Tech Talk Thursday: Apps for People Living with Disabilities

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Today we are living in the future. What seemed like science fiction and myth 20 years ago is actually here. We have smart phones, smart cars, and even smart houses! Okay, so we’re still waiting on warp speed and that hover board but civilians are actually taking trips to the moon just for fun (thank you SpaceX!).

In the midst of a technology-driven civilization, it’s hard to think that anyone could be left behind. Unless you are one of the 12.6% (in 2015) of North Americans living with a disability it probably doesn’t cross your mind that often. Society’s underdogs are a small but mighty population with an entirely different set of needs when it comes to technology.

I was inspired when a friend of mine asked if I knew of any special devices for musicians with a visual impairment to assist with music/sight reading. It got me curious to discover not only what kind of devices are out there, but also to see what kind of software and apps have been created to assist people with disabilities. I’m constantly amazed at the tenacity and intelligence of people living with a disability.

The Forscore app

The forScore app

I wanted to find out what kind of assistance is out there for people who have to go above and beyond every day and I was pleased to uncover a plethora of apps! For the visually impaired or blind there are a multitude of apps for assistance. If you are a musician, there is an app called forScore. It can be used by downloading PDFs of your music and altering the size and speed of scrolling while the music plays. It can be used in tandem with a Bluetooth pedal called AirTurn for stop and start scrolling. If the app doesn’t do it for you and you’d prefer downloadable software there’s a program called LimeLighter that can be purchased and that can magnify music up to 10x. Being a visually impaired musician aside, if you are blind or have a visual disability there are a number of everyday use apps such as LookTel Money Reader, an app that uses the camera of an iPhone read out loud the denominations of paper money. There’s an app for walking and street navigation called Ariadne GPS, which is available with multiple language options. And HeyTell by Voxilate is a voice command-prompted messaging app.

Looktel Money Reader app

Looktel Money Reader app

Vision impairment is not the only disability for which apps have been created. Talkitt is an app that assists people with speech disorders. It recognizes voice patterns and will essentially “learn” a user’s voice and will then translate what they are actually trying to say. There are also a lot of apps for people diagnosed with Autism, such as Look At Me, a game app that is meant to improve and increase eye contact. Also, Avaz is an app that uses pictures to communicate geared towards assisting not only children on the Autism spectrum, but also kids with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities.

If you are deaf or have a hearing impairment there are a large number of apps that can caption your phone calls like RogerVoice and Dragon Dictation. There is even an app that creates a video call session with a translator called Z5 (formerly Z4) Mobile for deaf or hard of hearing individuals who need to communicate with someone who does not know sign language. Speaking of sign, yup you guessed it, there are several apps for translating spoken word into sign language and vice versa called iASL. My Smart Hands Baby Sign Language Dictionary is for parents with children with a hearing impairment who are learning sign language. Also, most entertainment apps such as Netflix, HBO Go/Now, and ABC Player all have options for closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

The z5 Mobile Translator app

The z5 Mobile app

I was happy to find that the list of apps can—and does—go on and on. Other great apps can be found through hosted by EasterSeals, a disability advocate and assistance site. Not only is this a great site for apps, but also for assistive services and community information.

I hope this proves to be helpful information that you or someone you may know will benefit from!


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