Android Accessibility

A group of students with vision disabilities, participating in a summer enrichment program at the Carroll Center for the Blind, have been testing the Visus Visual Assist System by the Boston based Visus Technology. The Visus Visual Assist System is a wireless mobile system that takes advantage of the 4G LTE network and allows people who are blind and low vision to recognize faces, determine colors, and navigate their travel. It is expected to be ready for public use soon. Read more about students at Carroll Center for the Blind testing revolutionary technology.

I was interviewing the owner of a large web design firm on my radio show, Seacoast Business Connections and the topic of accessibility came up. As my guest was explaining to me that his firm makes a point of designing with accessibility in mind even if the client is not concerned with it, his twin boys, both of whom were born with cerebral palsy (CP), played in the lobby just on the other side of the studio’s large glass window.

Nuance announced yesterday that they have launched their new version of Dragon Mobile Assistant for Android. For users with difficulty using their hands to interact with touch screens – whether that is because their hands are busy doing something else like driving or carrying groceries or because they have a mobility impairment, this new app will allow users to ask questions as they would of SIRI on iOS (they can even launch the assistant without having to press a button), and they can also use speech to text and text to speech commands to perform some common functions. Users with mobility impairments have long used Dragon Naturally Speaking on the desktop to control the computer through speech but there was not a good equivalent for mobile. Sure, there is SIRI on iPhones and iPads and a few personal assistants apps but they are limited to speech commands and do not allow you to control the device and perform functions within an application. Dragon Mobile Assistant is a step in the right direction that allows you to control some applications, such as dialing, texting, launching your music, sending and responding to emails, checking the weather, and more. Dragon Mobile Assistant is compatible with all devices running Android OS 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) and higher.

The American Federaction of the Blind recently posted a blog post on the accessible applications for Android devices.  With over 600,000 apps available to download from Google Play, there are a lot of possibilities but not all of them are accessible.  The applications listed have been tested on Android 4.2, which is the most accessible version of Android.

Included in the list of accessible applications for Android are:

  • Dropbox
  • Plume for Twitter
  • Hi-Q MP3 Voice Recorder
  • Google Goggles (object recognition software)
  • TripIt
  • Ideal Group Reader (ePub reader)

See the full list in the article, A Collection of Accessible Apps for Your Android Device.

Adobe Edge Inspect has been around for a while but the latest accessibility upgrades will be a breath of fresh air for accessibility professionals.  Adobe, as a provider of developer tools, recognizes that accessibility is not a concept that just opens doors for users with disabilities. Accessibility is actually a concept which improves the user experience for everyone.  At Adobe this includes the development experience for developers and testers.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about mobile accessibility testing for mobile phones and tablets.

When testing for mobile accessibility use the devices and OS that will be supported by the website or application and that have decent accessibility support. Most of the time, this is includes iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android (phones mostly, and some tablets) which are the most common mobile devices used today in the United States.

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