A new series of apps has been developed to enhance accessibility features for Android-enabled smartphones for blind and visually impaired users.
The “Georgie” apps allow blind and visually impaired users to perform a number of functions additional to ‘standard’ phone features, including recording and broadcasting audio blogs; photographing text and having it read out to them, using an optical character recognition feature; and audio tagging images with sound clips. It will also read aloud screen text when users touch the screen, and voice recognition software enables users to speak the content for text messages into the phone.
Although all these features are already available from other providers, Georgie collects them into one place for the first time. It was designed by husband and wife founders of assistive technology company Screenreader, Roger and Margaret Wilson-Hinds, who are themselves blind, alongside software architect Alan Kemp.
The fact the system was developed by blind users is key to its power, Roger Wilson-Hinds told E-Access Bulletin. “We’re not second guessing what blind users want. Georgie is not retrofitted to software that’s been designed for sighted users. Apple and Google both have accessibility settings that are a great start, but the intricate and cluttered screens are very difficult to navigate around and find the correct button, even if it’s being read out.”
The software is available ready to use and pre-installed on a Samsung Galaxy Y smartphone handset for £299, or can be downloaded separately onto any existing Android-based phone for £149.
Georgie’s core features help users send text messages; scroll through phone book contacts; make phone calls; and configure the phone. Three additional bundles of apps (at £24.99 each) cover ‘travel’; ‘lifestyle’; and ‘communicate’.
These additional bundles feature apps that can, for example, help users navigate around hazards on a daily route, by allowing users to mark known dangers – such as potholes and low-hanging branches – on a map, which then reminds the user of the obstacle during their journey.
Earlier this year, the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition – an umbrella group of organisations promoting access to technology – published a report on apps that can help disabled people, and access to apps and smartphones in general. See: http://bit.ly/yBTdwo