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Blind surfer uses iPhone XR and VoiceOver to take to the waves

Apple is highlighting the ability for the iOS ecosystem's accessibility functions to help the visually impaired, by sharing how one blind US Navy veteran uses the iPhone XR to prepare for his daily surfing sessions.

Blind surfer Scott Leason waiting for a wave on a surfboard at sea.

Blind surfer Scott Leason waiting for a wave on a surfboard at sea.


Published by Apple on Friday, the report features Scott Leason, a veteran who was stationed on the USS Tripoli amphibious ship as a visual communications expert. After seven years of service, Leason was blinded both eyes in July 1993 by a robber's bullet, making him unable to continue in his role.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs' Blind Rehabilitation Center provided a computer and technology training to Leason in 2009. In 2012, Leason was provided the iPhone 5 and more training from assistant chief of Blind Rehabilitation at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach Sara Majidzadeh.

"It's a lot easier to navigate with the phone," according to Leason. "I think a lot of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do everything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty darn good."

Apple goes on to claim VoiceOver is being used by more people in the blind community than any other mobile screen-reading software combined, with roughly 70 percent of veterans that have passed through the VA's 13 blind rehabilitation centers provided with iOS devices and accessibility training.

"It's amazing how long ago 10 years feels in the world of technology," Mission Bay Aquatics Center assistant director Kevin Waldick advised. "He (Leason) was not very technologically savvy at all, but when he got his iPhone he was like 'I can just do it. This is amazing.' And so Apple does a really amazing job at making that accessible. These sports are accessible just like technology's accessible. That's been huge for him."

In terms of his usage while surfing, Leason is described as using his iPhone XR to prepare for the day's surfing. By 5:30am, he had already checked his email, social media, news, and weather reports, including surf reports from the Surfline app.

Leason also wears an Apple Watch for workout tracking at home and in the sea, but he is noted to prefer to keep his devices streamlined while in use. "Tomorrow I'll be able to start my surfing workout," says Leason. "It'll be interesting to see what kind of calories I burn out there."