God made a man with five basic senses that help him to interact with the world. Two eyes to see with, two ears to hear from, a nose to smell from, a tongue to relish food with and the sense of touch to feel every object. We use these senses every day to communicate with other people and the world. Blessed are those who are bestowed with all these senses.
The visually impaired and those with hearing loss face a lot of inconveniences while performing the most basic of tasks that we otherwise wouldn’t even think about. According to the WHO, about 5 percent of the world’s population is deaf and about 1.5 billion people have some form of visual impairment. Mobile applications directed towards making things accessible to both the blind and deaf are becoming very popular by the day.
Problems faced by those with disabilities
Without the technological advancements that we have today, life would be extremely strenuous for the deaf and blind. Deafness is an invisible disability – you can’t see it in the way that you can see someone who has lost a foot, but that doesn’t make life any easier for those affected.
The deaf struggle with being able to listen to auditory cues like horns while navigating through traffic or at public places like train stations, bus stations, hospitals and stores where audio cues like public announcement describe any changes to the ordinary. They also have problems placing orders at restaurants or other establishments.
Being unable to see where you are, what you are doing or how you are going to look is a daily and, in some cases, a lifelong struggle for the blind. The blind struggle immensely with mobility and self-care. Obstacles while walking, crossing roads and even in their own homes can cause bodily injury. Disorientation is another major problem faced by those with visual impairments.
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Technology to the rescue
Mobiles are used more than ever by the deaf and blind all over the world. With the gift of portability, the availability of assistive technologies and guides, mobiles are a godsend for those with disabilities and can help them perform tasks with ease. Mobile apps for the deaf and blind available for both Android and iOS today are helping them be independent and gain confidence in their daily lives.
How does technology help the deaf?
Technological innovations have made things easier today for those with hearing disabilities – Subtitles in movies help the deaf read along as the movie plays, ensuring that they can enjoy the feature film nearly as well as those who can hear. In public places, changes to schedules and emergency announcements are made as text messages to phones, helping the deaf read and respond appropriately. Android and iOS apps for the deaf can also help the deaf navigate through IVRs.
iOS and Android Mobile apps for the deaf
Nearly every mobile platform today has apps that are useful for those with auditory impairment or hearing loss, but some apps shine out in their user-friendly approach to what they do. Here is a list of top apps for deaf people:
1. Mobile Banking Apps
Mobile banking might be a nice-to-have feature for us, but for those with hearing loss, it’s a godsend. Available for nearly every platform, mobile banking is one of the top apps for deaf and can help the deaf to work their way around banking from the comfort of their mobile phone! By creating friendly deaf accessibility apps for iOS devices and Android devices, banks are consistently enhancing their products with newer features that can increase their customer base.
NGTS or Next Generation Text Service is one of the most amazing deaf apps around. This app can help them communicate over the phone with a text and relay agent. This app can be customized, and users can choose from a variety of options to ensure that it suits the way they wish to use it.
RogerVoice offers similar functionality to NGTS except for the fact that there is no human interaction involved. This mobile app for deaf users utilizes voice-to-text to caption calls.
Ava is a sophisticated speech to text app that helps you stay in group conversations and interact with those around you with ease. This is one of the top apps for deaf people and can help them stay socially connected.
5. BioAid and Mobile Ears
BioAid and Mobile Ears are sound amplification apps that help those with hearing disability to hear better and clearer. Designed to be used with headphones or earphones, these apps are a godsend if you have forgotten your hearing aid or if they have run out of batteries. These hearing apps for iPhone and hearing apps for Android help their users in overcoming their disabilities to a high degree.
How does technology help the blind?
In a similar way, as tech helps the deaf, auditory cues and narratives can describe what is being displayed on the screen to help the blind perform tasks that were otherwise impossible for them to accomplish. GPS-assisted devices can help those with visual disabilities walk, avoid obstacles and understand where they are in an area.
AI-based smart gadgets like Alexa and Google Home can also help the blind perform basic daily tasks like reading the newspaper or helping them place calls without having to keep their phone at hand and respond to text messages. Vibrating devices built into mobile phones send vibrotactile signals that vibrate where the user is seated to alert the user of some abnormal activity or an alert like a text message notification, a call or an alarm.
iOS and Android Mobile apps for the blind
Nearly every mobile platform today has apps that are useful for those with visual impairment or blindness, but some apps shine out in their user-friendly approach to what they do. The popular iPhone has many iPhone apps for blind users that can help them simplify their lives. Similar blind apps for Android ensure that their users are not left in the lurch.
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BeMyEyes is a sighted volunteer-driven free app that helps the blind “see” using the eyes of a volunteer. The app connects company representatives and volunteers with app users via a video call. Volunteers can then help the app users with tasks that require sight – checking the expiry date on a can or navigating through new surroundings or distinguishing colors. This blind app for iPhone and Android is one of the more popular blind apps around.
2. LookTel and Blind-Droid– the denomination reading apps
LookTel and BlindDroid are apps that read out currency denomination for the visually impaired. They can also help the users count bills. These apps can also help color blind users by reading out denominations that color blind people cannot use. Although colorblind apps are fewer in number, but from a usability factor, this tops the list.
TapTapSee allows the visually impaired to identify the world around them. All they need to do is to take a photo of anything, at any angle and the app will speak the identification out to them. This app can also help users with many types of color blindness or total/partial blindness. With descriptions of the world around them, color blind and those with total or partial blindness can see the world in a new light.
BlindSquare helps the visually impaired understand the environment, know about places of interest and intersections for those who travel independently. This blind app for iPhone and Android helps users visualize the world around them and visit places they could not earlier due to lack of color blind or blind-friendly signage.
VoiceBrief can help the blind by reading out texts, emails, social media feeds and RSS feeds.
Mobiles are indispensable today. From communication to assistive technologies, they impact nearly every facet of our lives, ensuring that we use them as an alarm clock to wake up to and as sleep monitors when we wind down for the night.
These intrusive features of mobiles have proven to be a boon for those with disabilities. Mobile devices can help the blind see with auditory cues and help the deaf hear with text over and captions. Combining the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things, mobile devices today can act as powerful, indispensable tools for the disabled.
These seeming small benefits can help those with disabilities immensely and ensure that they can live indulgent, fuller lives, enhancing their quality of life and reducing their dependence on others. These apps ensure that those with visual and hearing loss can lead nearly fully independent, low-stress and frustration-free lives like the rest.