British Columbia

Apple Watch apps could guide visually impaired users

Among the thousands of people eager to receive their pre-ordered Apple Watches in the coming weeks are some people who may never actually see the high-tech devices.

New GPS system gives tactical cues on when to turn left or right.

Apple Watches start shipping April 24. (

Among the thousands of people eager to receive their pre-ordered Apple Watches in the coming weeks are some people who may never actually see the high-tech devices.

Pre-orders begin shipping today, and will work with an updated version of the CBC News app.

Alex Jurgensen, who is legally blind, says he is excited for the other new features on the watch that will make daily life a little easier for him.

The Apple Watch's new GPS system gives tactile cues on when to turn left or right.

"When you get to an intersection it will vibrate a certain way, so you are getting feedback on your wrist. At this point go left and at this point go right," explained Jurgensen.

He says that's a big help when trying to navigate through a busy street.

The CBC News app for iOS8 is compatible with the Apple Watch.

"As a blind person you have to pay attention to a lot of different audio cues when travelling, the less you have to listen to the better"

The Apple enthusiast says he also feels more secure having the technology right on his wrist.

"There are numerous cases that have been documented across the country, where an iPhone has been stolen from a blind or visually impaired person on transit" he said.

But it's not all business for Jurgensen, he is also excited to use the fun features for health and fitness.

"For the first time we have accessible fitness bands, things like keeping track of health statistics is now possible."

Customers with accessibility issues can book an appointment at their nearest Apple Store for a test run.

Prices range from $500 for the smaller sport version to $13,000 for the 18-karat gold version.

Accessibility features of the Apple Watch

  • VoiceOver: The gesture-based screen reader, reads out loud what is happening on the screen and how to navigate it. It is available in 14 languages.
  • Font Adjustment: Users can adjust to larger text, as well as switch to bold text for an easier read.
  • Zoom: Magnification up to 15 times.
  • Grayscale: For those whose vision is impaired by colour, they can turn to the grayscale.
  • Reduce Transparency: Allows you to increase the contrast on screen by reducing background transparency.
  • Reduce Motion: When turned on, reduces some movements on the home screen. This makes it easier to navigate.
  • Mono Audio: When using the Bluetooth headphones with the watch, you can miss audio if you are deaf or hard of hearing in one ear. This takes away the left-right channels on audio tracks, allowing you to play both audio channels.
  • Taptic Engine: Tiny vibrations are felt when there is a new notification. It is also used with Maps for directions.


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