Android has made some enhancements to the platform that will make it an order of magnitude easier for developers to make their applications more user friendly for people with blindness or low-visibility.
The engineers at Google have essentially boiled down the process into five steps for developers to augment their code to allow Android to use its accessibility features which utilize either spoken feedback (TalkBack) or enable connected devices provide a legible description for a blind person to read by using a Braille emulator (BrailleBack). TalkBack is already a part of the Android operating system. BrailleBack is available in the Google Play store, incorporating itself with the accessibility settings.
This is part of the team at Google that has built the tools for developers to enable accessibility for the vision impaired, T.V. Ramam is with Tilden, the seeing eye dog.
Following the presentation, we connected with a couple of programmers from Codefactory (www.codefactory.es), based in Barcelona, Spain. Codefactory specializes in applications that “read” the screen of a user's smartphone. In business since 1998, the company has been developing applications for screen readers and screen magnifiers across several platforms.
Xavi Martinez Clemente, and Jose Luis Ametller attended the presentation and see Android actually catching up with the accessibility solutions that Codefactory has been developing for years. However, these enhancements will allow the company to work on new features of their family of applications.
Mobile Accessibility, available in over a dozen languages, enables users to access all the functions through a modified user interface. In the United States, the apps come with a 30-day trial, then a one-time fee of $99 which allows for lifetime updates. Users will soon be getting a feature which enables a privacy screen, essentially blacking out the screen. When you are blind you do not care what the screen looks like and users that pair a headset to their device can operate in complete privacy if they wish.
Xavi Martinez Clemente (L) and Jose Luis Ametller (R) develop apps that assist the vision impaired for Codefactory, based in Spain.
“Over 1.5 billion people are illiterate,” according to Mr. Jacobs, “and that presents an opportunity for our ePub reader, IDEAL Group Reader, which would introduce literature and written material while highlighting and reading the words aloud, which provides a great benefit to the reader or listener.”
Apps 4 Android is the world’s largest developer for accessibility applications on the Android platform. Among their premier products are the aforementioned IDEAL Group Reader and a series of math tutorial applications which help students from elementary school all the way through high school. In all, the company has about 7 million application installs across 150 counties.
Mr. Jacobs credits Google with the “miracle” wave to emerging markets and it will assist aging populations as well, noting that there are over half-a-billion people over the age of 65 that will benefit from more accessible technology, “Google provides the tools we need to achieve our mission.”