When considering that photography is a visual medium, the notion of offering accessibility features for a camera may be something that wouldn’t be on most radar screens, but for Sony’s A7 IV, it’s been a quiet, albeit hidden priority.
With a recent firmware update, a screen reader has been buried in the menu settings, and while it could use some refining, it promises to be a valuable tool for vision-impaired content creators who just want to be able to get the most out of their camera.
For the visually impaired, a screenreader is vital to interacting with digital text, be it on a computer or a camera, or anything else for that matter.
Using a camera, a screen reader program can utilize a form of optical character recognition and read back exactly what it sees.
As the technology has matured, the readback has gotten better and better. But with the Sony system, there are a few shortcomings that will require some patience in order to navigate.
“I can’t tell you how difficult it is to read a tiny little menu on this tiny little LCD screen,” says vision impaired YouTuber Sam of The Blind Life. “In fact, many of us can’t.”
Enabling the screen reader can be a challenge since it’s turned off by default. The settings are in the A7IV’s “Accessibility” section of the menu. So the vision impaired may need help to activate it. But once it is activated, there are also options for adjusting the speed and volume of the read-back audio.
The camera will then be able to read aloud the text that it sees. Another frustration may come from the myriad of options in the menus that users have to drill down on to make any adjustments. The reader is also only available on models sold in North America.
While the screen reader is able to read some of the options, there are only a few it can recognize at this point. And the rest just get an audible tone to you the user know that the option has changed. Therefore, a vision-impaired user isn’t getting much help from that, in fact, if it can’t read, it will say “this is a non-read out target.”
But it can read out the information on the main screen, giving users the ability to grab screen images from playback, be reminded of metadata, and much more.
Sam states in his video that after a phone call with Sony support, the company has pledged to continue finetuning the feature to make it better and more beneficial to the vision impaired. So development will be ongoing and the feature will be growing with user feedback, to be sure.
“Finally, we’re starting to get access to tools that will allow us to (make content). That’s all we want,” Sam says. “And this is definitely a milestone. Sony has definitely changed the game and raised the bar.”
When one considers that few camera systems even have this option, Sony choosing to include a screen reader is a huge step forward in the realm of accessibility for the vision impaired.
Good for you, Sony. Good for you.
[source: The Blind Life]
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