The Sony a7 IV is an exciting camera for numerous reasons. It’s proven popular with many photographers following its release late last year. Beyond a new sensor and improved performance, it’s also more accessible for the large community of people who struggle with vision loss because the a7 IV includes screen reader technology. Sam from The Blind Life. struggles with vision loss, and it makes menus extremely difficult to navigate. His YouTube channel focuses on low vision accessibility in technology, and the a7 IV’s new feature, while still in progress, has significantly improved the camera’s accessibility.
The built-in screen reader is available by going to Menu > Setup > Accessibility > Screen Reader > On/Off. You can adjust the speed at which the camera reads aloud and adjust its volume. Many people experiencing vision loss enjoy photography without full vision, but that doesn’t mean that they can navigate a camera’s menus without assistance. The a7 IV can read the digital text on the camera’s display, allowing those in the blind and visually impaired community to interact with the camera’s menus.
Speaking about screen readers, also known as text-to-speech technology, Sam says, ‘It is a must, a necessity, for a lot of people. It’s literally the only way that a lot of people in our community can use a computer, use a smartphone, can use an ATM, can vote at elections. It’s literally how we interact with most digital text.’ It’s a critical assistive technology for many, so it’s both an important and welcome inclusion in the Sony a7 IV. Sam continues, ‘I can’t tell you how difficult it is to read a tiny little menu on this tiny little LCD screen. In fact, many of us can’t.’
Without interacting with a camera’s menu, it’s difficult to use the camera at all. It’s easy to take for granted how easy it is for people with full sight to change camera settings and make changes to their camera like it’s second nature, but if you can’t see what’s on the screen, it’s impossible without aid.
As Sam outlines, the inclusion of the screen reader accessibility option is excellent. However, the current implementation isn’t perfect. It doesn’t currently read everything, including the camera’s quick menu that you can bring up while shooting. ‘The screen reader is super helpful,’ says Sam. ‘They just need to finish it up. And they are, they are working on it.’
While there’s more work to be done, it’s an amazing inclusion. Sony has assured Sam that they are going to continually update the screen reader. ‘I am so excited to see it grow in the future,’ says Sam. There are many in the blind and visually impaired community that want to create content, and screen reader technology will make that much more accessible. In some cases, assistive technology can turn something that was once impossible into something possible. The value of such progress cannot be overstated, and we hope to see it become commonplace on all digital cameras.
To see more from Sam and learn more about assistive technology in electronics, subscribe to The Blind Life on YouTube.