Being visually impaired does not have to impact being able to use a handset, and there are loads of apps out there which make phones even more user friendly. To make things easier, we've compiled a list of some of the most useful apps which will provide you with some help in the wider world, and maximise the potential of your mobile.
Speak To Me
Text on a mobile screen can be tricky to read at the best of times. As a result, both Android and iOS have developed integrated screen reading apps, so that you can listen back to text messages and screen content.
VoiceOver is the built-in option for iOS and describes all of the elements on the screen, such as app icons, battery level and - thanks to AI - even images, providing you with complete accessibility.
TalkBack is the Android equivalent and mirrors the text reading features of VoiceOver. It allows you to explore your phone through the app, providing audio guidance while you’re scrolling, naming icons, items and buttons.
Both apps also give you the option of using braille on your mobile, as long as the handset is compatible with a braille device. For Android this is called BrailleBack, and it works in tandem with TalkBack, to provide a seamless audio and braille operation. Meanwhile on iOS, you can also connect a Bluetooth braille display which can read out your VoiceOver content and when you edit text, it gives you the opportunity to automatically switch between printed text and braille.
It is part of human nature to ask a questions we don’t know the answer to. Luckily, all Android and iOS handsets have a built-in app which can make life easier. Google Assistant is integrated into almost all Android devices and is voice activated, which means that there’s no need to type anything into a search engine to get your answers. Not only is this app the fountain of all knowledge, but it also provides the option of using your voice to set alarms, manage your diary and even send emails.
On all Apple devices, Siri provides users with the chance to take their hands off their phones, but remain in control. You can dictate messages and ask Siri to send them, have messages you’ve received read to you and call contacts hands-free. The app also allows you to set up Siri Shortcuts, which can help with your daily routine and remind you of events that you have booked in your calendar and if you’re heading to work, Siri will let you know when you need to set off, depending on traffic.
If you are partially sighted and in need of swift assistance, the free app Be My Eyes - which is compatible on both iOS and Android - offers the opportunity to partner up with a volunteer via video call for visual guidance.
If you are in a situation where you could do with with some immediate assistance, then a volunteer can help guide where to point your camera, what to focus on and whether you need your mobile torch switched on if the light is low. So if you want to know whether the expiry date on your milk is long gone, what colour a top is that you’re considering buying or want help reading cooking instructions, then this is the perfect service for your needs. Plus, the app is available in over 180 languages and accessible in more than 150 countries, so if English is not your native tongue, or you are abroad, you’ll still be able to be paired with a volunteer.
Whether you’re heading out to a friend’s new house, a restaurant that you’ve never been to before or just aren’t quite sure of the quickest way to get to your destination, it’s essential to be able to call on a helpful guide. Google Maps is one of the most popular route planning apps out there and is free for use on both Android and iOS handsets.
Once you have set your destination and started on your route, the app will provide audible guidance to direct you. Meanwhile, if you plan to use public transport, there are live updates for real time traffic information, so you will know when to set off and be able to decide which the quickest form would be.
Exploring somewhere new can be difficult, especially when you’re relying on senses other than sight to identify your location and surroundings. This is where the free iOS compatible Microsoft Soundscape really comes into its own.
The app uses 3D audio cues and beacons to paint a picture of what’s going on around you, making it possible to smoothly navigate new routes and to have even more awareness of your settings. When using this app, you need to wear either earbuds or a headset. In order to reach a destination, you'll follow sound and audible notifications of landmarks which are around you, rather than through direct verbal instructions. This app is versatile - working even when your phone is in your pocket - and you can use it in tandem with any other apps, including a GPS based one.
If you’re searching for a new handset which offers you access to these apps and more, make sure to check out our latest deals at Mobiles.co.uk. Whether you find an iPhone or an Android more user friendly, there’s something to suit everyone.