Easy Access To Emoji Entry With VoiceOver For MacOS, IPad And IPhone

Emoji’s are something i have never had the opportunity to fully explore. As a blind person i have found them difficult to use under MacOS and iOS. There exists no simple way to search and use emoji. Apple does however, offer a fantastic system to understand emoji, so i have always felt left out. I want to use them, its just not easy to.

Well all has now changed. While, exploring accessible ways to generate slides for presentations i came across GitHub emoji short codes. A text based system that is used to generate the emoji, so for example :tada: is converted to a 🎉 emoji. This offers the entire emoji character set through text. Perfect!

Now enter another fantastic Apple tool, text replacements. With text replacements i could use the same GitHub shortcodes across MacOS and iOS to have access to the full emoji character set. This has given me complete access to the emoji set with VoiceOver across all my devices, its fantastic. The steps below will enable you to get access across all your devices.

Emoji setup

  1. follow the instructions here

That’s it, there is only one step!

I hope you enjoy full access to the emoji character set and keep an eye out for my accessible slides post!


HOWTO change the font size in safari on the iPad and iPhone

The ability to change font size can have an enormous impact on accessibility. Pinch and zoom is wonderful for this on iOS, but it introduces another problem. Zoom to much and you now have to scroll sideways as well as down to consume content.

There is however, a little workaround. You can increase and decrease the font size on a per site basis in Safari. This is done through a bookmark, adding two bookmarks one for increase and one for decrease. You can manually set the appropriate font size. Reloading the website will return the font to its original size.

To enable this feature follow the steps below:

  1. In Safari create a new bookmark, this can be of any website as we will be editing it soon
  2. Open bookmarks and tap edit and edit your new bookmark
  3. Change the Title to either Increase Font or Decrease Font
  4. Copy the Appropriate code from below into the link fiel
  5. Click save and repeat so you have both increase and decrease font size bookmarksd

Increase Font size


Decrease font size


Now whenever you need to adjust the font size on a website, tapping the increase or decrease font size button will adjust the font on your current website. This is a simple way to increase the accessibility of any website in Safari on the iPad or iPhone.

Good News

After my previous post on the lack of disabled funding I sent an email complain to my local college.

I received a repsonse instantly, “Could you please come into the college so we could discuss this?” So on monday I had a meeting with Mary from the disability department. We discussed what had happened on my previous visit, turns out the finance department were mistaken.

There was indeed funding for accessibility, we discussed my needs and I highlighted I simply needed an iPad. The college had their own idea of some custom Dolphin devices, 2 devices one of which cost £1600. I explained this solution was incredibly expensive and the iPad would achieve everything I needed, at a smaller price point.

After around 30 minutes of negotiation I was left with the answer, “I will speak to my manager”. This morning I received an email giving the OK for an iPad. YAY!!!

The cherry on top? I bought an OpticBook 3600 on eBay for £38! The scanner arrived today, a quick test and it works like a charm.

So the previous cost has been reduced to a acceptable £38. This is far lower than even my dream scenario.

Now time to get back to compiling these post process tools.

College Bound

Yesterday was my scheduled interview for college entrance. I had already passed the entrance assessments and this was the final stage.

My wife works at the college in the Learning Resource Centre so I headed into work with her to be prompt for the interview.

To burn a little time I listened to an audiobook, SuperFreakonomics. Despite criticism I do enjoy the series. I gleaned some wonderful insights about India. A little tap on my shoulder from my wife, interview time!

On arriving at reception I was informed it would be conducted in groups. Now I don’t get nervous about the group dynamic in fact I usely perform highly in competitive group tasks. But I realised receiving assistance in this scenario for things such as mobility would be difficult.

A quick chat and one of the staff agreed to assist me upstairs to part 1 of 3. Moving around the college was far more difficult than I had anticipated. I certainly need to learn the routes and memorise layouts.

Part 1 of the interview lasted all of 60 seconds, as soon as they confirmed I was educated and knew basic maths I was rushed to part 2.

Now this is where it became a little more interesting. I was handed a sheet of paper by the next assesor and told to choose a timetable. I informed him I was blind and would be unable to read the timetable.

“Well I don’t have the time to read it to you”

“How about you run me through the main points and we can go from there.”

Then the penny dropped, he had just refused to read the timetable for a potential disabled student. We worked together on the timetable and quickly came up with a lesson plan that was a good fit.

We began to talk about my vision loss and what I was able to see. In another misguided moment of his he questioned how a blind person would be able to complete this course.

I pointed out a few of the adaptations myself and the college could make and this quenched his negativity. As we continued to talk he asked about my past education and career.

This is the point where people generally stand to attention. People are shocked when informed I am well educated [in my previous field] and held down a managerial role.

Part 3 went without a hitch, so timetable complete I am officially starting in September. With one little caveat of finance, I will be speaking to Learner Services next week about this.

After the interview I met with my guide runner Scott and we headed into town to play with an iPad. Quickly turning on the accessibility features I gave iBook a twirl. Testing VoiceOver, Zoom and White on Black, made reading books a dream.

In an effort to make me jealous Scott ordered one. I will have mine soon!


**Update – Deal reached YAY!**

With my money raising going well I was all excited about purchasing my iPad.

Then I read this. So no books on the UK iBook Store. Fantastic, I was ready to order my iPad and start ordering books.

Thats right publishers I actually wanted to buy YOUR products. The publishing is renowned for dragging its feet when it comes to the digital era. Lets hope they don’t follow the path of the record industries. P2P would not of been the success it is today if they had jumped on the digital age in the late 90’s early 2000.

So come on EU publishers get on board, I want access to your books. I want to be able to read again, to be a consumer.

The iPad is Nearly Within Reach

With the recent sale of all my old unwanted goods I am nearing the goal of being able to afford an iPad.

My wife and I sold all our old books to FatBrain. Its an excellent service that allowed us to sell a large number of books simply. Understandably the sale price is lower than selling on eBay or amazon. But the ease of use is unbeatable.

The money from our book sales and random eBay sales has brought me very close to being able to afford the iPad.

My wife is already planning the books she will read to our unborn child. My vision issues don’t allow me to read standard books and reading to my child is not something I want to miss out on. The accessibility features on the iPad allow the high contrast and brightness I require.

Access to books again for my own personal use is something I look forward too. Instead of looking at our bookshelf and being tortured by memories of my reading ability, once again I can read.

The accessibility features of the iPad are fantastic. With a triple click of the home screen you have access to a screen reader, zoom features and white on black. I am thankful that Apple builds these features into their devices at no extra cost.

The screen reader will be me goto tool for college and university as my eyes tire. Assuming of course I manage to get all those textbooks in digital format.

For now I eagerly await access to the iBooks store and continue to trawl the internet for fun apps to play with my nephews and own child.