With the swiftness with which technology has drastically changed over the years, it can be easy to get so caught up in all the hype and excitement of how the latest gadgets have transformed how we live. For techies and the younger generation, getting up to speed and adapting to the change in our lifestyles is a breeze. But, for some others, catching up is somewhat akin to a chore, and so they are, quite sadly and unintentionally, left in the dust.
Not to worry, though. Android and app developers are becoming more and more sensitive to the special accessibility needs of our friends with disabilities. Apps and mobile operating systems are now designed with these users’ ease of use and convenience in mind.
You or a friend or family member can benefit from these special apps that aid in making Android more accessible and user-friendly:
Options for the visually impaired
Non-visual feedback. Users can utilize built-in options that allow for non-visual feedbacking: TalkBack, KickBack, and SoundBack. To enable these, go to Settings > Accessibility > Enable Accessibility.
Carrier-specific apps. Apps4Android’s Android Accessibility Installer offers a host of accessibility options specific to carriers: Eyes-Free Shell provides one-touch access to Android applications. IDEAL Item Identifier is a barcode-reading app that enables users to take images of standard UPC and QR codes. Music lovers can also enjoy their collection on the go with the help of the Rock Lock music player.
Large text. People with sight problems can benefit from having the icons look darker and the text look larger with the BIG Launcher app.
Voice commands. Push the boundaries of artificial intelligence and make it work for you. Voice command functionality (Voice Actions) has been with Android for a long time. But, if you want extended features beyond Google Voice Actions, you can try Vlingo Virtual Assistant, which lets you use voice commands to perform tasks such as sending messages, dialing numbers, searching the Web, getting directions, launching apps, and many more. iris. (alpha) is another voice command app that you can try. It not only obeys voice commands but also allows you to interact with your phone using your voice. In some rare situations, you might need to install the Voice Search app and a text-to-speech (TTS) library on your device–although most handsets come with these in most cases.
Options for the hearing impaired
IM Clients and Texting. Google Talk and other messengers now offer accessibility features, and vibration can be used as a convenient alerting tool, too.
Text-to-speech. If you would like to converse with a friend who can’t read sign language face to face, the Text to Speech Toy app is your ally. It lets your device talk to your friends for you.
Google Translate. This smart tool can be utilized to reach out to others using sound, and if you communicate in multiple languages, switching between different tongues is no hassle.
Dropping your voice plan. Talk to your carrier’s customer service representative and see if you can be offered a discount for not using up your voice plan or inquire about dropping your voice plan altogether. As more carriers are made aware of the special needs of users with disabilities, there is greater room for them to come up with programs and tools to cater to these special clients in the future.
Options for the mobility impaired
Enlarged graphics on interface. Large text is yet another useful tool, as users are able to easily toggle settings and select large icons with the use of the BIG Launcher app. It’s a good investment for a cool, neat app at just US$1.39.
Easier navigation is coming. Potentially revolutionary work is being done with the Tecla Access app. With development still underway, this app aims to make Android devices and other major smartphones and tablets completely accessible using the mechanism that’s being used in navigating powered wheelchairs. While waiting for the commercial version to be released, an open-source Tecla Shield interface can be assembled for users.
While a lot of work is still needed to make the use of Android devices fully accessible and convenient, these apps are a step in the right direction and with the right resources and dedication, absolute ease of use for our friends with disabilities just might be a reality in the near future.