At the 2011 Assistive Technology Industry Association conference in Orlando, assistive technology vendors could be found at their booths showing off mobile versions of their best-selling products. As smartphones and tablets continue to peform well as assistive tools for people with disabilities, vendors have their work cut out for them. Some of the apps were exact replicas of their traditional products, while others took a different spin — bringing something entirely new to the marketplace. Here are a few that stood out:
Benetech, the parent nonprofit for Bookshare, announced Read2Go, a new accessible e-book app for Apple devices. Read2Go is a full-featured DAISY reader; DAISY is a digital audio format that is specially designed with a navigation feature for those with vision loss, physical or learning disabilities who cannot read printed media. From within the app, users can search, download, and read Bookshare books and periodicals with the use of Acapela, which is a high-quality and naturally sounding text-to-speech “voice”. Users have to first have a Bookshare membership; it’s free for qualifying students with disabilities. Read2Go will be available this quarter in the iTunes App store. Cost: $19.99
Ai Squared, a maker of low-vision software ZoomText, debuted its new app, ZoomReader for the iPhone. It’s a combination video magnifier and optical character recognition (OCR) app that use’s the phone’s built-in camera to zoom in and capture on printed materials, turn it into digital text (that’s where the OCR comes in) and have the image read out loud! In their blog, Ai Squared writes: “One woman even cried when she saw what ZoomReader could do; one of her family members has Down’s Syndrome and ZoomReader will open up a brand new world for him – one where he will be able to read street signs, restaurant menus, and any printed material that he would otherwise need help reading.” The app will be available soon. Cost: $19.99
AbleNet, a maker of a wide range of products for people with disabilities, came out with an update to SoundingBoard, its new augmentative and alternative communications (AAC) app that lets users create a custom symbol board filled with their favorite words and phrases. You can use AbleNet’s built-in symbol library or photos from your own camera roll. AbleNet is also a maker of switches, which are devices that allow people with physical disabilities to access their phones in non-traditional ways, such as with their foot or elbow. The company’s new bluetooth dual-access switch, Blue2, will be available at the end of February. Cost: $49.99 for the app and $149.00 for the switch.
AbleLink launched its second iPad app, Community Sidekick, which helps people with cognitive disabilities live more independently. It offers the ability to track someone in your care who has special needs by sending you automated email messages containing map links to the user’s location. Cost: $9.99
Amazon didn’t attend ATIA, but it should have. The company recently announced Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin, a free application for your Windows PC. The plug-in provides text-to-speech reading and voice-guided menu navigation, as well as large font sizes and a high-contrast reading mode. While there are no publisher restrictions on text-to-speech reading, you must have an external screen reader program installed and running to use the plug-in; this is to prove that you have a visual impairment and are entitled to use this assistive technology. Cost: Free
Related article: The iPad Rules at ATIA
Related article: Amazon Urged to Make Kindle 2 Talk
Disclosure: abledbody provides paid consulting services to Ai Squared.