Here at Money Talks News, we’ve spent a lot of time telling you about all the fabulous apps available to make your life easier.
In all those cases, apps make our lives more convenient and more enjoyable. However, if you’re living with a disability, apps can have a profound impact on your ability to navigate some daily tasks that others may take for granted. Beyond that, some apps designed for folks with specific disabilities can be incredibly helpful to anyone in certain circumstances.
Technology can be a game-changer
I traded emails with Katherine Bouton to learn more about how technology and apps can affect daily life for those with disabilities. Bouton, who has severe hearing loss, sits on the board for the Hearing Loss Association of America and is the author of “Hear Better with Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help.”
“I first lost the hearing in my left ear when I was 30,” Bouton told me. “The cause was unknown. It’s progressive, and I now have a hearing aid in my right ear and a cochlear implant in my left.”
She shared some of the ways technology has changed her life. “For instance, I have a captioned telephone at home. For the first time in almost two decades I can actually have a coherent phone conversation,” she explains. “The captioned phone has reconnected me to far-flung relatives and friends.”
Today’s apps are taking the technology that makes captioned phones and other services possible and making it accessible everywhere. Keep reading for examples of the different types of apps currently available.
Apps for those with hearing loss
Bouton says some of the apps she uses are created specifically for those with hearing loss. Others may have been designed for general use but are equally beneficial. Here are a couple notable examples:
- Dragon Dictation: “[If you’re] in a very noisy place and having trouble understanding what someone is saying, you can hand them your phone with Dragon Dictation activated, and they can talk into it,” says Bouton. “Then you read the transcription and reply. It’s not always accurate, but it may be enough to help you figure out what the conversation is about.” Available for free for Apple devices.
- HearYouNow: Bouton has a friend who uses the app SoundAMP R to amplify sounds. The app works by using a device’s microphone to pick up conversations and then run them through earbuds. When I tried to pull up SoundAMP R on iTunes, it told me it wasn’t currently available in the United States. However, it appears HearYouNow is a similar app that is currently free for Apple devices.
- P3 Mobile: Purple Communications has launched this app to let people with hearing loss make either phone calls or video calls on the go. Using the video option, you can sign your messages and have a live operator transcribe and relay them to the other party. The app is free to download for Apple and Android devices, although there may be a cost to use the service.
“And of course the ability to text or email from a phone is invaluable for those with hearing loss,” notes Bouton.
Apps for the visually impaired
Just because a person can’t see well doesn’t mean they can’t use a smartphone. In particular, the launch of VoiceOver on the iPhone made it possible for those who can’t read the screen to use just about all a phone’s features. VoiceOver was something of a game-changer for the visually impaired, but it’s not the only smartphone technology geared specifically for those with limited vision. The following apps can help as well:
- Be My Eyes: As a visually impaired individual, Hans Jorgen Wiberg realized there were certain times and situations in which it would be helpful to have a pair of seeing eyes to call upon. He created the Be My Eyes app, and now a team of nearly 230,000 sighted volunteers are available via a video connection to, say, read a train schedule or identify which bottle you need to pull from the pantry, and myriad other tasks. Be My Eyes is free for Apple devices.
- BigBrowser: Developed by the Braille Institute, BigBrowser is intended for low- vision individuals. It supersizes not only your phone’s Internet browser but the on-screen keyboard as well. Available free for iPads.
- Ivona Text-to-Speech: Featuring a range of natural sounding voices, Ivona Text-to-Speech will read users everything from emails and online content to eBooks. The service is available in 13 languages, and the Android app is free to download, although its features may come with a fee.
Apps for those with developmental disabilities
Although apps to help with hearing loss or visual impairment may be most common, there are also plenty of apps for those with developmental disabilities. Here are a couple that may be appropriate, depending on the individual:
- Stepping Stones: Appropriate for either children or adults, Stepping Stones allows caregivers to set up simple routines easy for those with developmental disabilities to follow. The app uses pictures for each step of the routine to help an individual through their day. Stepping Stones costs 99 cents and is available for Apple devices.
- Dexteria: Dexteria won an Editor’s Choice Award from Apps for Children of Special Needs, but it can work just as well for adults. Using a series of simple games, the app allows individuals to work on improving their fine motor skills. Dexteria costs $3.99 for Apple devices and 99 cents for Android devices.
- Avaz: If you have the means, you could get Proloquo2Go, which may be the most comprehensive alternate-communication app available. If the $329 price tag is a bit much, you could take the Avaz app for a test drive instead. It works on the same concept as Proloquo2Go, allowing those who cannot speak to use symbols to communicate. It was designed for children on the autism spectrum, but its use can certainly extend beyond that population. Avaz is free to download for Apple devices but has a monthly subscription fee.
Do you have any other apps you would recommend to those living with disabilities?
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