Georgie Aims to Make Smartphones Accessible to Blind and Visually-Impaired Users

Georgie Aims to Make Smartphones Accessible to Blind and Visually-Impaired Users

Jul 19, 2012

Georgie is an application that’s designed to help visually-impaired smartphone owners use their phones and take full advantage of all the capabilities it provides sighted users. While it’s currently only available for users in the UK and Ireland, it provides valuable access to those who want to take advantage of smartphone technology

The app is designed to use gestures to make it easy to use a phone. Swiping through buttons and list elements will audibly announce to users what they’re seclecting, and tapping-and-holding will open that feature, such as dialing a contact, or starting up speech-to-text for sending a text. For partially-sighted users, colors can be customized to be more visually-accessible. There’s a geolocation feature that can help guide users to certain locations using their phone, or even spots they would wish to avoid, such as if they’re hard to access or could be potentially hazardous. Finding new places such as stores or restaurants is also possible. The camera on a device can be used as an optical character recognition device as well.

Georgie is created by Sight and Sound Technology, and was developed in coordination with ScreenReader.net. The app is available for free from Google Play, though users need to contact Sight and Sound to get access to the app and individual features.

Texting Glove Prototype Translates Sign Language to Text

Texting Glove Prototype Translates Sign Language to Text

Dec 22, 2011

The modern wave of smartphones has been fantastic for disabled users, as the additional power has allowed for far greater accessibility options. Text to speech is widespread on both iOS and Android. Apps like Proloquo2Go can replace very expensive dedicated hardware for communication to and from people with disabilities. Now, some developers at Google’s Developer Day in Tel Aviv have created a prototype of a device for turning sign language into text on Android.

What this Texting Glove does is that it uses a variety of sensors including accelerometers and gyroscopes to recognize hand movements, that is then connected to the phone’s USB port. After calibrating for specific hands, it can then turn signing into text that is output on the Android device. In the video shown below, a user responds to a text message by loading up the app that interfaces with the Texting Glove to make their response. This demo video of the Texting Glove shows off how it works.

Such a piece of hardware and apps for using this have some fantastic potential for making sign language more accessible. In particular, this could have some great applications for those learning how to sign, as this could offer them the opportunity to practice and experiment with their signs and with communicating with them outside of a specific learning environment. As well, particularly on Android, if this technology was further developed, it could allow users who are most comfortable with signing to communicate using their preferred method throughout the OS; hypothetically, this accessory could be used for typing throughout the OS.

This is obviously just in a prototype phase, a sample made by several engineers and developers for testing purposes. However, this proof of concept has such potential for allowing those with disabilities to feel more comfortable with their phones, and how they communicate through them. Any time that technology can be used to help people overcome challenges to communicate more effectively, and to help remove those bridges that divide us, is something that should be pursued. I hope this technology is pursued further either by these developers or by others.