The man who sees the world through his phone


Rob Long was serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when he was hit by a bomb and lost his sight aged 23.

“I was left with no eyes and I am completely blind – I’ve got prosthetic glass eyes in now,” he says.

Rob now uses his phone to help him to interact with the world and help describe what’s around him.

And when he tweeted suggesting an an easy way everyone can make Twitter more accessible for blind people, he was “overwhelmed with the response”.

Adding a text description to photos you tweet means that visually-impaired people can have that description read out to them.

“If you just take an extra 10 seconds for your tweet, it opens up your audience to a lot more people than it did previously,” says Rob.

He says adding those few words means people like him can “contribute to the conversations, comment on the photo, and just be involved – whether it’s someone sharing a picture of their dog, or an important photo politically.”

Accessibility features work slightly differently on Facebook, explains Rob.

“When I scroll over a picture, Facebook AI predicts what it is.”

But Rob’s smartphone makes the rest of the world accessible for him, too.

He has apps where he can take photos which are then audio-described.

“When I’m cooking, I use a lot of herbs and spices, and the small spice bottles are almost identical.

“With my app, I take a picture of the bottle and it will read out the label. Now I can cook independently.

“It makes things very fluent. It means I can dedicate my time and brainpower to other things.”

It seems many people are willing to add audio description to their tweets in response to Rob’s viral post.

Many have been replying with screenshots of the setting being switched on – as well as audio-described photos of their pets.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the response of how many people are on board,” says Rob.

“What this Twitter support has proved is that there are a lot of people willing to take a very small step that makes a massive improvement to a lot of people’s lives.”

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