As I mentioned in part 1 of my Texpo post, I went to Texpo 2012 at the Vision Australia Brisbane brisbane office and learnt so much that this post is going to be broken into three parts. Part 1 focused on NVDA the free, open source screenreader, part 3 will be about ebooks, audio descriptions (pre-recorded for DVDs and live descriptions for theatre) and other things I picked up. This part will focus on accessible mobile apps.
The accessible mobile app demonstration exclusively featured iPhone and iPad apps, however the demonstrators Jim and Mark noted that Android was making great improvements in accessibility and that next year as much time would be devoted to showcasing Android apps as iOS ones.
The categories of apps demonstrated were for magnification, typing, navigation, scanning, shopping, reading, travel, entertainment and games. A number of people in the audience were using the camera on their iPhones and iPads to zoom in on the presenters and the screen to assist them seeing the presentation.
I’ve included the full list of apps featured in the demo firstly because I was impressed by the diversity of topics covered and becauqse some of the apps were not made with accessibility in mind, but are really useful for blind and low vision users.
Magnifyer lets you use your iPhone as a magnifying lens and also allows you to plug your phone into your television to use it as an enlarger.
VisionAssist is a magnifier that also allows you to change to different contrast and colour modes for various vision impairments.
Fleksy is a good addition to the standard electronic keyboard because the user can tap near the key instead of exactly on the key. It has pattern recognition that suggests what you meant to type. You can run your fingers over the options to hear the different suggestions. Jim said that once you are familiar with with Fleksy you can get up to 25-30 words per minute.
Other handy apps are Ariadne GPS which tells you about points of interest around you and you can enter your location as a point of interest to help you get back there. BlindSquare GPS was specifically designed for people who are blind and allows you to log into 4Square and tell people where you are.
LookTel Money Reader identifies the bills of a number of currencies – really useful for blind and vision users as bank notes have almost nothing to go on physically to identify them. LookTel was demonstrated how it can recognise Australian and US bills and say out loud “Twenty Australian dollars.” What’s more, it was almost instantaneous in identifying the notes.
Jim showcased the Woolworths app which although not developed for disabled users, has the following very handy features: it can scan barcodes in the shop and gives you the ingredients of the product. This helps with identifying what you’re buying but it doesn’t tell you the price, unfortunately. You can enter in your local store and your shopping list and it tells you the aisle you can find it on.
iBooks is Apple’s main ebook downloader and reader. When reading out text it goes onto the next page automatically and the font and background can be changed for better readability.
Read2Go also has a number of features for highlighting text and changing the display for better readability.
Kindle, although quite good for visually impaired users, unfortunately is not accessible for the blind.
Go Brisbane and other similar apps are great for planning travel by public transport.
The Wake Me Shake Alarm Train App for iPhone alerts you when your train stop is coming up. So even if the train stations aren’t announced (which is why the Disability Discrimination Commissioner is taking to RailCorp to court), you can still be alerted so you can get ready to get off at the right station.
Zani Touch is a Bop-It style game where the player has to follow sequences of gestures which get faster and faster.
Where’s My Rubber Ducky is the world’s first First Person Shooter game accessible for the visually impaired. Help the blind person “Jim” to kill all the Zombies who stole his Rubber Ducky by using just your ears.
Blind Side is a purely audio game. You put on your headhones, hold the phone and the gyros in your phone to point your in-game avatar the same direction you’re facing in the real world.
Aurifi explores sound, movement, and music.
Kings Corner is a card game similar to Solitaire.
Applevis.com is a community-powered website for blind and low-vision users and reviews apps for iOS devices.
The full list of Vision Australia has a full list of accessible iOS apps and demos on its website.
Part 3 of this post will cover digital publishing, audio descriptions and anything else I picked up.
Richard Corby is a web accessibility expert and is a partner at Webbism.