The day I entered public school, I was classified as visually impaired. I have a rare genetic syndrome known as achromatopsia. I’m color blind and light sensitive, and my distance vision is flat-out awful. Even corrected, it’s closer to 20/100 than 20/20. I can’t see street signs until I’m a yard away from them and I don’t even bother trying to read most posters, plaques or museum cards.
I’m not alone: About 21.5 million Americans have low vision, and analysts expect that number to double over the next 30 years as baby boomers age. But new uses for near field communication (NFC), a short-range device-to-device transmission protocol, could help break down the frustrating barrier between the visually impaired and the text around them.
Smartphones are already capable of helping low-vision users work with small screens. Apple, for example, programmed iOS with settings that allow the user to enlarge the point size of its font up to 56. iOS also features VoiceOver, an app that dictates whatever is on the screen; tap the mail icon, for example, and the app will say, “Mail. Two new items.” An app called Mobile Accessibility provides similar features for Android phones.