Verizon VelaSense: A Useful Service I’m Not Sure I’d Use, And Not Just Because The Press Release Is A Little Insulting

Last Updated on: 22nd July 2015, 04:37 pm

I don’t know how much Verizon paid Jay Croft for this advertorial puff piece on its new VelaSense blind person helper app, but they might want to see about getting their money back. Even if we look past all the silly hyperbole (Technology worthy of a Hollywood sci-fi movie?” It’s a cell phone camera and maybe some GPS.), there’s still at least one other problem on first glance which I will happily point out now for the benefit of anyone who may miss it when I quote the whole thing in a minute.

Listen, Jay. You may well be a very well intentioned, genuinely nice person. But if I may, here’s a friendly tip from me the potential customer to you, a public facing member of the sales team. If you want to sell me something, insulting me is a poor way to go about it.

I am not, as your press release claims, “afflicted with sight problems.” I’m blind yes, but day to day I feel as though I suffer more due to the all too frequent headaches, diminished memory from the years and years of sleep problems I used to have but am starting to shake, the weak shoulder, wrist that locks up when I do something overly repetitive or try to lift heavy things ever since I broke my arm 21 years ago, that thing in my hip area that makes it hard to walk around sometimes for no apparent reason and the repeatedly injured ankle than I do from the blindness I was born with and have adapted pretty well to over the last 35 years. I won’t lie. It can be a pretty big hindrance sometimes. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t be the person I am today or have the life I do without it, and most of the time I like that person and am pretty happy with how his life is turning out. Afflicted with blindness gives me a similar want to punch things feeling to that experienced by a girl I know who happens to spend her days in a wheelchair when someone tells her she’s confined to it. Blindness is an affliction only when you choose that route. The greater affliction is people who look at us as afflicted and take every opportunity to make sure we stay that way.

I say all of this while at the same time acknowledging that what you’re selling here is far from useless. It sounds, when you cut through all of that aforementioned hyperbole, like it could help with quite a few things we need. I’m not sure I’d pay $15 per month for it were I a Verizon subscriber mind you, but that doesn’t mean I’d actively discourage others from doing so. I’m just personally happy with TapTapSee which costs me around $28 every 3 months as opposed to $45 and the OCR and GPS apps I made one time payments for is the thing. But I honestly do appreciate the effort, hope it succeeds and wish for more companies to follow the example and perhaps even improve upon it.

Verizon Announces Life-Changing App for Visually Impaired
Using technology worthy of a Hollywood sci-fi movie, Verizon seeks to improve the daily lives of low-vision and blind customers.

by Jay Croft

For the millions of Americans who are blind or visually impaired, everyday interactions can be challenging and require dependence on others.
For instance, imagine shopping at a grocery store if you couldn’t see. How would you know what cereal you’re buying? Or the denomination of the bill you’re using to pay for it?
Now imagine a smartphone app that tells you all that information and more, in real time, when you need it.
Like an electronic best friend to guide you
The new VelaSense® mobile application turns a smartphone into a talking companion, an electronic BFF that can understand surroundings, process text, deliver voice commands through a headset and more. It can even provide outside navigation.
Visus Technology launched the app on Feb. 26, 2015. It will use Verizon’s 4G LTE network and smartphones with advanced cameras and sensors to deliver real-time information to visually-impaired Verizon customers. The app helps people understand printed words, enjoy articles, determine colors, interpret barcodes and more.
Users can more easily juggle daily applications like the phone and contacts manager, music player, weather reports, alarm clock and dozens more.
By combining multiple tools, the apps eliminate the inconvenience and cost of stand-alone equipment like magnifiers or readers.
Bringing independence and confidence
With Verizon and Visus, that shopping trip to the mall might go something like this: A blind or visually impaired person could use her phone and the app to determine if the sweater she’s holding is, in fact, the color she wants; and that she’s about to use a 50-dollar bill to pay for it.
Estimates vary about how many Americans are afflicted with sight problems—and the apps can help more people than just those with the most severe difficulties. The US Census in 2010 reported about 8 million Americans over the age of 15 were blind or had trouble seeing, even with glasses or contact lenses. The American Foundation for the Blind frequently cites the National Health Interview Survey’s estimate that 21 million adult Americans are blind or have trouble seeing.
Verizon is offering this service exclusively. Customers are eligible for a free 30-day trial before deciding to pay the $14.99 monthly subscription fee. Android OS 4.3 is required. For more information, visit

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    1. That seemed odd to me too unless they know something about phone popularity that I don’t or there’s something technical that’s delaying the iOS version. Seems silly to leave out Apple by choice.

        1. Maybe. I wouldn’t put it past them. But if that’s the case why not just delay the launch until your ducks are in a row? I mean really, how many users could there possibly be lining up for this compared to Verizon’s entire customer base? I’m sure it could wait.

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