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5 Essential iPhone Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired Travelers | Blindphoneapps

Hands holding an iphone with speech accessibility options on screen.
Hands holding an iphone with speech accessibility options on screen.

Are you planning your next exchange? Whether going to a conference in the next town, or a work assignment in the next continent, you’ll come back to each and every one of these apps.


This connects with your iPhone’s GPS and camera functions to bring you live vocalized information about where you’re at and where you’re going. Open the application and let it run in the background, as it tells you the street you’re walking on, addresses that you pass, cross streets, and landmarks of interest. It is excellent for getting oriented to a new place, or just getting the name of that street when there is no one around.

Google Maps

This will provide you step-by-step voice directions. Walk, take public transit, or drive from the back seat of your taxi with the three settings: walking, transit, driving. Search the name of the destination in your Safari web browser, and tap the “directions” link to begin a route from Google maps. It also has features for finding local restaurants and other businesses.

Seeing AI

This handy application developed by Microsoft offers a variety of channels to assist you in identifying visual details. Set it to read short text, and point the camera at any object with printed text on it to hear the information repeated back. An alternative is the document channel, which guides you through taking a picture of a printed label or document, before converting the image to text. You can also read printed currency by setting it to currency mode. Those are just a small sampling of the many channels available on this incredibly useful app.

Be My Eyes

Sometimes artificial intelligence just does not cut it when you need to figure out the buttons on a washing machine or a coffee maker. Enter Be My Eyes, an application designed to connect blind people with cited volunteers who assist with visual tasks. Just open the app, tap the button to call a volunteer, and you are connected with a sighted person who can provide visual guidance using your phone’s back camera.


This might be the last thing on anyone’s mind for this list, but we did not want to leave it out. Whether or not you have Internet access, your iPhone’s built-in compass will always give you a clear idea of where you are heading, and thus how to get back. If you are intimidated by cardinal directions, you might consider this as an opportunity to start learning, especially if you are thinking about going to an area with limited Internet.


What is the best app for getting turn-by-turn directions?

  1. Compass
    Not quite, but compass can definitely be helpful if you are told to proceed North or east along a street, and it does not require Internet either.
  2. Google Maps
    Correct! Sometimes the best tool is the one that everyone else uses. It helps that Google has invested a lot and making Google Maps accessible to screen reader users.
  3. GoodMaps
    Good guess, but this is not correct. Good Maps can tell you what locations you are passing in a given area, and it can even give you information about traveling indoors using the phone’s camera, and special beacons that can be installed in buildings, but you would need a different app for turn by turn directions.
  4. Seeing AI
    Seeing AI can vocalize all kinds of visual information using a phone’s camera from text, to colors, and even objects, though a lot of the functionality requires access to the Internet. It will not give you turn by turn directions however. Try again.

What is the best app for recognizing printed text?

  1. Google Maps
  2. Compass
    Not quite.
  3. Be My Eyes
    Almost. I guess you technically could have a volunteer read something to you over Be My Eyes, but there is another application that offers more flexibility with reading text.
  4. Seeing AI
    Correct! Seeing AI has three modes that are useful for recognizing text. “Short text” does not require Internet and is good for recognizing short excerpts like an envelope, while “document” and “hand writing” require Internet, and offer more advanced functionality.

Those are just a few of our favorite iPhone apps for blind or visually impaired Globetrotters. Is your favorite app not here? Let us know through our contact form. Happy travels!

Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE nor is this list exhaustive.

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