Beneficial apps & solutions you need to know.
Smart devices have opened up the world, making places and faces accessible to anyone with the right device. But what about the accessibility of the devices themselves? For users with accessibility issues, basic functionality that some take for granted can turn communication into a barrier.
With the right application, a smart device can change from something out of reach for certain people into a means of accessing groundbreaking tools that weren’t possible before. Here are a few ways developers are making smart devices more accessible:
The move to touch displays created an initial dilemma for visually impaired people: the loss of buttons meant a constantly changing interface with no tactile feedback. However, like so many applications before, developers relied on ingenuity to make the seemingly impossible possible with the most critical input for visually impaired people — braille.
A number of developers have translated braille keyboards to touch screens, relying on the technology’s simplistic, eight-button layout that doesn’t require the user to move their fingers. One such application, the iBrailler Notes (iOS), even lets a user begin typing wherever they put their hands down, eliminating any need to hunt for the right buttons. These apps, in combination with stock screen describers like VoiceOver (iOS) and Talkback (Android), open up the current generation of devices in a way the old keypad flip phones never could.
While braille keyboards can cost thousands of dollars, an app like iBrailler Notes is only an additional $20 on top a smart device. For anyone operating a business on a budget, those savings can make all the difference.
There are plenty of apps available for people with physical accessibility issues, but not many of them offer an experience that is exactly customized for each user’s specific needs. Abillipad, a keyboard and text-to-speech app, is one exception. Abilipad puts the power of an app developer in your hands, giving you easy customization over keyboard layout, button size, colour, function and more.
And while they may be known for adding a bit of personality to your device, “personal assistants” like Siri (iOS) and Ok Google (Android) also make many of their respective device’s features more easily accessible with just your voice.
Speech technology that once tethered users to personal computers is now available in a far more practical and affordable medium. The Google Play and iOS app stores are filled with speech apps that include basic text-to-speech readers, readers that offer common phrases with icons for people who have trouble reading, and speech therapy apps.
But the most interesting thing about speech apps is how they have become a proving point for an emerging platform — the smartwatch. Speak (iOS), for instance, is a simple text-to-voice app. However, its best feature comes in its new Apple Watch app, which allows for six customizable phrases to be spoken with just the tap of a wrist. It's an exciting step towards the future, applied in a way that justifies the time saved by leaving your phone in your pocket.
Despite the rise of instant messaging, the phone call remains an important part of the business world. For those with hearing issues, RogerVoice (iOS and Android) creates a live transcript of your call, which you can then save and review later. It also allows you to type out a response, which will then be read back to the person on the other end.
MTS offers a wide range of accessibility solutions for speech, vision, hearing, cognitive, physical and motor skills — all listed online. Click here to see the full list.