Leading companies improve assistive tech for better accessibility
The World Bank estimates that 15 percent, or around one billion, of the global population experience some form of disability. Disabilities make it difficult to perform daily tasks and may limit a person’s physical or mental ability. This group, more often referred to as persons with disabilities, are more likely to experience setbacks in terms of health, education, employment and the ability to use modern devices that are packed with new technological features.
However, thanks to innovations in technology, differently abled people can now experience the wide range of functions offered by modern devices such as smartphones, computers, and even cars.
The introduction of assistive technologies (AT) plays a major role in making disabled people’s lives more functional and productive. Assistive technologies are often referred to as a piece of equipment, tools, software or a product that aims to increase functional capabilities of people with disabilities.
On the forefront of developing new assistive and accessible technologies is Google. The tech leader recently introduced several features and products, such as Android N, to assist people with disabilities on its recent company blog. A preview of the Android N specifically for developers was released, which included the upgraded Vision Settings that allows the visually impaired to control magnification, font size and even display size. Android N is currently the title of the soon-to-be-released Android mobile operating system.
Google also integrated a built-in screen reader called ChromeVox into their fast computer, Chromebook. ChromeVox helps the visually impaired to navigate screens using text-to-speech software. On its upgraded version, the ChromeVox includes a simplified keyboard and a new option that display speech and Braille output.
For people who are unable to use a touchscreen, editing and formatting documents on Google Docs becomes easier with the use of voice technology. The recent launch of Voice Access Beta also introduced a new way to control Android phones completely by voice.
Leading innovator Apple is not be left behind. Its products have built-in accessibility features that aim to provide ease of use for people with varied disabilities. VoiceOver, Apple’s screen reader helps the blind by telling the users what’s on the screen and walks them through buttons or menus with the use of the keyboard or trackpad. VoiceOver is also the first screen reader that provides plug-and-play support for refreshable Braille display.
Alex, the voice of Mac, uses a high-technology text-to-speech program that allows it to decipher speech one paragraph at a time. Alex sounds so natural that it even pauses for breath in between paragraphs with long sentences, the company described.
Apple’s digital personal assistant, Siri, and the Dictation feature both respond to the user’s voice to type, launch apps and even read reminders and events on the calendar on the company’s mobile device, such as iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
The world today has produced technologies that make life easier, more so, for persons with disabilities. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are equipped with assistive technologies that enable persons with disabilities to use them. Now that internet connectivity has become a lifestyle and more than a luxury, innovations in connectivity also emerged. Signal enhancing devices such as a network extender from 5BARz International allows enhanced and easier connections by amplifying network signal. Businesses, education, and healthcare are slowly shifting their services through the use of mobile devices that are constantly connected to the internet.
Although not every new technology is designed to assist people with disabilities, there are companies such as Apple and Google that have recognized these people’s needs and developed technologies that make their life easier.