Apps as assistive technology: The widening world of apps

New apps for our smartphones, tablets, and computers seem to appear on an hourly basis and can range in price from several hundred dollars or are free to download, but may require a monthly fee or in-app purchases. Apps designed specifically for people with disabilities are no exception, ranging in price and ranging in how they help. Today, we share with you just a small sample of the apps available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store:

  • The Be My Eyes app connects people with visual disabilities with sighted assistants from all over the world through a live video connection. A user can request assistance with visual cues in his or her environment, such as reading a food label or navigating new surroundings. The user submits a request through the app and is connected to an available volunteer. The app uses the phone’s camera to send an image to the volunteer to be read or described via a live feed. Be My Eyes is currently only available in the Apple App Store.
  • The Positive Activity Jackpot app was developed by the US Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology to help military service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) build resilience and overcome depression. The app does this by helping them plan positive events through the use of pleasant event scheduling, which is a behavioral therapy element used in psychological therapy. The app features augmented reality technology to help the user find enjoyable activities in the area, makes activity suggestions to the user, and invite friends. Although it does not require clinical training to use, the Positive Activity Jackpot app should not be used as a substitute for professional treatment. It is available in the Google Play Store.
  • iAdvocate is an app developed at Syracuse University that helps parents advocate for their children with disabilities in the educational environment. It is designed to be used as a quick reference of best practices, strategies, and key ideas by parents working with their child’s education team. This app is also designed to help parents build their advocacy skills and knowledge. iAdvocate can be downloaded through the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
  • The SAM app was developed in collaboration with the University of the West of England at Bristol to help people understand and manage their anxiety. The app helps each user understand what causes their own anxiety, monitor their anxious thoughts and behavior over time, and manage their anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection. It also includes a “social cloud” feature that enables users to share their experiences with the SAM community without breaking privacy. This app should not be used in substitution for medical treatment. The SAM app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

The best way to find the apps you are looking for or for apps specific disabilities is by using the search bar in either the Apple App Store, Google Play, or the appropriate store for your phones operating system. You can type in the specific name of the app or you can use more general search terms such as “apps for learning disabilities”. You can also use your favorite search engine to look for apps or to find out more about the ones you would like to download to your phone or tablet. Don’t forget to search AbleData, where you can find a variety of apps!

The NIDILRR community is involved in researching and developing apps for people with disabilities,  including SCI HARD, a gaming app developed by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center Technology Increasing Knowledge: Technology Optimizing Choice to help enhance the self-management skills, self-reported healthy behaviors, and quality of life in teens and young adults with spinal cord injury and disease. The LiveWell RERC hosts the App Factory, an annual competition for app developers to receive funding and support to build apps that address barriers faced by people with disabilities or make an existing app more accessible and usable by tech users with disabilities. Don’t forget to check out these articles from the NIDILRR community and beyond on apps for people with disabilities.

Please note: We are providing information on these publicly available apps as a courtesy to our readers. Inclusion does not imply endorsement of an app or its developer.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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