Top iPhone Apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Built-in camera, screen reader, and magnification make iOS devices accessible

Apple’s iPhone TV commercials are so visually stunning, they downplay, if not belie, the company's ability to make the smartphone (as well as the iPad and iPod touch) accessible even to those who can’t see the screen.

The VoiceOver screen reader and Zoom magnification (built into all iOS devices) and a growing host of third-party apps make the iPhone increasingly popular among blind and visually impaired persons. Some apps harness the phone's built-in camera to see for the user. Here are some iOS apps designed specifically to aid low-vision users.

Color Identifier

Color identifier screenshot


GreenGar Studios' Color Identifier uses the iPhone camera to identify and speak color names aloud. Shades identified are specific to the point of annoyance (Paris Daisy, Moon Mist) for some users. The company makes a free app called Color ID Free that sticks to basic colors.

Blind people will never wear mismatched socks or the wrong color shirt again. An interesting offshoot is using the app to distinguish shades of sky, enabling one to experience sunsets or gauge possible weather changes.

TalkingTag LV

TalkingTag LV screenshot


TalkingTag™ LV from TalkingTag enables blind people to label everyday items with special coded stickers. Users scan each sticker with the iPhone camera and record and replay via VoiceOver up to a 1-minute audio message identifying what's been labeled.

The app is ideal for organizing a DVD collection, locating boxes during a move, or picking the right jelly jar from the refrigerator. Stickers can be erased and recorded over.

Learning Ally

Learning Ally Audio screenshot


The Learning Ally app provides access to Learning Ally's library of more than 70,000 audiobooks is considered the best source for K-12 and college-level textbooks. Users can download and playbooks on all iOS devices. A Learning Ally membership is required. Persons with visual and learning disabilities can seek reimbursement from their school. Readers navigate ​DAISY books by page number and chapter, can adjust playback speed, and place electronic bookmarks throughout the text. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic became Learning Ally in April 2011.

Visible Braille

Visible Braille screenshot


Visible Braille from Mindwarroir is a tutorial for self-paced braille instruction. It translates English letters and words into the six-dot cells of the characters comprising the braille alphabet. Users can store the side-by-side images. The app teaches letters, words, and contractions and has built-in quizzes and a Help section to reinforce learning.

Navigon MobileNavigator North America

Navigator North America GPS screenshot


NAVIGON's MobileNavigator North America transforms the iPhone into a fully functional mobile navigation system that uses the latest NAVTEQ map material. The app offers text-to-speech voice guidance, enhanced pedestrian navigation, a turn-by-turn RouteList, location sharing via email, and a Take Me Home function. It also provides direct access and navigation to iPhone address book contacts. Navigation is automatically resumed after an incoming phone call.

Big Clock

Big Clock app screnshot


The Coding Monkeys' Big Clock HD app is a must for visually impaired travelers. Just double tap to rotate iPad orientation to landscape view and set it atop a hotel room TV or table. You'll be able to read it with a glance while lying in bed. The clock displays time and date in the region format and language the device is set to. The app prevents devices from auto-locking when displaying the time.

The Talking Calculator

The Talking Calculator app screenshot

Screenshot by Adam Croser

This easy-to-read app calculator speaks button names, numbers, and answers aloud through a customizable built-in directory that lets users record their own voice. Button names are spoken as your finger moves over the screen. Double tapping a button enters the number onscreen. The calculator also has a high-contrast display mode to enhance visibility. Developer Adam Croser also makes the Talking Scientific Calculator app.

iBlink Radio screenshot


Serotek Corporation's iBlink Radio was the first application promoting the digital lifestyle among the visually impaired, providing access to community web radio stations with formats spanning every genre. The iBlink network also offers radio reading services (USA Today, the New York Times, among hundreds), and podcasts covering assistive technology, independent living, travel, and more. The app's latest player toolbars simplify navigation.

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