Due to the recent emergence of the so-called “smart era,” disabled people can do a lot of things without a helper. Many high-tech devices are being invented and used in real life. This influence has reached the lives of disabled people and has been helping them enjoy their daily life. Many devices for disabled people have been improving the quality of their life: the ‘audiobook’ which speaks out a text in the book; ‘translate gloves’ which can interpret sign language in a voice; the ‘motion recognition keyboard’ which can recognize particular finger gestures and type of the text automatically, and so on. Moreover, some smartphone applications for them are being invented, making their life more convenient. Some smart apps can hear the voice instead of the deaf’s ears, check the e-mail instead of the blind’s eyes, and find a safe travel route for a physically challenged person. These smart applications have pleasantly surprised the disabled, creating a new world for them.
There are a few useful applications for people who have a visual impairment. One of them is ‘Be my Eyes’. It serves as a bridge between the visually-impaired and a volunteer. Volunteers who join in this app can be an ‘eye’ for those who need one. For example, a visually-impaired man wants to drink the milk for breakfast but cannot see the expiration date. The man runs this app and lights up the milk on the camera. Then one of the volunteers who receives his signal checks the expiration date and says it to him in real time. He can drink the milk safely, and the volunteer can feel proud of herself for helping someone in a simple way. Another practical app is ‘BlindSquare’ which uses Foursquare data to help the blind navigate streets. Many people worldwide use the app to find surrounding restaurants, check into hotels, and review where they eat or stay. Over 20 million people on Foursquare have created an incredibly detailed crowdsourced directory. ‘BlindSquare’ is making use of Foursquare’s two billion check-ins worldwide to help blind pedestrians find locations. ‘BlindSquare’ integrates Foursquare data with Apple’s native voice over technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. When the blind want to know how to get somewhere, it reads addresses, street names, and surrounding locations aloud.
Some applications for the hearing-impaired have also proven to be valuable. ‘Share Typing’ is an app offering subtitles in real time to hearing-impaired people. Nearly all of the data from a speech, a lecture, a forum, a seminar, and so on, is transmitted by sound. By transforming the data to the visual subtitles, hearing-impaired people can understand the message conveyed by a speaker and do the audience role actively in this lecture. Another attractive app is ‘Voice of the Silent’ which helps conversation between hearing-impaired people and non-disabled people. The tall wall between hearing-impaired people and non-disabled people is surely constructed of an absence of communication which is an important thing at the beginning of the relationship. Although sign languages, a communication method using hands, has existed for a long time, there are not that many non-disabled people who can use sign language. Thus, when the hearing-impaired people want to talk with others, they can use this app. When they light-up their mouth on the camera, ‘Voice of the Silent’ reads the movement of their mouth and transforms the movement into sound. Then, the person who wants to make relationship with hearing-impaired people can understand their speech and be their friend. ‘Voice of Silent’ not only makes the voice in silence but also makes a connection between the disabled who can’t speak and the non-disabled.
One novel application for the people who have a physical disability has also come about. For the people living with this type of disability, knowing which places are accessible in advance can save time, money and reduce a lot of frustration. ‘Euan’s Guide’ was invented by Euan MacDonald who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2003 so could consider the disabled person’s situation. It features access reviews of thousands of venues for the disabled. Users can rate venues on the app and leave reviews describing accessible lavatories, handicapped parking areas, and how helpful the staff are. ‘Euan’s Guide’ is just about to celebrate 4,000 places listed on the site. It is mainly in the UK, but it has also accumulated some reviews from further afield. MacDonald said, “It is often the small things that really make a difference. Repeated attempts to find accessible places made this app.”
The last app in focus is ‘AAC’ standing for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This app can literally complement or substitute communication using symbols with some letters and a picture of them. It can be helpful for the disabled who have language disorders and need means for alternative communication. It has three versions depending on the level of language disorder: basic, junior, and common. The basic version is composed of forms of choosing either A or B for the person who has severe or multiple disabilities or uses this app for the first time. The junior version is for the level who can combine one symbol with another symbol and make a sentence. The common version is a higher version for the ones who can use many symbols categorized as places, foods, animals and so on. They can be recommended as the next symbol automatically according to a chosen symbol and express their emotion with more complete sentences.
In addition to the apps mentioned above, there are many innovative applications for the disabled: call taxi app for the disabled, artificial leg control app, money identification on the sound app, and so on. As the world has become smarter with development of technology, the ways that society considers the people living with a disability are also getting smarter. People with warm hearts, who sympathize with the difficulties of disabled people and want to help them, have lead the way to the invention of applications for them. Park Won-Jin, a CEO of AUD company which launched the ‘Share Typing’ app, is also a hearingimpaired person. He said, “It is not to live alone in journey of life. If all humans become one mind and realize social value for second-class citizens, a happier society will be made.”
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