We all like to live as independently as possible, and for disabled people, technology and apps are an invaluable aid to achieving this. It seems that everyone nowadays owns a smartphone and tablet, and with that comes a seemingly unlimited world of apps to choose from. But which should you consider and how could they enhance your life?
Here, our writers Carrie Aimes and Emma Purcell round up the top 10 apps for disabled people and why you should try them out, all updated for 2019.
AccessAble is a UK accessible travel app that takes the chance out of going out for disabled people. The app contains 75,000 detailed access guides telling you how accessible a venue, tourist attraction or public place is for your needs.
You can use the app’s accessibility symbols to filter results and places that suit you. For example, if you enjoy shopping and you’re a wheelchair user, you would search for a shopping centre that has wheelchair access, Blue Badge parking, step-free access, ramps, lifts and accessible toilets.
There is also accessibility information for people with other mobility issues, sensory impairments and intellectual disabilities. Moreover, you can check out photographs of a venue and save access guides for later.
Dragon Anywhere app
This dictation app enables you to create and edit documents of any length on your phone, tablet or laptop, all using your voice. By simply speaking into the device you can create text messages, compose emails and edit long documents, and then sync them with your Dropbox or cloud so they can be accessed on your computer.
The Dragon Anywhere app is aimed at busy professionals needing to work while commuting. But it has obvious benefits for disabled people too. Apple iPhone and Andriod users can download it for free, but after a trial, you’ll have to pay (£9.99 a month and £99.99 a year).
Our tech writer Tom Housden has tried out this app, along with some of Dragon’s other dictation apps. See his article on dictation apps for a full breakdown of how it works and what else is on offer.
Changing Places Toilet Finder app
No matter what your disability, being able to reach an accessible public toilet in good time is a daily challenge. The free Changing Places Toilet Finder app, from the RADAR Key company, lists thousands of accessible toilets across the UK.
It is a comprehensive guide of more than 1,000 Changing Places toilets, which are extra-large toilets with changing facilities. The app shows you how far you are from one of the toilets, how to get there, the opening hours of the toilet, how to open the door, whether it is normally locked and information regarding hoists and slings.
This app is a communication aid for people who are non-verbal or have a speech impairment. You can create a profile containing the spoken actions most useful to any situation, such as a specific event, travelling, working, education, socialising, plus much more, and suited for your day-to-day life. In addition, for people with reduced dexterity, there are a big Yes/No buttons.
This app is available in multiple languages and includes an emergency contact and location request services if you were to be in danger or go missing. HelpTalk can only be downloaded on Google Play.
Disabled Motoring app
Disabled Motoring UK is a campaigning charity and magazine that aims to make life easier for disabled drivers, passengers and Blue Badge holders. Its app allows you to find accredited disabled parking, get help refuelling your vehicle and browse information on Blue Badges, as well as the latest news from the charity.
The app is free to download on iOS and Android devices but, for a fee, there are additional benefits you can sign up for. Becoming an online member will give you access to the members’ area on its website, as well as a monthly newsletter.
Alternatively, you can become a full/associate member and receive the monthly magazine and discounts on everyday goods, from groceries to holidays. It’ll also enable you to get help with motoring-related problems, such as parking tickets and local authority issues. The full/associate membership will cost £24 a year.
The Physiotherapy Exercises app contains more than 1,000 images illustrating 600 exercises suitable for those with spinal cord injury and neurological conditions. Search, select and save exercises for future reference and even suggest others if you wish.
UPDATE 2019: The developer of this app needs to update it to work with iOS 11.
Red Panic button app
To be able to immediately and urgently notify a number of contacts of your whereabouts can be hugely beneficial if you’re disabled. If you’re older, have learning disabilities, or live on your own but rely on others, you might want to consider the Red Panic Button.
One tap of the red button sends alerts to your contacts via text, email, Facebook and Twitter. All you need to do is enter the details of those you wish to alert ahead of using the app, and they will receive a Google Maps link with your location.
Many features are free to both Android and iOS users, though there is the option to upgrade at a fee, which means you can even send a photo attachment and record a 10-second voice message with your alert. Gain more independence and security with this handy and easy to use Red Panic Button app by visiting iTunes or Google Play.
Be My Eyes app
This award-winning app allows people who are blind or visually impaired to request help from a sighted volunteer. You can receive assistance through a live video connection to a global network of volunteers who can assist you with a range of tasks.
The sighted volunteers will receive a notification on their phone when you ask for assistance. As soon as the first volunteer accepts the request, a live video link will be connected to you and the sighted volunteer.
You can then use your rear-facing camera to allow the sighted volunteer to see the item or subject you need assistance with or descriptions of. Support can be as simple as checking expiry dates or more complicated tasks such as navigating a public place.
Have You Heard
Designed for people with hearing impairments, this app will amplify voices around you so that you can better understand conversations with people in busy and loud places, such as with a friend in a restaurant or a colleague in a meeting.
You can focus on conversations either close by or further away by using the ‘focus near/far’ feature, and adjust the volume to suit you. If you still haven’t quite heard something, you can replay the last 20 seconds of a conversation at the press of a button.
To use it, you’ll need to connect a headphone to your phone. It’s free and only available on iTunes for iPhone users.
UPDATE 2019: The developer of this app needs to update it to work with iOS 11.
Uber taxis app
Having a disability means that public transport often isn’t an option, leaving you to rely on taxis. To stop you getting stranded, you can download the Uber app, allowing you to request a taxi ride from where you are using your phone.
To do so, simply create an account with your card or PayPal – no cash required – and select a vehicle to suit your needs. If you do want to plan ahead, the Scheduled Rides feature allows you to book a vehicle up to 30 days in advance.
Uber has two services aimed at helping disabled passengers get around. Its uberACCESS taxis are equipped with a rear-entry ramp and four-point restraints, enabling wheelchair users to ride safely and comfortably with one additional passenger. Its other accessible service, uberASSIST, is designed for those who don’t need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, but require additional assistance on their journey.
All uberACCESS and uberASSIST partners have received Disability Equality Training from Transport for All and Inclusion London, and both cost the same as using uberX, one of Uber’s lowest-cost services.
UberACCESS (previously called uberWAV) is available in London, Manchester and Birmingham, and uberASSIST is available in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield. There are plans to roll out both into other areas soon.
By Carrie Aimes and Emma Purcell
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