Kerala Journal of Ophthalmology

INSTRUMENT CORNER
Year
: 2019  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 242--248

Smartphone apps for visually impaired persons


John Davis Akkara1, Anju Kuriakose2,  
1 Department of Glaucoma, Westend Eye Hospital, Cochin; Department of Ophthalmology, Little Flower Hospital and Research Centre, Angamaly, Kerala, India
2 Department of Ophthalmology, Jubilee Mission Medical College, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. John Davis Akkara
Department of Glaucoma, Westend Eye Hospital, Kacheripady, Cochin - 682 018, Kerala
India

Abstract

As ophthalmologists, we often come across visually impaired persons (VIPs) whose poor vision we cannot improve. They would benefit with low-vision aids (LVA), but most are reluctant to use them. The visually impaired find it difficult to use advanced technology, as it is often not designed with them in mind. When the world switched from phones with keyboards to full-screen touchscreens, VIPs found it difficult without the tactile feedback of physical keyboard buttons. However, in recent years, there have been numerous innovative apps to assist people with low vision, to not only navigate their smartphone but also their environment and daily life. Programmers have made the use of the high-resolution cameras, gyroscope sensor, vibration feedback, and audio feedback to convert smartphones into LVA, often for free and with no additional hardware. The authors review some of the smartphone apps available for those with low vision. These apps can bring a certain level of independence and self-confidence in these people who are otherwise often dependent on others.



How to cite this article:
Akkara JD, Kuriakose A. Smartphone apps for visually impaired persons.Kerala J Ophthalmol 2019;31:242-248


How to cite this URL:
Akkara JD, Kuriakose A. Smartphone apps for visually impaired persons. Kerala J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 28 ];31:242-248
Available from: http://www.kjophthal.com/text.asp?2019/31/3/242/274615


Full Text



 Introduction



Technology is rapidly advancing, and visually impaired people would find it difficult to use complex technology. There are software available for a visually impaired person (VIP) to navigate the computers such as Jobs Access With Speech-paid software [1] and Nonvisual Desktop Access-free software.[2]

Visually impaired are often reluctant to start using low-vision aids (LVA) not only due to affordability and accessibility but also other factors such as social stigma and denial.[3] However, a smartphone is often available to them, and the ability to use a smartphone can empower the visually impaired. Several smartphone apps are available to help visually impaired and blind people with activities of daily life. These free apps can work well on older smartphones also and thus remove the cost and availability barrier for smartphone-based LVA. The authors hope that visually impaired people become aware of and get training on using these easily accessible LVA already in their pockets.

Most of these apps do not require any extra hardware and many are free. There are apps designed to read out loud from the smartphone menus, voice control, read out books, and even read out text from photographs clicked by the phone. Some apps can identify colors, objects, and money. There are apps which can be used as LVA such as magnifiers. Some innovative apps use virtual reality and augmented reality headsets to enhance the remaining vision of glaucoma and macular degeneration. There were a few multipurpose apps that did several of these functions.

Types of apps

Smartphone accessibilityVoice controlToolsSmartphone games for the blindCamera-based identifiers and readersNavigation and mapsMagnifiers and LVAeBook readersIndia-specific appsInnovative appsTutorials.

Smartphone accessibility

Accessibility software is the enhancement of the operating system with high-contrast text and audio feedback and is often available in the smartphone settings without any additional app installation.

Android accessibility suite [4] – Menus, Select to Speak, screen reader, and Bluetooth keyboard [Figure 1]Blind accessibility keyboard [5] – high contrast and voice feedback keyboard [Figure 2]Blind launcher [6] – launcher menu with high contrast, voice feedback, and shortcutsGoogle BrailleBack [7] – connects Bluetooth Braille KeyboardRAY Vision [8] – redesigned touch navigation.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

Voice control

Voice access [9] – controls smartphone using voice commandsGoogle assistant [10] – Google's voice assistantSiri [11] – Apple's voice assistantCortana [12] – Microsoft's voice assistant.

Tools

Talking calculators [13] – Calculators with voice control that speak out the answers [Figure 3]Sero (iBlink Radio)[14] – radio app targeted at low visionBig Digital Clock [15] – high contrast and large clock [Figure 4]Speechnotes [16] – Voice recognition notepad [Figure 5]Speaking Alarm Clock [17] – speaking alarms, stopwatch, and remindersLow vision [18] – High-contrast clock, calculator, contacts, and camera.{Figure 3}{Figure 4}{Figure 5}

Smartphone games for blind

Blind mini games [19]-8 games: directions, runner, memory, hearing test, animals, numbers, tones, and fast numbers [Figure 6]Blind cricket [20] – high-contrast cricket game based on sounds designed for visually impairedAudio Game Hub [21] – archery, slot machine, level 3, and Super SimonBlind-Droid Minesweeper [22] – Minesweeper with special mode for low visionChessBack [23] – Chess designed for low vision and blind players.{Figure 6}

Camera-based identifiers and readers

Cash Reader: Bill identifier [24] – Currency identifier for several international currencies. Works offline after a particular currency database are downloaded [Figure 7]Speak![25] – Text reader and translator from photographsEnvision AI [26] – Photo describer, text, and handwriting readerColor grab [27] – Identifies colors from camera view and photographsTapTapSee [28] – Photo identifierSupersense [29] – Use camera to look around and find a particular object you are searching for. Does not need Internet connection to workLabeler sound tags [30] – Tag things with custom QR codes and use smartphone to identify them laterMicrosoft Seeing AI [31] – Identification of people, faces, emotions, objects, and text from camera (iPhone only) [Figure 8]WeVoice [32] – Object identifier and text reader from camera photographs.{Figure 7}{Figure 8}

Navigation and maps

FAR Vision [33] – navigation and restaurant menusRightHear [34] – location and nearby places and navigationLazarillo GPS [35] – navigation GPS for the blindEye-D Pro [36] – navigation, read text, and identify objects (free version has restricted features since October 2019) [Figure 9]GetThere GPS [37] – voice navigation and location alarmNearby Explorer Online [38] – free outdoor and indoor navigation based on OpenStreetMaps and Google Places.{Figure 9}

Magnifiers and low-vision aids

My reading eyes free [39] – camera magnifier with negative image optionweZoom [40] – camera magnifier with contrast, color filter modes, and LVA [Figure 10].{Figure 10}

Book readers

Dolphin EasyReader [41] – book reader for dyslexia, low vision, and blindVoice dream reader [42] – High-contrast, adjustable font size, OpenDyslexia font, and voice readerAudible [43] – Audiobooks read by human voicesFree audiobooks [44] – Free audiobooks read by human voices from LibriVox-free library project.

India-specific apps

Roshni- Currency Recognizer [45] – Indian currency identifier [Figure 11]DIGNIFY [46] – Hindi and English text reader from camera (Aravind Eye Hospital).{Figure 11}

Most innovative

Samsung Good Vibes [47] – Two-way communication app for the deaf–blind. Converts text or voice into vibrations and vibrations into text or voice [Figure 12]Be My Eyes [48] – crowd-sourced photo identification from sighted volunteers [Figure 13]LVFree Vision Enhancer [49] – Free app from the University of Michigan that uses virtual reality headset as a LVA by adjusting magnification, brightness, and contrastIrisVision [50] – Commercially available smartphone in virtual reality headset with camera open for advanced macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and glaucoma patientsThe vOICe [51] – App converts live video into soundscape which can be “seen” by a blind person through synesthesia [Figure 14].{Figure 12}{Figure 13}{Figure 14}

Tutorial

Brailliac: Braille tutor [52] – Braille tutorialVIP: VIP apps [53] – Guide to these low-vision apps [Figure 15].{Figure 15}

 Conclusion



Smartphones have changed our lives in many ways. They are now an essential part of our daily life. Low-cost smartphones are accessible and affordable to most patients. Visually impaired can easily use free and low-cost apps to enhance their technology experience. Powerful apps can run on most modern smartphones. Indian versions of apps with support for Indian languages and Indian currencies are available. A training of the VIP is required to start using the apps.

As ophthalmologists, we come across several patients whose vision we cannot improve due to diseases beyond our control. We should be able to advise patients regarding low-cost LVA such as these apps in addition to traditional options. Ophthalmologists should be aware of these apps and low-vision clinics should have this information available. Perhaps, a tech-savvy, visually challenged person can be tasked with teaching the usage of apps to patients. In today's world, it is almost an essential part of our daily life to be able to operate these technologies.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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