It’s hard for me, as a sighted person, to even imagine how difficult it must be for visually impaired people to navigate their smartphone. Writing this article about useful Android apps for blind people was an educational experience for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.
Thankfully, Android has a lot of features specifically built for visually impaired people. If you have an Android smartphone, chances are there are several features to assist you in the accessibility option menu.
Until the braille smartphone display comes out, we have to rely on sound cues and clever apps designed to assist blind people in accessing the basic functionality of their smartphones. We already have some helpful Android apps for blind people, but we can definitely use advancement in the hardware technology to further expand the functionality.
Note: These five apps were tested on a Sony Xperia Z smartphone. Unfortunately, I was not able to ask an actual blind person to test these apps out for me, so I’m only relying on the reviews here. I did test them as well as I could, and all the apps performed perfectly fine and no problems were faced during testing.
This is an open source launcher that can be used by blind people to open common functions on their smartphones. The launcher comes with a voice guide that explains everything that is happening on the screen. For example, if the screen is off or on, if it is rotated or you’re getting a call, the voice guide will inform you in a very clear manner. What I loved most about this app is the navigation. You can slide up and down to browse the menus, and meanwhile the audio assistant will be telling you what option is selected. After that all you need to do is slide right to select an option. There is even a great way to interact with calls, slide up to answer the call and down to end it. Dictating a message is no problem at all especially if you have a traditional keyboard with talkback activated. Overall, I highly recommend this app because of its simple interface and stellar navigation controls.Show Downloads
This is another innovative app that allows you to recognize paper money by using the smartphone’s camera. All you need to do is bring a bill to the camera of your smartphone and the app will tell you it’s value. One good thing about this app is that it does not require an active Internet connection and is capable of recognizing notes off-line. You will also get voice, sound as well as visual alerts about the notes being scanned. The basic app allows recognition for only the US dollar and euro, however other currencies can be added via separate plug-ins. It is also available in multiple languages including Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Italian and Polish to name a few. I think this app should also be included in the best traveling apps for Android as well.Show Downloads
Eye-D -for visually impaired
Eye-D is a solution to improve the quality of life of visually impaired people. It is capable of assisting blind people in their daily life with a collection of different features. The app can help blind people be aware of their location, navigate to nearby places of interest, evaluate their surroundings and explore just by using their smartphone camera. While it may not be as polished as the first app on the list, it does have a lot of features that can help you navigate unknown surroundings. The See Object feature takes a snapshot and tells you what is in front of you. I would’ve liked a bit more streamlined navigation because I found it quite hard to press the appropriate buttons with eyes closed, but hopefully the developer will be adding onto the app and updating the UI as time passes.Show Downloads
Place any object in front of your smartphone camera and this app is going to tell you what it is. The app is designed to help the visually impaired and the blind identify objects in their daily lives. All you need to do is double tap the screen to take a photo of anything that is in front of you and the app will tell you the name. That’s all there is to the app and it works well in well-lit situations. However, if there are multiple objects in the frame, the app will have a bit of a problem identifying them. Another thing to note here is that the app will not provide any more information about the object. So, if you scan an Apple, the app will simply tell you it’s an Apple and nothing more. Some of the settings cannot be accessed by the blind but that is understandable, I wish there were some way to adjust the settings without the need of someone who can look at the screen.Show Downloads
This is the world’s first successful mobile visual search engine, according to the app’s developers. The app basically allows you to search for anything by taking a picture of it. The app will then take a few moments to identify the object and give you information about it. Just like the previous app, this will also need calibration from someone who can see the screen. But after the settings are done, you’ll be able to get basic information about everyday objects with ease. I really like how the app describes every object in multiple words. For example, if you scan a small ball, the app will not only tell you it’s a ball but also its color and size. The controls are not very visually impaired friendly but with a little bit of practice you can get used to them.Show Downloads
These were a few Android apps for blind people and I think they can be useful in day-to-day life, however, I feel that the impact may not be exactly life changing at this point. Maybe one day we will have full Google Glass integration and visually impaired people will be able to get live information about their surroundings. I feel that we are on the brink of new innovations and we will see improvements in coming years.In the meantime, I’ll keep watch on any innovative apps coming out that can help visually impaired people.
If you have suggestions or have found another app that should be on the list, kindly share your discovery in the comments below as it will definitely help other people.