Life Living with Sight Loss

Top 5 iPhone Apps for Users with Sight Loss

Blind and partially sighted people use assistive technology or adaptations to make the world more accessible. Specialised assistive technology is often prohibitively expensive to many. With the introduction of Mobile phones and apps, it is no understatement to say, ‘There is an App for that’. Let’s explore my Top 5 iPhone Apps for Users with Sight Loss:

Use Android? Check out the Top 5 Android Apps for Users with Sight Loss

Microsoft Seeing AI

Seeing AI is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) application that started at a Hackathon in 2015, quickly gaining support and becoming a Microsoft Research project. The App was launched in 2017. Since launch the app has gone from strength to strength, postivily impacting millions of lives globally.

Seeing AI works by pointing your phones camera at what you want to identify. Seeing AI has a number of channels of recognition, including:

  • Short Text – reads the text it sees
  • Document – the app helps you get the document in view, then on taking a picture it will read it to you.
  • Product – Recognises a product by bardcode to tell you if it is a can of beans or tomato soup.
  • Currency – recognises notes and the value of the notes
  • Colour Detection – speaks the colour seen in camera
  • Light Detection – makes a tone that changes with the level of light
Introduction for Microsoft Seeing AI video on YouTube

Visit the Microsoft Seeing AI website to download the app


The Envision app is the equivalent to a Swiss Army knife, it is filled with functionality to help verbalise the world around you.

The free Envision App uses your smartphone’s camera, to speak out written information, describe surroundings and objects, and even tell you who’s nearby.

Excelling in all kinds of text and object recognition, Envision can read text in over 60 languages. Be it a handwritten birthday card, the ingredients listing on the back of a cereal box or even an entire book.

Description from
How to use Instant Text on the Envision App video on YouTube

Visit Lets Envision to find out more and download the app

Be My Eyes

While technology is constantly improving and can support us in many situations, occasionally there is a need for a human to help. Be My Eyes solves this problem by connecting you with one of millions of volunteers who will use your phone camera to help you.

Be My Eyes promotional video on YouTube

Visit the Be My Eyes Website to download the app.


Aira, a visual interpreter service like Be My Eyes, except Aira connects you to highly trained staff who have a dashboard with information about your location, profile and what your camera can see. There is a free plan, however, to use the service regularly you will need to subscribe. I find that as a paid service, you don’t get the same feeling that you need to make small talk or the guilt of putting someone else out like you do with Be My Eyes.

Aira promotional video on YouTube

Go to to download the app


Finally, NaviLens is an app that reads a colourful 2D barcode, like a QR Code. The NaviLens codes can be read from metres away and are being used by transport facilities to help with navigation, and more recently food and drink brands like Kelloggs to help with identifying and finding products. Watch the video below to see NaviLens in action.

RNIB video demonstrating Navilen for Rail travel in the UK. Video on YouTube

Visit the NaviLens website to download the app

What are your Top 5 iPhone Apps for Users with Sight Loss?

With so many apps out there, what are your top 5 iPhone Apps for users with sight loss?

Tell me what you think in the comments below or on X @timdixon82

By Tim Dixon

Tim Dixon has worked in IT for over 20 years, specifically within the Testing Inspection and Certification industry. Tim has Cone Dystrophy, a progressive sight loss condition that impacts his central vision, colour perception and makes him sensitive to light. He likes to share his experience of life and how he navigates the abyss of uncertainty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *