The finger pinches, swipes, and other motions required to operate iPhones and iPads are hard enough for the able-bodied and can be quite difficult for the disabled. Similarly, text on smart phones can be difficult to read. That doesn’t mean all is lost – here are some accessibility solutions.
Many will say that Siri, the automated attendant built into the iPhone 4S, is all you need. The problem is that not everyone has an iPhone 4S and Siri doesn’t address every accessibility issue.
Mobile app features for motor-control issues
For those with motor-control issues, David Pogue recently posted an article on his New York Times Pogue’s Posts blog about the Assistive touch feature of the Apple iOS. This feature, which can be turned on in the Accessibility settings of the device, displays a white circle on the device screen that can be tapped to control the phone, instead of the pinches, swipes, and other gestures. You can even program your own gestures for your favorite apps.
Mobile apps for the visually impaired
For those with visual impairments, the folks at the AppAdvice blog posted a list of apps for the blind and visually impaired. The list includes brief reviews of each app listed and links for more information. We particularly liked Voice Brief, a paid app that will read text messages, email, RSS feeds, and other documents to you. It will even read your Facebook news feed. Of course, iPhones since the release of the 3GS have included the VoiceOver screen reader and other accessibility options. All you have to do to activate them is go to the Accessibility settings. The Mac-cessibility Network also has a list of accessible iPhone apps. Some of the apps listed are not available in the US, but the list is still helpful.
Mobile apps for hearing impairments
For the hearing impaired, soundAMP is an awesome app that will turn your iPhone and ear buds into a high quality hearing solution. The app can be configured It even has an instant replay feature that will let you hear the last 30 seconds of conversation, without having to ask the speaker to repeat what was said.
Accessibility issues for app developers
Finally, if you’re an app developer, here’s a great blog by Stuart Dredge at The Guardian on the Top 10 steps to make your mobile apps more accessible. One of the best bits of advice in Mr. Dredge’s article? Talk to people with accessibility issues. A few minutes visiting with folks with accessibility issues about the frustrations they experience using mobile apps can be invaluable.
What about you? Do you have an idea for an accessibility app? Leave a comment and let us know what you think could help make the mobile world more accessible.