New accessibility features for smartphones for blinds and disabled people

 For many blind or deaf people, mobile phones are a lifeline. Using toasters, kettles, and other similar appliances, on the other hand, has become more difficult..

Photo by cottonbro:

Apple and Google are releasing new software features for smartphones, tablets, and computers to make devices and operating systems more accessible to people with disabilities. For example, on World Accessibility Day, Apple announced that it will bring live subtitles to the screens of its devices for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

It would make it easier for users to follow audio content while on the phone, in a video conference or social media app, streaming media content, or chatting with someone nearby. Live subtitles will initially only be offered in English. Last fall, Google introduced a similar feature for its Pixel smartphones.

Improvements are planned for Android.

More improvements to the Android mobile system were announced last week at the Google I/O developer conference, lowering barriers for disabled people. A new version of the Lookout app was unveiled, allowing blind or partially sighted people to have photo content described to them. Lookout 3.0 focuses on photos from the news and social networks. Texts visible in the image can also be read out by the app. The "Live Transcribe" app, which converts spoken language into writing and recognizes common sounds like a doorbell, has also been greatly enhanced.

The "Door Detection" feature was also introduced by Apple. "This makes it easier for blind and visually impaired people to navigate the final few meters to their destination," said Sarah Herrlinger, the group's global accessibility manager. For example, the app can tell you whether a door is open or closed, what signs or notices are nearby, and whether you need to push, pull, or press a button to open it. The iPhone's magnifying glass app can be used to access the "door recognition."

Ovens, toasters, kettles harder to use

Experts also pointed out that some everyday household appliances, such as ovens, toasters, washing machines, and even kettles, are becoming increasingly difficult to use for the disabled on "World Accessibility Day." Manufacturers might, for example, replace traditional switches or knobs on devices with touch screens that aren't intended to be barrier-free.

According to Artur Ortega, software architect at British healthcare provider Babylon Health, such devices can be operated by the disabled in some cases if there is an associated smartphone app that can read out the temperature or the set program for ovens, for example. "However, in order to do so, the apps must be designed to be barrier-free." In contrast to manufacturers in the United States, where accessibility is often mandated by law, German manufacturers, in particular, have a long way to go.


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