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January 7, 2020

Nursing & Healthcare

Visual, hearing, and speech impairment tools.

A person uses the camera feature on an object recognition app to identify a leaf on the ground.

Useful accessibility apps for people with disabilities.

As our society strives to become more inclusive, many new options are arising to help and/or improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. As the healthcare system and technology evolve, so does the growing need for health information management professionals and nurses trained in informatics. Professionals in these roles often have to leverage new digital data to provide better patient care. At the same time, new mobile apps are emerging that can help people tackle more everyday challenges, and make the world more navigable and accessible.

If you’re hoping to enter the healthcare field, or even if you’re already in the healthcare industry as a professional or as a student, it’s vital to understand the technology available for you, and for the patients you are working with. When you have an understanding and knowledge of valuable healthcare apps or technology that can help patients live better at home, you can offer them suggestions and help when you see them at your hospital or clinic. Healthcare professionals who know about the emerging technology options can also offer insight in lectures, conferences, and meetings so that other health professionals also understand the types of technology available to patients.

As a healthcare student, your degree is just the first step in your knowledge. Understanding the real world of the industry where you work is vital to your success. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive guide of popular accessibility apps, along with important information such as price and options for availability. You can use this information to help you in your future career as you work with patients who face visual, hearing, and speech impairments, to help give them better options in their daily lives. 

Types of accessibility apps.

While innovators have created countless specific apps with unique features, many accessibility apps fall under common categories. 

Closed captioning apps.

Closed captioning apps are widely available to assist people who are hard of hearing. These may provide subtitles on everything from videos to live conversations. Such apps may also be referred to as speech-to-text apps.

Sound alert apps.

Sound alert apps are apps that identify sounds in the user’s environment and alert them through non-auditory means. These are often used to help people who are hard of hearing.

Object recognition apps.

Object recognition apps can identify objects and then name them aloud; this is often done through a camera feature. Such apps are widely available as assistance for people who are blind or partially sighted. 

Reader apps.

Reader apps are apps for people who are blind or partially sighted which convert written text into braille or audio. Apps that convert text to audio may also be referred to as text-to-speech apps.

Apps for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Apps for people who are blind or partially sighted can serve a wide variety of purposes, but common types of these apps include text-to-speech, object recognition, and labeling apps.

  • Accessnote

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Accessnote is a note-taking app that works in conjunction with existing apps for people who are blind or partially sighted, such as VoiceOver and braille keyboards. This app makes it easier for people who are blind or partially sighted to create, save, and access notes. 

  • Aipoly Vision

Cost: Free

Platform: Android and iOS

The Aipoly Vision app is an object recognition app which also includes color recognition and a text-to-speech feature. 

  • Ariadne GPS

Cost: $5.99

Platform: iOS

Ariadne GPS also can operate in conjunction with VoiceOver. This app includes features such as alerts when one reaches a destination or significant obstacle, as well as the ability to drag one’s finger across the screen, receiving an explanation of landmarks in the indicated area as they do so.

  • Awareness!

Cost: $6.99

Platform: iOS

The Awareness! app allows the user to decide how much of their environment they would like to still hear while using their headphones, and adjust them accordingly. 

  • Be My Eyes

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS and Android

When visually impaired people have a question or concern about their surroundings, they can use Be My Eyes to make a video call to a sighted volunteer. For example, if they were looking for a particular color of paint, they could use the app to make a video call and show the volunteer swatches.

  • Capti Voice

Cost: Free

Platform: Google Chrome (as an extension) and iOS

Capti Voice is a text-to-speech program that allows the user to listen to any text they can find online, as well as navigate it with ease. Texts can also be added to a playlist for quick access. 

  • ClaroMagX

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

ClaroMagX is a magnifying app which allows users to magnify photographs. This may be used in any day-to-day scenario where something is too small for the user to discern. For example, if they couldn’t read an expiration date on a jar, they could take a picture and use the app to zoom in on the date. 

  • Google Keyboard

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS and Android

Google Keyboard is an app with text-to-speech features that works in conjunction with other Google tools, such as Google Translate.  

  • Just Press Record

Cost: $4.99

Platform: iOS

Just Press Record is an app which allows users to record audio and convert that audio into searchable text, in order to switch between interfaces on the user’s device with more ease.

  • KNFB Reader

Cost: $99.99

Platform: iOS, Android, and Windows 10 devices

KNFB Reader is a text-to-speech and text-to-braille app. Any text identified in a photo will be converted into speech or braille, according to the user’s preference. These can also be saved or shared. For example, a user could use the app to read a receipt, then save the image for later review. 

  • Talking Calculators

Cost: Varies

Platform: Various

Many platforms offer talking calculator apps, including The Talking Calculator on iOS.  As the name implies, these apps read aloud input and output on the calculator, as well as reading back larger or multi-step problems.

  • TapTapSee

Cost: Free

Platform: Google Devices

TapTapSee is an object identification app. It allows users to hold their phone camera up to an object, and the app will provide an audio identification of said object. 

  • Voice Access

Cost: Free

Platform: Android

Google’s Voice Access app, at a cursory glance, is very similar to any other voice command system. However, this app assigns numbers to options on the screen, which theoretically increases navigability. 

Apps for people who are hard of hearing.

Apps that provide greater accessibility for people who identify as deaf or hard of hearing commonly provide various subtitling services. However, that is not the extent of the apps available to increase accessibility for these communities. 

  • AVA

Cost: Dependent on package

Platform: Android and iOS

AVA provides subtitles for conversations occurring around the user. This can provide greater flexibility for people who are hard of hearing, due to the lack of need for a translator, and the immediacy of transcription.

  • Braci and Braci PRO

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS 

Braci allows the user to record important noises, and alerts the user if it identifies one. This can be used for day-to-day sounds in one’s environment, such as doorbells or dog barks, but can also be a helpful safety measure, such as in the case of alarms. For example, a person who is hard of hearing may not be able to hear a fire alarm in the night, but Braci can alert them that a fire alarm has been triggered. 

  • Clear Captions

Clear Captions is an app that provides live subtitles for phone calls. This can be useful for a wide range of people with hearing loss. An elderly person experiencing hearing loss can double-check on a word or two they missed, while a deaf person can read the entire conversation.

  • Google Live Transcribe

Cost: Varies

Platform: Google devices

Google Live Transcribe is a speech-to-text app. Live Transcribe also supports multiple languages and provides transcriptions of non-human sounds. 

  • Noonlight

Cost: Dependent on package

Platform: iOS and Android

Noonlight provides a non-verbal means of connecting with emergency services. This is helpful not only for people who are hard of hearing or have speech impairments, but also for people who are otherwise incapable of making a phone call during an emergency event. It can also interact with other devices such as alarms in order to alert emergency services even when the user can’t reach their phone at all.

  • Petralex

Cost: Free

Platform: Android and iOS

Petralex is essentially a handheld hearing aid. It enhances sounds in the user’s environment and feeds them through the target device. 

  • Rogervoice

Cost: Dependent on package

Platform: iOS and Android

Rogervoice is another transcription app for mobile phone calls. Rogervoice also offers the choice to either text or talk in response to the person on the other end of the call.

  • Sound Alert

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS and Android

The Sound Alert app can notify users about sounds in their environment, using various non-audio warnings (e.g. vibrations, visuals, etc.) Some of these come pre-programmed, but they can also be manually cataloged. For example, common fire alarm sounds may already be included in the app, while the sound of a specific dog’s bark may be added by the user. 

  • Sound Amplifier

Cost: Free

Platform: Android

The Sound Amplifier app for Android is essentially exactly what it sounds like. However, it amplifies sounds selectively. The app pinpoints conversational sounds and only amplifies those. 

  • Signly

Cost: Free

Platform: Browser Extension (Chrome)

Signly is a translation extension that translates compatible web pages into BSL (British Sign Language).

Apps for people with speech impairments.

Apps intended to increase accessibility for people with speech impairments commonly focus on providing a synthetic voice or other signals to replace or augment speech, in order to help people communicate. 

  • Avaz

Cost: Dependent on package

Platform: Android and iOS

Avaz is an app built specifically for children, which allows them to select pictures in order to both communicate and improve their communication skills. 

  • MyTalkTools Mobile

Cost: $99.99

Platform: iOS and Android

MyTalkTools for mobile devices provides a series of options for communication. Users can utilize a combination of sounds, images, and audio to convey their meaning to others.  

  • Predictable

Cost: $159.99

Platform: iOS and Android

Predictable is a text-to-speech app that predicts the user’s statements by utilizing commonly-used phrases, as well as documenting words and phrases often used by the individual. It also offers many adjustable settings, such as the pitch of the audio output and method of input. 

  • Proloquo2Go

Cost: $249.99

Platform: iOS

Proloquo2Go provides customizable symbols to represent commonly-used words. Users can use these symbols to form phrases in order to communicate more easily with others.

  • Proloquo4Text

Cost: $119.99

Platform: iOS

Proloquo4Text is a text-to-speech app that predicts phrases and sentences as the user types them. It also allows the user to save commonly used phrases for quick access. 

  • Touch Voice Gold

Cost: $13.99/$15.99

Platform: Android and iOS

Touch Voice Gold is a text-to-speech app that provides a series of on-screen words and phrases that the user can select to be translated into audio.

  • Voice4U

Cost: $59.99

Platform: Android and iOS

Voice4U is another text-to-speech app available on both iOS and Android. The Voice4U interface primarily consists of customizable icons which the user selects to form phrases. 

Technology has been a huge boon to not only individuals in need of disability accommodations, but also to the healthcare industry as a whole. The evolving landscape of technology in healthcare is making great strides, providing unprecedented options in the context of health services. Software such as apps and smart platforms are allowing doctors and their patients to coordinate on healthcare plans far more efficiently than in the past, as well as providing more convenient day-to-day options for treatment and accessibility. 

For healthcare students, understanding of this technology is vital to a successful career. Knowing how to use technology, and being able to help patients discover and learn these technologies as well, will help you truly be able to make people’s lives better. 

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