Assistive technology has been the topic of discussion around here for quite some time. More than a few blog posts have been devoted to a brand new device or app invented for the sole purpose of making life easier for individuals with disabilities. It is a conversation we plan to enjoy having for the rest of our careers.
Gadgets that help overcome impairments, like these, will always be of interest to those who advocate and manage the care of the disabled:
- Dot is the world’s first Braille smartwatch. It is more affordable than a typical e-Braille device. The blind can use the device to access messages, tweets and even books. It works by connecting via Bluetooth to any Smartphone, then retrieving and translating text into Braille. Then, dots on the surface of the smartwatch rise or lower to form four Braille letters at a time.
- Sesame Phone is not a reference to Sesame Street. It is meant to invoke the phrase “Open Sesame”. This is far more fitting because this touch-free mobile device performs the magical feat of opening up the world of smartphones to people with limited mobility. Instead of touch, this phone responds to small head movements which are tracked by its front-facing camera. All of the features that normally respond to finger movements, such as swipe, browse and play, are instead triggered by gestures or voice control.
- Finger Reader is another wearable, like Dot, but it helps to read text in two ways. For one, it assists the visually impaired with reading printed text, whether in a book or on an electronic device. It can also be used as a language translation tool. The user wears it on a finger and points it at the text, one line at a time. There is a small camera at the tip that scans the text and gives real-time audio feedback. Vibrations let the user know when he or she has reached the start of a line, the end of a line or when it is time to move to a new line.
Devices like these are certainly miracles but what about the myriad of apps you can download onto some of them?
- Talkitt is an app that enables people with speech and language disorders to communicate with others. It overcomes speech impediments by first learning the user’s speech patterns, then creating a personal speech dictionary based on them. Based on this, it can recognize otherwise unintelligible pronunciation into speech that can be understood.
- UNI also uses gesture and speech technology but is designed for use by the deaf. It is a two-way communication tool that detects sign language with a specialized camera algorithm and converts it to text. It also contains voice recognition software that will do the same. Finally, UNI will even allow you to create your own sign language so that custom language may be added to its dictionaries.
- Be My Eyes is an app for blind people. It allows them to “see” their surroundings by utilizing a global network of volunteers. Whatever task arises, the user simply makes a request and a video call is triggered. A volunteer then receives notification that the user needs help with a task that requires their vision. It is as simple as that. If one volunteer is busy, the app will find the next available one.
- AXS Map is a crowdsourced map and a sort of Yelp for the disabled. Users can give star ratings so that others can learn how well-designed a facility is. Accommodations for people with disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps and wheelchair-accessible restrooms, may seem common. Not only are they not as common as you think but there has never been a way for individuals with disabilities to know which public places do or do not feature them, until now.
- Transcence has a very specific but easily overlooked use for deaf users. Sign language and lip reading work just fine for one-on-one conversations but group conversations can be problematic. This app will catch what each person in the group says via each participant’s smartphone microphone, translate it into text and convert it into its own color-differentiated text bubble.
- Assist-Mi is probably the one item on this list that speaks the most to us, as caregivers. It is an assistance application that would allow service providers to assist disabled people in real –time. It features two-way communication and GPS. Our favorite feature is Mi-Profile, which lets service providers know what the user’s needs are so they know what to do when assistance is requested.
- Aira provides a service similar to the Be My Eyes app, but far more sophisticated. Aira is a subscription service offered by a San-Diego start-up. Users pay for a certain number of minutes per month but what do they get in return? Customers receive a pair of Google Glass or Vusiz smartglasses equipped with a microphone and camera. All one has to do is tap a button on the glasses and an agent will connect to the user’s camera with a laptop. From there, Aira agents can describe surroundings, track location and guide the user pretty much wherever he or she wants to go. Everyday tasks are also no problem, from grocery shopping to reading menus and picking out clothes. The plan even includes an ATT&T MiFi device which allows the user to connect to the Internet from virtually any location.
Between time limitations and the always rapidly evolving nature of technology, you better believe our list was capped. If you share our interest in assisting the disabled or require assistance for yourself or a loved one, do not hesitate to contact us.