Accessibility

Phonak Audéo Marvel hearing aid: binaural audio for Android, iOS

Phonak Audéo Marvel hearing aid: binaural audio for Android, iOS

A lot of the advancements in smartphone technology, from multiple cameras to high-end audio output, have been made with the physically capable masses in mind. Accessibility is present but sometimes more like something tacked on. Worse, some even lock users into a specific platform or device, either by intention or by accident, leaving those with handicaps even more, well, handicapped. Hearing aid maker has had enough, waiting for platform and device makers to get their acts together. With the new Marvel line of hearing aids and its first member, the Audéo M, it is taking matters into its own hands to deliver "love at first sound", no matter what smartphone you're using.

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Google Voice Access is a voice control accessibility app for Android

Google Voice Access is a voice control accessibility app for Android

Google has released a new voice-controlled accessibility app called Voice Access. With this, individuals with mobility issues can use their voice to control an Android device, doing things like composing messages, talking to Assistant, and opening apps. The same app can also be used as a convenience tool for individuals without mobility issues.

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Android hearing aid support to welcome more users into its world

Android hearing aid support to welcome more users into its world

Google recently boasted about its more than 2 billion active Android devices in the world. The global population is, of course, much larger than that and a fraction of that total are unable to enjoy the conveniences of modern mobile lifestyles because of one physical disability or another. While tech companies naturally give more focus on their able-bodied customers, they have a responsibility, sometimes even legal duty, to make their products accessible to everyone. Just weeks after launching Android 9 Pie, Google is announcing a new specification for Android designed to deliver high-quality audio to hearing aids.

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Gboard adds Morse code keyboard on iOS, offers training game

Gboard adds Morse code keyboard on iOS, offers training game

Google has brought Morse code to its Gboard for iOS mobile keyboard, enabling iPhone users to access a vital communication tool. Google previously introduced the support on Gboard for Android, doing so in partnership with Tania Finlayson, developer and Morse code expert. The Android version of the tool supports external witches to help users with limited mobility.

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Microsoft Soundscape helps the visually impaired hear the world

Microsoft Soundscape helps the visually impaired hear the world

With the importance placed on screens, apps, and user interfaces, smartphones have become visual devices first and only communication devices second. That immediately puts a class of people at a disadvantage, those that have trouble seeing or couldn’t see at all. Mobile technology has seemed to have forgotten these part of the population would benefit from the advancements in technology most. And so it is with some sense of relief when developers, especially big companies, give attention to accessibility. Like the new Soundscape iOS app from Microsoft Research, which lets those with visual impairments see the world around them using their ears.

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Signia Nx hearing aid separates user’s own voice from the background

Signia Nx hearing aid separates user’s own voice from the background

Many headsets today flaunt features like active noise cancellation or even sophisticated audio technologies that let the world’s sounds through while you listen to your music. Such things might be “nice to have” features for audiophiles, but technologies like these are essential to people with less than perfect hearing. Sivantos, the hearing aid company spun off from Siemens, is putting that technology at the service of such people. Its new Signia Nx, for example, boasts of the ability to replicate nature by allowing separating the user’s own voice from ambient sound.

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Samsung SeeColors Smart TV app helps the color blind see better

Samsung SeeColors Smart TV app helps the color blind see better

We in the tech world, especially the mobile industry, often obsess about pixel resolutions, color gamuts, and, lately, screen aspect and screen-to-body ratios. But like many of today’s technologies, they are designed to cater to the able-bodied majority. Technology, however, should be accessible, even and especially for those with physical handicaps. Samsung always boasts of having a wealth of expertise and technologies related to color, displays, and visual technology, so it’s probably high-time that i brought its SeeColors to its QLED Smart TVs to help the color blind see colors better.

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Google calls on Local Guides to add wheelchair info to Maps

Google calls on Local Guides to add wheelchair info to Maps

Getting around on wheels might sound classy, but there is one wheel-based mode of transportation that isn’t always fun. Laws requiring establishments to have wheelchair accessible features are inconsistent and inconsistently followed anyway, giving users double the difficulty and the uncertainty. In its mission to index the world’s data, including accessibility information, Google is rallying its Local Guides everywhere to take just a few seconds to note whether a location is wheelchair-friendly or not, a simple act that could make a world of difference for someone.

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Google Maps makes accessibility everyone’s responsibility

Google Maps makes accessibility everyone’s responsibility

Although sometimes required by law in certain jurisdictions, not all establishments have facilities that cater to or at least assist people with disabilities. And that's not even counting areas that may not be cut out for some disabilities, like long-winding stairs or uneven terrain. Nothing can be more frustrating, not to mention disheartening, than arriving at a place only to discover how inaccessible it s. It is nearly impossible for one organization or company, even for Google, to keep track of all that information, which is why the search giant is now tapping all Google Maps users to at least help people prepare better.

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Android’s new accessibility features has Voice Access control

Android’s new accessibility features has Voice Access control

Google Now might be smart and all that but it's somewhat limited in what it can do when it comes to interacting with the rest of the apps and content on your Android smartphone. It can do searches, take notes, set up alarms, open apps, and some other basic tasks. Once it moves away from that search app, however, you're on your own. Not a problem for people with near perfect mobility, not so much for those with physical disabilities. Google is announcing the start of beta testing for a Voice Access app that addresses that need, allowing users to control other apps using only their voice.

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