It’s no secret that smartphones are much more than just communication tools. The devices make people’s lives easier, more productive and more fun. For individuals with disabilities, smartphones are actually changing the way they live. Smartphones are being used as assistive technology devices, allowing people to live more independently, communicate more effectively and increase their quality of life.
There are many benefits to using a smartphone for assistive technology purposes. The devices are small and can be taken anywhere. They are socially acceptable and used by the mainstream. They are loaded with accessibility options that people with and without disabilities use and love. The phones as well as the applications are relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to other assistive technology devices. Many smartphone apps are even free.
Orion ISO has created a list of some of the most popular and helpful smartphone apps and features for people with disabilities.
LookTel Money Reader – This app recognizes U.S. currency and speaks the denomination out loud, enabling people who are blind or visually impaired to identify and count bills.
WalkyTalky and Intersection Explorer – Both these Google driven apps help people with visual impairments navigate unfamiliar streets and communities. Both apps sync with Google Maps to deliver directions in spoken instructions based on the user’s location.
Color ID and Color Identifier – Using the smartphone’s camera to identify colors, both these applications enable people with visual impairments to coordinate their wardrobes and interpret the limited light and images they may be able to see.
Explore-by-Touch Mode – By dragging a finger across the phone when in this mode, users can hear audible commands of content. This “virtual cursor” allow individuals with a visual impairment to hear descriptions of content without seeing the screen. This feature also eliminates the need for physical buttons, which can present problems for individuals with limited dexterity.
BIG Launcher – This app provides an oversized, simplistic presentation style, by increasing the size of text and placing applications on the Home Screen in colorful square boxes. It also has a large “S.O.S.” button which allows the user to call a pre-determined phone number or send an emergency text message with G.P.S. coordinates. All functions can be customized for ideal visibility and use.
Voice Dream Reader – This text to speech app is very comprehensive. It can either read aloud messages for those with visual impairment, or interpret spoken words into text for those with hearing impairments.
Learn Braille Alphabet – Good for those beginning to learn the Braille alphabet, this app uses games and basic interface to explain the different Braille symbols.
For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
SoundAMP – SoundAMP turns your phone into a listening device. By plugging in headphones and launching the application, individuals who are hard of hearing can experience increased sound. Users benefit from “boost” mode, which amplifies higher frequency sounds, and a “zoom” mode, which reduces background sound levels.
IP-Relay – IP-Relay works like a TTY or TDD system to connect you to an operator who reads your messages to the recipient and transcribes their messages back to the user.
Parking Mobility – When users enter the map function they can view accessible parking spots, share accessible spots not listed on the map, and suggest locations that would benefit from accessible parking. Users can even report abusers of accessible parking to the authorities and then send ticket revenues to charities across the country.
Dynamic Controls – Turns an iPhone into a remote control for wheelchairs. It connects to the chair over Bluetooth to allow the rider to control several aspects of the chair through an intuitive interface.
Communication and Autism
Proloquo2Go – By offering text-to-speech voices and up to 8,000 up-to-date symbols for people with limited dexterity, Prologquo2go is a communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking,
iConverse – This app is geared for young children and other individuals with communicative disabilities to communicate basic needs. Users can click on icons representing six basic everyday needs (bathroom, drink, food, sick, break and help) to help others understand their needs.
Text-to-Speech – By typing a phrase into the “dictate” box, users can hear words spoken aloud through the smartphone speaker. This communication tool enables individuals with limited speech or non-verbal individuals to effectively communicate with their peers.
Tap to Talk – This app turns the device into an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device, allowing the user to click on words or symbols to verbally communicate with others. It’s especially helpful for people with autism or cerebral palsy, as well as any speech-preventing condition
TouchChat HD – This app uses pictograms to help individuals construct sentences. TouchChat has seven English-speaking voices, and sentences can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, text message and email
AutismXpress – Created to help promote greater awareness about autism spectrum disorders, this app It is designed to encourage people with autism to recognizes and express their emotions through its fun and easy to use interface.
Kid In Story – Places the child as the main character in one of several stories, helping him or her to understand appropriate social behaviors. Using the devices camera, the child can be superimposed into the tale, and then uses one’s own voice to narrate the story.
Autism Tracker Pro – Uses a visual calendar to track and chart patterns over time, from mood to behavior to health to food..
My Emergency Info – Just as its names suggests, this app holds all the necessary info to get in touch with an individual’s emergency contact or their doctor. It also holds vital medical information such as allergies and medications.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Reference – This app helps users navigate the cumbersome and detailed info of the ADA in order to know their rights and make sure they are being treated fairly.