Android Accessibility

A French start-up Moodstocks specializes in rapid object recognition using smart phones. Moodstocks is different from other existing object recognition apps because it runs directly on the smartphone and does not rely on outside servers. This more affordable, mainstream and accessible method has caught the interest of Google, who has agreed to purchase the start-up. It is still unclear whether Google will use the tech solely for its customer-facing offerings or also launch its own SDK for developers. It is clear, however, that this could be a great step forward in accessibility. 

SwiftKey, who is known for their predictive smartphone keyboard, launched a new assistive symbol-based communications app called, SwiftKey Symbols. The app can be used to build sentences using pictures.

The app uses SwiftKey’s core contextual language prediction technology (SwiftKey SDK) to suggest symbols that might be used to finish a sentence. The technology also learns from the user and is faster than some of the current solutions. Users of SwiftKey Symbols can create sentences by choosing images from a set of categories or from the prediction slider.

The app is free and available for Android.

The science of touch is helping scholars from around the world develop new technology that will improve access for people with disabilities. Many of these haptic devises were on display at Northwestern University’s recent Haptics Conference. Among the new innovations are:

  • Playing music with the touch of a finger
  • Experiencing in-game gravity with a special stylus
  • TPAD – a sensory phone that allows the user to feel texture

Read more on the abc Eywitness News webpage. 

The release of new features for the first smartwatch app for people with vision disabilities was announced by Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The smartwatch app call ViaOpta is a turn-by-turn navigation app that allows users to navigate daily life with greater ease and fits seamlessly into their existing routines.

The additional new features include:

ViaOpta Navigation:

  • Points of Interest Feature: The user can discover points of interest near their location and:
    • Find information about it
    • Set Navigation to it
    • Find information on accessibility facilities around them
  • Extended Map Coverage: Map coverage has been extended worldwide, however it is less in rural areas

ViaOpta Daily:

  • New Object Recognizer Feature: Identifies objects when the user points the devise’s camera at an object.
  • Addition of Scene Recognizer Feature: When the user points the camera in a specific direction the voiceover will tell them what is in front of them, helping them navigate unfamiliar environments. 

Specialists in computer vision and Machine learning who are base at the University of Lincoln, UK and funded by a Google Faculty Research Award are looking to embed a smart vision system in mobile devices. This would be to help people with vision disabilities navigate unfamiliar indoor environments.

Their work is based on preliminary work done on assistive technologies at the Lincoln Center for Autonomous Systems. The plan is to use color and depth sensor technology inside new smartphones and tablets to enable 3D mapping and localization, navigation and object recognition. The team is working to develop the best interface to relate the information to users.

Read more in the GAATES Article

The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) is focused on helping accessibility professionals develop and advance their careers and to help organizations integrate accessibility into their products and infrastructure. One way you can further build your accessibility skills and strategies is to take advantage of the IAAP Webinar Series. IAAP webinars are offered on a monthly basis on a variety of topics.

Kathy Wahlbin of Interactive Accessibility will be presenting the next IAAP webinar, Mobile Accessibility on the Move on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. By attending this webinar you will learn how managers, designers, user experience, developers and testers can make mobile content more accessible. This webinar is open to anyone looking to develop their mobile accessibility knowledge and skills. By the end of this webinar you will understand mobile accessibility and be able to make more accessible mobile content.

To register for Mobile Accessibility on the Move, visit the IAAP Webinar Registration. I look forward to discussing and sharing ideas with you about mobile accessibility. If you have any questions you may contact Kathy at kathyw@ia11y.com.

Google has improved the accessibility of the mobile versions of its app on both Android and iOS, which include:

  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Slides

Among the new features and improvements are:

  • Real-time spell-checking in documents
  • Hiding rows and columns in spreadsheets
  • Grouping shapes in presentations

People who are blind and have vision disabilities can use screen readers such as TalkBack on Android and VoiceOver in iOS to create, edit, and share files in Docs, Sheets and Slides. The apps are also improved for screen magnification.

The updates are available for the App Store now for the iOS version of Docs, Slides, and Sheets.

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