Helping a visually impaired person

My Mom is legally blind and living alone about 1000 miles from me. She’s 86 and has an iPhone, iPad and an iMac. (She got her first Mac about 1990 or so). She is still mentally very very sharp but the vision loss has made it really hard for her.

We have managed to set almost everything we need to do so I can handle it remotely. Bill paying, grocery orders, household needs, cleaning, etc. is all organized. I am planning on flying down once a month to check-in and make sure everything is going well.

We have one issue I need to figure out. That is setting up something so she can easily and simply take a photo of any mail she wants me to read and send it to me via text or email. She really can’t see to take a pic and send it…is there some solution, like a Shortcut, she can use, that will combine the picture taking, addressing and sending in one go? Any and all help is appreciated.


You should be able to use a Shortcut to take a picture and automatically mail the image to a set email address. Let me check.

Edit: Yup. This works. It does require (a) running the shortcut (one tap/interaction) and (b) tapping “use photo” after it’s taken. That should be it.

If she doesn’t actually need to see the photo to take it — maybe a frame or something to hold the phone in a fixed position? — there’s an option in the first step to turn off the photo preview, which might make it even simpler.)


Maybe a FaceTime session would be better?
She could show you all the mail, and you could direct her.

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Awesome! I’ve got it working just fine. I really like the idea of building some sort of frame she can set the camera on and put the paper underneath so she doesn’t have to worry about how far away to hold the phone, etc. I turned off the camera preview in my shortcut so it will be really easy for her. I go back to see her in two weeks so will into the garage and rig up some sort of frame/stand and take it with me. Thanks!

Good for simple things but for more complex documents I think the photo solution will work better. Thanks for the input

Excellent. I’m trying to think what would work best. You might start with a selfie stick -/ they tend to have a spring loaded clamp to hold the phone. Then maybe find a way to affix the clamp to a rigid wooden frame? Maybe a small LED light or two on the frame to keep the camera from casting a shadow.

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Here is a simple solution I jury-rigged. I found a cardboard box slightly bigger than letter-sized paper. Cut out most of the sides so light could get in. Left the top open. Flipped it over and cut a hole for the camera lens in the right place.

Now all she has to do it put the paper on a table, set the box on top of it, put the phone on the top of the box with the lens in the cut out (you can do it by feel) and push the shortcut button. Not elegant but it works!

Thanks a bunch for your help. I really appreciate it!


Fantastic. And simple is good in this case. Let us know how it works out

Will do! I head back to CA in 2 weeks so we shall see.

Another suggestion, given that you say your mother has an iMac, might be to attach a scanner and set up some automation to email the scan directly to you. My feeling is that affordances for the visually impaired in macOS are better than you can achieve on an iPad or iPhone, if only because of the screen size. I know this can be done directly from an HP multifunction device – albeit the touch screen on mine is likely too small for anyone with poor eyesight – and, I believe, also from a ScanSnap. Hopefully the later could be automated with a big, bold button!

The solution is working perfectly. She uses Siri to activate the shortcut so it is simple…and removes the stress of her getting mail and not being able to ready it. She just sends me a photo of it and I can read it for her.


there are other options, depending what your mom and you are comfortable with.

This is what I have set up for my mom, 89. I hold all her critical passwords under my 1Password. I set up so that my phone is the 2FA for validating her email account. I saved all the log in information in her phone. She does not need to enter the log in details every time she reads her email (unless she has been logged out for some reasons)

This works for both of us so far but I have the benefit of physically closed to her. Only 15 minutes drives if necessary

Great to hear! The great thing about this approach is that it’s asynchronous — she can send it when convenient for her, and you can look on your own schedule.

One option is to have Siri read the mail to her.

I sometimes use the Accessibility features and Voice over, to trigger Siri to read email I can’t read.

But generally I can manage to get the right menu command.

Some of my friends have Siri read their mail to them on their iPhone or iPad; it is easier.

She does that with email but still needs to read paper mail, hence our need for a solution to photograph paper mail.

I did that exact set up for her email but needed a solution for paper mail. The cardboard box set up is working really well.

not sure this is getting too complicated. One option is to get her to put the paper mail into a scanner (I am using a Fujitsu iX500 which has this function). Once scanned, you can set up the scan to be automatically emailed to you. See this. Obviously, you need to help her to set up the email account details for sending in the first place