Best option for a blind person to answer the phone on iPhone?

Sighted iPhone users will take tapping the green button on the screen to answer for-granted,  but for the visually impaired and particularly for blind phone users this is a major challenge to tap or swipe the button as these threads on the Apple Support forums show.

When helping the visually-impaired setup their iPhones for the first time in my work for the Ability Net charity, this is the first part of setup and it took me a while to get it right, since like many accessibility issues it’s not explained well by Apple.

There are two options to answer the phone without looking at the screen:

  • Turn on Voiceover and do a two finger tap twice to pick up or hang up
  • Auto-answer incoming calls

I’ll also show how you can automatically turn on the speakerphone on answer so it is easier to hear.

Turn voiceover and then use a two-finger tap twice to pick up or hang up

This is an essential stage of phone customisation anyway for most visually impaired users since it enables the built-in screen reader.

It’s available from Settings > General > Accessibility

However, when I first used this, there was still the question of how you swipe the answer button?

It’s simple, when you know how… since the Green Answer button has focus, you simply

Tap twice anywhere on the screen with two fingers…

This is of course, also true for activating other menu options which have focus.

There is also the less well-known option of holding one finger to the screen and tapping with the other.

You may still occasionally get problems if the ‘Answer button doesn’t have focus’, but this forum query on answering the iPhone explains another option

“This is a common problem and it has happened to most of the folks here in applevis. This occurs because VoiceOver has lost its focus on an object.

The next time you can’t answer or end a call with two finger double tap, perform a single finger swipe left or right. When you hear VoiceOver , perform the two finger double tap”.

Auto-answer

This is an option, also in Accessibility which means that you pick up automatically.

It’s available from

Settings > General > Accessibility > Call Audio Routing

You set Auto-answer calls to On and its best to increase the duration to 5+ seconds.

In practice, we found that if the phone is in a pocket is in a phone or bag this doesn’t work well.

Turn speakerphone on automatically

If a blind person is ‘hard-of-hearing’, you may also want to automatically turn on speakerphone. This is easily achieved in the Call Audio Routing screen too.

Change routing from ‘Automatic’ to ‘Speaker’.

Note that this won’t work if a person is also using an audio headset on some occasions.

Using the speakerphone may also make it more difficult for the other person to hear…

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I also write about assistive technology to help others teaching the visually impaired as part of my volunteering work for charity AbilityNet.

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Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

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