Sure, turning on VoiceOver doesn’t create true empathy. That’s not the point.

Jen Goertzen
iPhone showing Settings screen with VoiceOver turned on.

When you activate VoiceOver on your phone, it doesn’t give you the experience of a user with low vision. It gives you a different experience of using your phone.

Those 5 minutes or 5 hours of struggle gave you but a glimpse of some of the details of what one part or one variation of that experience might be like for someone else. The only way to better know that is to talk to them, to invite them to show you, to share their experience.

Why is your VoiceOver experience different? Because it’s steeped in your previous experience. It could be that you’ve used (and worked on) an app for a year. Today, you turned on VoiceOver and turned off the screen. But you probably know what the interface looks like, how the different screens are connected, and maybe even the order of the buttons (that are all labelled “button”).

Although you did not have the same experience as a user with low vision, what you did have is a new experience. Through this, you realised that there is more than one way to experience something, to use an app, to get things done. You realised there are things you don’t know about, such as how screen readers work or the other accessibility options available to people. You probably realised there is work to be done.

Unknown unknowns became known unknowns today. That is powerful. What will you do with that? How will you pursue that knowledge?

Jen Goertzen

Written by

Do good, do it well · Senior Product Designer at IDAGIO · Cofounder of Caribou (

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