Online safety / May 30, 2023

Enhancing independence and well-being through assistive technology

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee

Senior Program Manager, Tech for Good & TELUS Wise

Woman in their home office using smartphone and tablet.

Did you know? According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population identifies as having a disability and almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life.

Living with a disability can present numerous challenges and impact various aspects of daily life - including the use of a mobile device. However, with advancements in technology, assistive technology has emerged as a powerful tool to empower individuals whether they are living with a disability or not.

Assistive technology can positively impact our digital well-being and offers many benefits. It can increase the power of our devices and make them easier to use, enable us to complete tasks with greater ease, remember things and even help us concentrate. My favourite accessibility feature is increasing the font size of on-screen text; it’s a simple but hugely impactful feature - especially for individuals struggling to read their text messages.

Here are some additional assistive technology features, categorized by impairment

  • Visual: magnify your screen, adjust the screen's font size, colour, contrast, and brightness to help visually separate objects.
  • Hearing: switch the audio from stereo to mono - especially helpful if you have better hearing in one ear relative to the other.
  • Physical and motor: most devices come with features that make it easier to use the device with one hand. Adaptive accessories, like a keyboard or switch, can also be connected as an alternative way to navigate touch screen devices.
  • Speech, memory and cognitive: set reminders and alerts on your device to stay on top of day-to-day tasks, routines, and events. You can even ask Google Assistant and Siri to set these up.

While both Apple and Android devices offer accessibility features, the experience can be different. Here’s a brief overview of some of the top features on each:

Apple/iOS

  • VoiceOver is a screen reader that provides spoken feedback. It describes aloud what appears on the screen, including text, buttons, icons, and other elements. Users can navigate the device using gestures and listen to the spoken feedback to interact with apps and perform tasks.
  • AssistiveTouch creates a virtual button on the screen that allows users to access various functions using customizable gestures. AssistiveTouch provides shortcuts to common actions like multitasking, adjusting volume, taking screenshots, and more, making it easier to control the device without physical buttons.
  • Closed Captions and Subtitles on iOS devices enable individuals to enjoy videos and other multimedia content without sound. Users can customize caption appearance, such as font style, size, and color, to suit their preferences.

Android

  • TalkBack provides spoken feedback to users through spoken words, vibrations, and audible feedback to describe on-screen content, making it easier for users to navigate, interact with apps, and perform actions. This feature also enables users to navigate the device using gestures and provides spoken feedback about the selected items, menus, and other elements on the screen.
  • Switch Access is designed for individuals who may have difficulty using a touchscreen. It allows users to control their device using external switches or assistive devices, such as buttons, a mouse, keyboards, or headsets. By connecting these external devices, users can navigate through on-screen items, select options, and perform various actions.
  • Live Caption automatically generates real-time captions for media content on the device. It provides captions for videos, podcasts, and audio messages, even when there's no internet connection.

To take advantage of your built in device accessibility features check out the Apple or Android accessibility playlists on YouTube.

TELUS Tech for Good

Want to learn more? If you have a disability, you can participate in the TELUS Tech for Good program to receive access to free:

  • Training and support on how to use your mobile device’s accessibility features
  • Recommendations on assistive technology, including apps, software and hardware for mobile devices.

You do not need to be a TELUS customer to participate in Tech for Good. The program supports people with disabilities regardless of their mobility provider.

Delivered by experts with specialized knowledge in accessibility barriers and assistive technologies, training is provided by March of Dimes Canada on behalf of TELUS. Apply today for support through TELUS Tech for Good and discuss your individual needs with our Assistive Technology Specialists at March of Dimes Canada.

To learn more and apply visit telus.com/TechForGood

Tags:
Smartphones
Seniors & tech
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