Many of us wonder what we ever did without our smartphones. These electronic marvels give us information at our fingertips. If you go to anyplace where people gather, you’re likely to see more people with their eyes locked onto a phone than looking into the eyes of the person they’re with.
Smartphones and other mobile devices have incredible capability. They’re more than phones. They’re more than cameras. They are also more than small, portable PCs. The cleverest developers have leveraged the amazing features and processing power to create apps that appear to work like magic.
Developers have also created apps that allow that “magic” to provide help to people with disabilities. In some cases, they improve communication. In others, they help kids learn to overcome cognitive challenges. For people with disabilities, these aren’t just an exciting new feature. Some of these apps help make disabilities all but disappear.
Here are 10 amazing apps that can unlock many limitations and barriers for people with disabilities:
1. Be My Eyes
It’s impressive to sighted people how well a confident blind person can function in the world. If any one of us who can see were to suddenly lose their vision, we’d be completely lost. Still, there remain frustrating moments when a little visual help can make a big difference to a blind person. Through the Be My Eyes app, volunteers accept calls and look through the blind person’s smartphone camera feed to explain what they see. They help interpret visual information. This might include reading text, finding a sign, understanding an unfriendly user interface design (like those on old vending machines) and even checking the expiration date on a food product.
2. Look at Me
People with cognitive disabilities such as autism typically have trouble making eye contact. It’s often described as overwhelming, a burning feeling when directly looking at another person. As a result, they get in the habit of looking away. When the person is not practiced at reading expressions, they also fail to understand what certain facial expressions may mean. The Look at Me app from Samsung is designed to help in a couple of ways. First, it serves as a bridge: People with autism generally like using electronic devices; they can look at the screen and point the camera at their partner (the face on the screen is easier for them to look at). Second, the app then helps interpret and coaches them to look for the meaning behind the expression. The video at this site link shows how effective the app can be, gradually helping a child to look into his mother’s face.
Talkitt, created by Voiceitt, is speech-recognition technology designed to help people who have speech disabilities or difficulty being understood, and to do so in real time. Although the app is still in beta stage, the company behind the app is currently testing with partners in the US, Europe and Israel. Projected launch is scheduled for the end of 2016.
4. RogerVoice & Live Caption
Voice recognition has come a long way in recent years. The RogerVoice app adds captions to regular phone calls. Using it, deaf people can make regular phone calls. The person on the other end can hear their voice. What is spoken back shows up as text on the screen. This is much faster, more convenient and less expensive than a relay service (where a person acts as an intermediary typing what is spoken for the deaf person to read).
Android (Live Caption)
An amplification and level-filtering app – “personal sound amplifier” – designed to help the hearing impaired, HearYouNow is aimed at those without hearing aids. The limitation of hearing often shows up initially as an inability to distinguish sounds. If a person is in a loud space like a cafeteria, the din of noise in the room makes it very hard to accurately make out the conversation at their own table. An app like this helps boost sound levels and filter out high, low or mid-range levels from the noise. For the right person, this app may be just what is needed to help them function comfortably without hearing aids.
iOS – HearYouNow
6. First Then Visual Schedule
The First Then Visual Schedule app features visual prompts to help those with cognitive disabilities like autism plan and then follow a schedule using images rather than text. You can upload your own images to enhance familiarity. The app also has built in timers to keep users on schedule.
Avaz is a visual image tool designed to make it easier for people with a cognitive disability like autism, to express themselves through pictures. In the same way, it also helps those with Down syndrome, Angelman’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other speech disabilities
Android lite and pro versions are available
8. Pillboxie and My PillBox
These two apps provide reminders to take pills and also help with pill identification. This can help those with or without disabilities who need to take medication on a regular basis.
The DyslexiaKey app keyboard features a font specifically designed to improve readability for those with reading disabilities like dyslexia. The heavy base designed into this special font helps prevent the cognitive reversing that often occurs.
MySugr is a tracking app for logging, recording and watching blood-sugar levels – a huge aspect for helping people who deal with diabetes. Tracking levels and learning about what causes changes helps teach control. This app also has built-in coaching features.
Learning Ally – Audio versions of textbooks and a wide range of books free to use by anyone who has a diagnosed print disability like reading or visual impairment. The audio is read by volunteers.
These are just a few examples of thousands of apps that are available. Plus the list changes every day. Search the Web for other apps to help whatever disability you or your loved one faces. Each one can help unlocking parts of the world, sometimes in little ways and other times ways that are huge!