Press Release: RIM Launches BlackBerry Screen Reader for Customers with Visual Impairments

BlackBerry Screen Reader
By Adam Zeis on 7 May 2012 10:24 am EDT

BlackBerry Smartphones have always had some great accessibility options, but today RIM has taken things one step further with the release of BlackBerry Screen Reader. The new app, available for the Curve 9350, 9360 and 9370, allows those with visual impairments to better make use of their BlackBerry with extended functions for native applications. 

Press Release 

WATERLOO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 7, 2012) - Research In Motion (RIM) (NASDAQ:RIMM)(TSX:RIM) today launched BlackBerry(R) Screen Reader, a free software application that helps customers who are blind or visually impaired operate their BlackBerry(R) smartphone. BlackBerry Screen Reader provides an audible output based on visual information displayed on a BlackBerry smartphone.

"We are excited to introduce BlackBerry Screen Reader as part of our suite of accessibility solutions for BlackBerry smartphones," said Greg Fields, Senior Product Manager. "BlackBerry Screen Reader helps customers with visual impairments stay connected with the people and information that matter most to them, and is representative of RIM's continuing commitment to support customers with disabilities."

Key features of BlackBerry Screen Reader include:

  • Support for core applications - Users can easily access core BlackBerry applications including email, calendar, phone calls and more.
  • Speech settings - users can customize the text-to-speech settings (volume, pitch and speech rate) and preferences for punctuation, verbosity and password security.
  • Keyboard shortcuts - Users can set speech and audio preferences quickly and easily through (physical) keyboard shortcuts
  • Accessible documentation - User Guide available in accessible HTML through a desktop web browser.

BlackBerry Screen Reader is available now as a free download from for the BlackBerry(R) Curve(TM) 9350, 9360 and 9370 smartphones. The application is available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.

For information about BlackBerry accessibility solutions for customers with disabilities, visit

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Press Release: RIM Launches BlackBerry Screen Reader for Customers with Visual Impairments


Well, this is a GREAT Start! Hopefully, the other OS7 phones will be supported shortly.
And I'm sure this will be translated to BB10!
Great Job RIM, keep up the momentum!

ZOMG the same stuff my nokia was doing in 2006!!!! (but it had a wider language selection back then)

More seriously: hope this software will be released also for the 9700 and other older phones

Another feather in your crown... good job... you have started delivering beyond our expectations.. like to see this app in BB10 as well..

well now maybe we can get talking caller id like I had on my Windows Mobile Treo 700W back in 04-05.

There are a lot of things that can be implemented to the OS by RIM. But I think one reason why they don't is to encourage application developers to take up BB platform. For example, on BlackBerries RIM can make a program to switch sound profiles automatically based on Calender events. Now it can be done with an app like Profile Changer app. It would be great if RIM can implement this as a core function, but then it will discourage the developers.

There are a lot of things that RIM could come up with that is fulfilled by apps.

LED notification colour changer, auto profile sound changer, pop-ups, pattern based lock (the apps are not as secure as the password because it is not a core RIM feature), custom lock screens, custom clocks, etc, etc.

This is great! Is this a Nuance product? (using a 9900) would be great if this was already baked into the OS! I'm sure BlackBerry 10 will have it built-in. Awesome work RIM!

Why should this feature be included in the core system for non-visually-impaired BlackBerry users? I am not being argumentative. The software to provide this function will use memory (RAM and storage) that can be put to better use by those without visual impairment. Let it be an add-on which users can selectively choose to install. Hey why not include a braille keyboard for the visually-impaired? Make a special BlackBerry smartphone for the visually-impaired - braille keyboard, text-to-speech reader, icon-to-speech reader.

If there isn't a regulation that forces companies to consider accessibility needs, companies would not implement them. And what's the problem with having libraries that run that you don't use? If your BlackBerry boots with a verifying security software window, that's another library that you don't really use 10% of.

Frankly Apple had support in osx and iPhone a long time ago, and for space issues, Android will download the tts package as soon as you activate text to speech

BlackBerry and their excellent keypad + trackpad would make an excellent platform for the visually impaired. If anything, I think they're late in the game. Should have partnered with someone much earlier on. The other slab phones would be hard for the visually impaired to use.

Actually, the iPhone is already one of the most accessible mobile devices (iProducts in general) with an entire suite of accessibility features baked in as well as peripherals (Braile output devices) that can be connected to the iPorduct. It's really very impressive. This is one of Jobs' key theories. Keep it simple and make it so EVERYONE can use it, easily.

Love my BlackBerry and want them to think this way... even in the corporate "successful" realm, there are people with disabilities who are incredibibly successful. And I can even see speech output and icon reading in BB10 implemented very seamlessly.

If BBSR is only available for the Curve series, why is there a picture of a 9900 at the top of the article?

Finally they are catching up to Apple! :)

Someone I know who is blind uses Apple products over blackberry products as RIM didn't have support the blind or deaf like Apple does with their phones and iPad devices. I hope this technology spills over into the Playbook.

"BlackBerry Smartphones have always had some great accessibility options,"

I'm undoubtedly a RIM zealot. I defend them at every opportunity and have an unshakable belief that they'll get through the current slump and find themselves back on top.

I'm also an anti-Apple zealot, who takes every opportunity to criticize Apple -- justified or otherwise.

Still, the idea that BlackBerry smart phones have had anything approaching "great accessibility options" is just insane. They've been significantly behind the curve here for as long as they've been around. Accessibility is one of their biggest short-comings and one that I've been hoping that they'd address for years.

As much as I hate Apple -- and hate them I do -- they really do have the best accessibility options for blind and visually impaired users on the market. No one else comes close. Surely not RIM; though these new features represent a whole new level of commitment to accessibility that I find refreshing.

There are bounds of reason -- even for zealots like me.

Great job RIM.
Now release Theme Builder 7 so I can write a theme that allows me to read the device on my own.
Some of us aren't totally blind.

"BlackBerry Smartphones have always had some great accessibility options..."

WHAT??? The only thing worse than a BlackBerry in the accessibility department is a Windows Phone! BlackBerry had little more than an option to enlarge fonts, which as more apps looked to get away from the "MS-DOS Shell" look and feel of BlackBerry 4 and 5, the font enlarger became more useless every day. There was also a color inverter that applied to EVERYTHING and if you wanted to turn it off to view a picture, too bad you earned a free BlackBerry reboot!

RIM better include this screen reader in BB10 if they want to compete with iPhone's VoiceOver or even Android's TalkBack. C'mon, accessibility in BlackBerry has been so bad that I ended up switching to Android. Yup... it was THAT bad.