Ever since Steve Jobs appeared on a stage with an iPhone in 2007, software has been radically changing and disrupting our world. Our phones have become virtual publishing houses, TVs, calculators, cameras, GPS devices, and countless other things. For people living with disabilities, accessible tech is making a big difference — and offering new ways to engage with the world.
This is happening on a city-wide level around the globe. One university in Seattle is pioneering a new map-based app that allows pedestrians with limited mobility to find the best routes through the city. In Toronto, a nonprofit is installing battery-powered beacons on streets to help improve accessibility for those with visual impairments. Then there’s also a whole ecosystem of apps that people can access via their phones.
Here are five digital apps to be inspired by:
This app was created by Maayan Ziv, whose advocacy work has won her accolades such as the David C. Onley Leadership in Accessibility Award. Ziv lives with muscular dystrophy and she created Access Now to share information about the levels of accessibility in buildings in areas throughout the world. The app allows you to search for specific types of accessibility and includes crowdsourcing via its global community map, where members of the public can update info and rate venues.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is an inspired app that connects people with blindness or other visual impairments with other members of the wider community. Someone can take a photo of an object — for example a gallon of milk in their fridge — upload the image, then ask a question such as, “what’s the sell-by date?” They’ll get a near-instant reply, spoken out loud via their phone’s audio. This app has been around for several years now, and at the time of writing this blog, has amassed more than 60,000 blind and low vision users and over 876,000 volunteers.
RogerVoice is a close captioning app that allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to converse in real-time. The app draws upon voice-recognition technology to transform someone’s words into text, as well as allowing people to type responses, which are then converted to voice on the other side of the call.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a leading cause of disability. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks tissues close to joints and other body parts, and can affect areas throughout the body. MyRA is an app that helps people track their RA and make daily updates of how they’re feeling. A clever design makes the process visual, where they can click on areas around the body on their screens. This creates a history of data that help them discuss their condition more accurately with their physician.
If you’re living with either a short-term or long-term disability, there will be psychological effects. Whether it’s getting used to a completely new way of life or dealing with chronic pain, it is beneficial to have a community around you. Reachout is an app that offers an online support network for those who need one. There are groups for chronic pain, mental health, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease — as well as groups for caregivers.