Today building an application to be accessible by all types of users is a requirement but it’s often overlooked by product teams or not built correctly. In the past we have shared some tips and knowledge about accessibility testing. This time we sat down with a couple of our accessibility testers who are directly impacted with visual impairment or loss of hearing to see what apps they like best and how those apps help them in their daily lives.
iOS vs Android: 2 different Operating Systems with Accessibility features
In the past few years the number of accessibility features has significantly increased. It is now much easier for a visually impaired person to move around town with their mobile phone to find a specific location or analyze objects around them.
The iOS operating system includes the following features:
- Captioning and audio descriptions
- Guided access
- Display customization
For full details on the capabilities of these functions, check out Apple’s breakdown of accessibility features.
iOS Accessibility Applications
TouchChat is a great app for adult users with cognitive or verbal difficulties. TouchChat (much like Proloquo2go) allows users to have picture assistance to communicate with others. Specifically this app can help people communicate within a more social environment, allowing users to post to Facebook, Twitter, and tumblr or copy and paste into other applications.
Proloquo2go, supports both beginner and advanced communicators. This app has natural voice playback of children and adults. This app has picture assistance and a QWERTY keyboard for users to utilize. Proloquo2go has been developed to assist users who have complications with their vision and fine motor skills. The application is available in multiple languages, and encourages users with communication disabilities continue to develop their vocabulary throughout their use of the application.
Proloquo4text, focuses on providing a voice to those without one. This app has users formulate and type their own conversations. Users can quickly have conversations with prediction text, switch between conversations, send emails, communicate via FaceTime, and make phone calls. Proloquo4text does not need the internet to be utilized so users spend less time connecting to a local network, and more time connecting with others.
Pictello gives users the ability to create social stories and videos. These stories help users with step-by-step instructions utilizing stories and text. This application can help those with cognitive disabilities navigate through daily living skills like brushing their teeth, visiting the dentist and waiting in line. In addition to creating stories, this app can help these users develop and utilize their writing skills.
A great application bundle for iOS is the AAC Essentials bundle. This bundle is beneficial for users with verbal communication disabilities. It is made up of four applications: Proloquo2go, Proloquo4Text, Pictello, and Keedogo.
Android Accessibility Features
Much like iOS, there are accessibility features integrated into Android devices upon purchase. Android devices contain the following accessibility features:
- Audio and on-screen text
- Braille display
- Display options
- Interaction controls
- Screen readers
For more details on the built-in features check out Android’s Accessibility Overview. Some devices are installed with Android’s Accessibility Suite, but all users can download it if the device doesn’t come with it preinstalled.
Android Accessibility Applications
Letmetalk gives users without verbal communication skills the ability to form sentences through pictures. The app allows users to choose from 9,000+ easily understood photos and allows users to add photos from their own personal library. Much like the Proloquo apps, Letmetalk does not need to connect to the internet so the application can be utilized anywhere. Users can create unlimited categories to help switch topics with ease.
Thinkwithgoogle talks to Android developers giving them a few tips on things to consider when building an app. One of the best things they suggest developers do is test, and we couldn’t agree more! Although google has the Lighthouse tool that can do a quick audit of the application’s function (including accessibility) they mention that the reports are not 100% accurate and developers and engineers should consult the testing of their website in other ways.
Android & iOS Accessibility Applications
Ava is a great Android and iOS application for users with hearing loss. This application makes communicating in a group setting easy and natural. Users request individuals in the group to download the application and the user will begin seeing each individual’s voice dictation in a different color. This allows multiple conversations to happen at once and the user to follow the group conversation with ease. Not only is this application helpful in a social setting but is also very helpful in business settings during meetings.
Seeing AI is a Microsoft application and one of the most interesting apps for a user with a visual disability. The Seeing AI application has a variety of functions. Overall, it can describe any object when the user places an object or scene in view of the front facing camera. Users can scan bills if they want to pay with cash so they are not relying on the integrity of the cashier. The app can locate barcodes and help users scan them. Another great feature of this app is that it can help users by describing color and reading handwritten text. Overall Microsoft Seeing AI is a fantastic application for users with a visual impairment who are looking for a solution to navigate their environment.
Be My Eyes is another application for users with a visual disability. This free application helps individuals with low-vision or blindness connect with a sighted volunteer and company representatives. These sighted individuals will receive a video call from the person who needs assistance. During these calls, the volunteer can help in a variety of ways. This gives the person with low-vision or blindness real-time feedback for the task at hand. Users can access this application on both the Apple store and Android store.
TapTapSee is a mobile camera application design specifically for blind and visually impaired. It utilizes the device’s camera and VoiceOver functions to take a picture or video of anything and identify it loud for you. With TapTapSee it’s easy for users for analyze and identify two or three dimensional objects and hear a description of the object through VoiceOver.
Google Maps helps humans around the globe to travel from one location to another and find places anywhere at anytime. Google Maps also offers a wide variety of accessibility features that makes it easy for all users who cannot rely on their vision. In 2019 Google launched a new feature to give detailed voice guidance to those users.
Blind Square is a popular mobile application to navigate unfamiliar areas and identify intersections. One of our Accessibility Testing Expert often notes that Blind Square and Google Maps work well together stating: “ if you know from Google Maps that a doctor’s office is half a mile from you, you may get the starting and ending intersections but BlindSquare will tell you the intersections before you get to them, as well as points of interest you may be walking by. This helps me form a better mental map as to where I am”.
Aira mobile application helps users to connect to sighted and trained individuals to get a variety of tasks done. The app utilizes phone cameras and GPS so the agents know where the user is calling from (which is useful when calling about navigation).
With the fast and exciting development of Artificial Intelligence more apps now make the lives of thousands of users easier by quickly analyzing what’s around them, helping users to read letters or expiration dates on packages. On both iOS and Android operating systems, new accessibility features are launched every year.
At PLUS QA we participate in the effort of making web and mobile applications accessible for all users. With a team of experts that includes visual impaired testers we work side by side with clients to make sure their applications can be accessed by everyone.
If you ever want to know how our team can help, drop us a line.