictionary, where I can type in a series of letters and have it correct to a sentence. Some phrases I have input are “iham” meaning I have a migraine, “icst” meaning I can’t see that, and “dywgf” meaning do you want to get food. The app has a free trial, but requires a $4 purchase to use in full. I have used this app for three years and have never switched keyboards since.  Get it here.

So for less than $10, you can have any Android phone you want and have it be accessible for someone who has low vision or who has difficulty using a standard smartphone.  For more on choosing a smartphone, read this post on choosing a phone with photosensitivity. 

design