For people with a visual impairment, accessing simple information can sometimes be difficult. How can a nonsighted person get their bearings and choose the best route to get to their destination? Or read a document that’s not available in braille? Answer an email from a co-worker? Fortunately, technology keeps innovating: a lot of apps are specifically designed to help blind or visually impaired people in their everyday lives.
Indeed, 89% of them have a smartphone, a tool that truly revolutionizes their lives! If they can gain more autonomy today, it’s thanks to features that are more advanced and accessible to the general public or thanks to apps that are specially designed for them. Blind or visually impaired people who find it restrictive and stressing to get around can now be more serene!
Let’s explore the apps used by blind or visually impaired people to gain more autonomy in their everyday lives!
VoiceOver is a screen reader that’s integrated into iPhones that, as its name indicates, enunciates emails or other textual messages aloud. It’s up to the user to choose the speaking rate and the volume.
Not to forget that braille also remains an option for those who have a braille keyboard to connect to the smartphone or who just want to write in braille directly on the screen of their iPhone.
VoiceOver also describes all the elements on the screen such as apps icons, the battery level and even in part images thanks to artificial intelligence. All the information is thus accessible!
Android smartphones also have a similar screen reader with TalkBack. It follows the same guideline as for iPhones: reading textual elements aloud, exploring the screen, using braille with BrailleBack… Everything is set for an optimal and smooth navigation!
Directly integrated into iPhones, Siri is an easy-to-use vocal assistant. For blind or visually impaired people, for whom finding and clicking on the right button can be difficult, using a voice control enables them to save time!
They just need to ask Siri to call a contact, to send a dictated text message and everything is therefore easier!
Also activated by voice control, Google Assistant has the same functionality as Siri. The user totally controls their smartphone according to their needs: sending an email, setting up an alarm, managing their schedule…
It’s one of the most popular GPS navigation apps. Being able to anticipate their route is essential for blind and visually impaired people. And this also applies for other types of profiles in general since people with disabilities use 30% more the GPS on their smartphone than the rest of the population. (Find out all the facts and figures concerning their use of smartphones in our infographic.)
Google Maps enables users to have access to all the real-time traffic information which is ideal when choosing the right means of public transportation!
The app even provides a new feature called “Accessible Places” that enables users to even more apprehend their environment thanks to information concerning the seating plan of a restaurant, the exact location of a building entrance…
The app provides precious help for blind and visually impaired people to serenely get around!
For those who are used to taking public transportation, this app lists all the possible means of transportation, their itineraries, their timetables and other information on real-time traffic.
The app even indicates the users the names of stops while on the bus, the tram or the subway. This proves to be essential for blind or visually impaired people when voice announcements aren’t activated.
Developed by Microsoft, this app is particularly innovative since it uses audio 3D technology to describe blind or visually impaired people their environment.
Soundscape enables them to better apprehend their surroundings, to call out intersections and to find their bearings in the city with great facility. And all of that by having their smartphone in their pocket: their hands remain free for their white cane or their guide dog!
Available on iOS
Developed by Okeenea Digital, this app is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! Evelity works like a GPS.
Compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack, the app provides audio instructions to blind and visually impaired people to guide them step by step. People with disabilities can easily find the reception desk or the classroom without needing to know the premises in advance.
Evelity is currently being tested at the Jay Street-MetroTech subway station in New York City!
We’re once again on the theme of mobility with MyMoveo developed by Okeenea Tech. This app enables blind or visually impaired users to activate connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals aBeacon to know when the pedestrian signal is green and thus safely cross the street.
Users can even use the app to activate the audio beacons NAVIGUEO+ HIFI which can locate points of interest such as the entrances of a public building or a subway station.
Be My Eyes
An app with which users can ask the help of sighted users in order to match their clothes or to know the expiry date of a product. Thanks to an audio-video connexion, users can easily get in touch.
Aira works in the same way as Be My Eyes since it connects nonsighted people with sighted ones to help them in various tasks such as finding the gate of an airport.
What sets this app apart is that the sighted users, called agents, are specifically trained to assist blind or visually impaired users referred to as Explorers.
Although the app can be downloaded for free, users are charged according to the different plans and services Aira provides. Depending on the formula they choose and their needs, the cost can thus be high.
A multipurpose app that permits to read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or product barcodes.
Seeing AI even recognizes images, colors and faces and thus gives details on people’s emotions.
Apps such as Seeing AI are truly groundbreaking for blind and visually impaired people who can still see their environment in a different way.
Available on iOS
Lookout is the equivalent app of Seeing AI on Android. The user just has to activate their smartphone camera so that Lookout can identify banknotes, objects… Thanks to its Quick Read Mode, the app skims through a text which is ideal when sorting the mail for example.
An app that enables blind and visually impaired people to simplify their everyday tasks and to save time!
Available on Android
We can see that blind or visually impaired people can use a lot of apps to improve their autonomy especially concerning their mobility.