Apple on Friday highlighted the story of a blind U.S. Navy veteran and surfer who uses an iPhone to help him live independently.
Scott Leason, 52, was a visual communications expert stationed on the USS Tripoli, according to Apple’s feature story. After seven years of service, a robber’s bullet took his eyesight on July 4, 1993.
Around 2009, Leason had adapted to his new normal over several years. Then, he received a computer and technology training from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Apple, that proved to be “pivotal in his journey to living independently.”
The veteran and surfer received his first iPhone 5 in 2012, at a time when mobile technology was still in its infancy. He received training in the device form Sarah T. Majidzadeh, assistant chief of Blind Rehabilitation at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center.
“I think a lot of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do everything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty darn good.”
“It’s a lot easier to navigate with the phone,” Leason told Apple. “I think a lot of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do everything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty darn good.”
VoiceOver, of course, is an accessibility feature that uses Siri to allow blind or visually impaired people to navigate iOS.
According to Apple, more people in the blind community now use VoiceOver than any other mobile screen-reading software combined. That includes roughly 70 percent of veterans who come through the VA’s blind rehabilitation centers, where they are provided with iOS devices and accessibility training.
And although surfing is a relatively recent endeavor for him, Leason is a “serious athlete with a serious competitive drive.”
The 52-year-old was the first blind champion at the USA Adaptive Surfing Championships in Oceanside, California in 2016. That same year, he won second place in men’s tricks at the USA Water Ski Competition in North Carolina.
And in 2018 alone, Apple reports that Leason has competed in several competitions — in four different sports.
One the particular Friday Apple interviewed him, Leason was preparing to head to the Mission Bay Aquatics Center — with whom he has been working for 10 years — to surf Mission Beach in San Diego.
“It’s amazing how long ago 10 years feels in the world of technology,” said Kevin Waldick, assistant director at Mission Bay Aquatic Center.
“He 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 an amazing job at making that accessible. These sports are accessible just like technology’s accessible. That’s been huge for him,” Waldick added.
Leason has since upgraded to an iPhone XR, which Apple says he uses to check email, social media, news, weather and surfing reports via the Surfline app — all by 5:30 a.m.
He also wears an Apple Watch to track his activity and health at home and in the ocean, but it’s the iPhone that Leason gives particular praise.
“I’m independent,” Leason said. “That’s the best way to describe the iPhone – independence.”