Everyone and their grandmother use a smartphone these days. The full-colour, poker-card-sized touchscreen was a technological marvel when the first iPhone appeared a decade ago; today we take it for granted everyone knows how a smartphone works.
There’s one group of smartphone features that we overlook the most: The Accessibility features. Features such as reading what’s on the screen text out loud, and Siri/Google Now/Cortana converts your speech into commands and text on the phone.
Features like these are what allows Chia Hong Sen, 20, who was born without sight, to use the same phone as the rest of us. If fact, it’s what empowers him to function independently many aspects of life.
By using smartphones and other now-common assistive technologies, Hong Sen has been able overcome various barriers, and even to pursue his interest in IT at Temasek Polytechnic. He was the school’s first student who is completely visually impaired. Now a proud graduate, he is developing an app to help other students with special needs navigate the school campus.
Hong Sen also volunteers at the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped, teaching the visually impaired how to use their smartphones.
Hong Sen shares his experience with assistive technology and how it can pave the way for inclusion.
Q: How did you get acquainted with assistive technology? How has it had an impact on your life?
The IT industry is an ever-changing industry. It’s the same for assistive technology: In the past we used Braille typewriters, now we are using electronic versions. In a way, assistive technology has helped me in the sense that it allows me to do what my