Photography is a visual medium by nature, but that doesn’t mean those without perfect eyesight can’t enjoy it. Sony seems to have recognized this and has added a screen-reading feature to its Alpha 7 IV camera to help the visually impaired.
As Sam from YouTube channel The Blind Life discovered, Sony has implemented an accessibility option in its Alpha 7 IV that can help visually impaired people make better use of the full-frame camera.
“Although not many people talk about it, it has the ability to be a game changer for an entire community of people,” Sam says.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12 million people over the age of 40 have visual impairment. Of these, eight million have uncorrected visual impairment and 4.2 million of them have vision problems that cannot be repaired.
“About 6.8% of children under the age of 18 in the United States have a diagnosed eye and vision condition. Nearly 3% of children under the age of 18 are blind or partially sighted, meaning they have difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses,” the CDC says. “The annual economic impact of major vision problems among the adult population aged 40 and over is over $145 billion.”
Photography is often described as an art form for everyone, but modern cameras have become so complicated that it can be difficult for people with perfect vision to navigate their many options.
Sam says the Alpha 7 IV packs a lot of cutting-edge features that make it one of the best options on the market, and many of these features aren’t found in any other camera. One of these features is the screen reader system, which PetaPixel confirmed is not available on any Nikon or Canon cameras.
“The feature I’m talking about is the new built-in screen reader,” says Sam. “If you don’t know what a screen reader is…a screen reader is exactly what it says: is a program that reads digital text aloud to the user. You may be more familiar with the term “text to speech”, [but] it’s basically the same thing.
Sam says screen-reading technology is essential for many in the visually impaired community and one of the only ways to use devices like computers or smartphones.
“It’s literally how we interact with most digital text,” he says.
Screen readers are available in a variety of products. Sony, for example, already has one built into its televisions. However, there was no screen reader built into a digital camera before this point.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to read a tiny little menu on that tiny little LCD screen,” Sam continues. “In fact, a lot of us can’t.”
The screen reader system can be activated from the Alpha 7 IV’s “Accessibility” subsection of the camera menu and once activated the camera will read aloud some of the text that appears when using it.
There is still room for improvement, however. The camera doesn’t read everything and doesn’t seem to read menu items, which is a shame as this is one of the areas where the visually impaired need screen readers the most.
“On this menu system that has about 30 options, it only reads about two or three,” Sam says.
It also doesn’t play the quick menu or screensaver. However, the fact that it is offered, even in this incomplete form, is extremely useful for people with visual impairments. Sam hopes that a future update or next-gen device will expand on this feature.
PetaPixel contacted Sony to confirm that the Alpha 7 IV is the only camera in its line to offer this feature and asked if there were any plans to expand the feature or add it to future cameras, but no rep could not be reached for comment.