New apps improve Android accessibility

Thursday, 12 January 2012 13:41pm

A developer of open-source accessible apps, Apps4Android, has announced the release of four new IDEAL apps for Android smartphones. Android is Google’s operating system for smartphones and tablets. The apps aim to improve the accessibility of the Android devices, which have lagged in this area behind Apple devices.

The newly announced Apps4Android apps called IDEAL Self-Voicing News Reader, IDEAL Audio-Described Movie Viewer, IDEAL WebMath and IDEAL Accessible YouTube Viewer will improve access to news and video content on the web for people who have a disability. The IDEAL suite of apps developed by Apps4Android for Android presents alternative ways of using mobile devices for people who have a disability.

The IDEAL Self-Voicing News Reader app will help blind or vision impaired Android smartphone users access select news websites by optimising the website for screen readers and text-to-speech technology. Although Android’s default screen reading software, TalkBack, is available, some news websites do not work well with screen readers due to incompatible script and design.

To help blind or vision impaired users access multimedia on websites, the IDEAL Audio-Described Movie Viewer app provides audio narration to describe any visual information that appears on the screen. This can include gestures and actions that appear on videos.

WebMath is an online education resource that provides students with help in solving mathematical problems. According to the creators of the website, WebMath was created to use the “immediacy” and “accessibility” of the internet to provide resources to students who need help solving maths problems. The IDEAL WebMath app however, will help students with cognitive disabilities access resources by simplifying the interface and making it more accessible.

Finally, the IDEAL Accessible YouTube Viewer app will help users locate and watch special interest channels on the popular video streaming site, YouTube. The app simplifies the YouTube interface and provides a text description and audio narration of videos on the network.

Both the IDEAL Audio-Described Movie Viewer and IDEAL Accessible YouTube Viewer apps are currently in Beta versions.  There are currently only 50 movies available to use with IDEAL Audio-Described Movie Viewer.

All IDEAL apps above are available to download for free on the Android Market website.

The release of the new apps is a positive step towards making Android devices more accessible for users who have a disability. The latest version of the Android operating system, called Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, has been touted as the most accessible version of Android to date due to the inclusion of the explore-by-touch feature designed for users who are vision impaired.

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