My New Droid X Accessibility Features

I finally broke down and purchased my first Smart phone. The hold up was adding an extra $29.99 a month for the data plan. I finally justified the upgrade for two reasons. First, Jen Kramer, my Web Applications instructor said “if your going to be a Developer, you need to test and make applications accessible on mobile devices, so make sure you own a Smartphone”. My existing cell service is with Verizon and they were offering a $9.99 discount off any data plan for newly added Smartphones. So, for an additional $20 a month I now own a Droid X.

In less than 24 hours (with the help of a few YouTube videos) I have mastered the basic features and set up apps I plan to use for now. What I didn’t realize is that the Droid X could also become an accessibility device for someone with speech disabilities.

One of my assignments was to read Glenda Watson Hyatt’s blog post, The iPad as an Affordable Communicator: Initial Review. Glenda shares her experiences living with cerebral palsy to motivate and inspire others to think about how they perceive their own situation and their own world around them. She does all this by typing with only her left thumb!

This was her first experience with  both the iPad and the Prologue2Go app.. I learned that Prologue2Go is a communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking. It brings natural sounding text-to-speech voices by typing in words, sentence or selecting works/phases from up-to-date symbols to help chose your words and has a default vocabulary of over 7000 items. Every sentence/phase can be save to be added to your library to use again. It’s available for the iTouch, iPad and iPhone.

Glenda summed up the value these combined technologies offer: “I felt a sense of normalcy and acceptance. Using an iPad, which could become as commonplace as the Blackberry and iPhone, is not yet another thing that makes me different. I wasn’t using a strange, unfamiliar device to communicate with this group. People were drawn to it because it was a “recognized” or “known” piece of technology rather than being standoff-ish with an unknown communication device.”

I was intrigued by Glenda’s experience so I went searching to see what was available for my new Droid X. Here is what I found for Android 2.2 Accessibility Features:

  • A standardized Text To Speech API is part of the Android SDK.
  • Text-to-Speech (TTS) comes with voices for English (U.S. and U.K.), French, Italian, Spanish and German.
  • Project Eyes-Free (which includes accessibility tools such as TalkBack) provides several UI enhancements for using touch-screen input.
  • Starting with Android 1.6, the Android platform includes a set of easy to use accessibility APIs that make it possible to create accessibility aids such as screenreaders for the blind.
  • The Android platform now comes with applications that provide spoken, auditory (non-speech sounds) and haptic (vibration) feedback. Named TalkBack, SoundBack and KickBack, these applications are available via the Settings – Accessibility menu.
  • Quick Contact for Android provides instant access to a contact’s information and communication modes. For example, a user can tap a contact photo and select to call, SMS, or email the person. Other applications such as Email, Messaging, and Calendar can also reveal the Quick Contact widget when you touch a contact photo or status icon.
  • Android Version 2.0 offers haptic feedback, (Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology which takes advantage of a user’s sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions upon the user), built-in and uses Accessibility option, plus a new option for Text-to-speech.

I also searches and downloaded Talk-a-Droid Text to Speech app by Ideedle to my Droid X. This is a free text to speech app that will speak aloud whatever you type or say into it. It features 6 TTS Languages, Voice Recognition and Speed & Pitch Controls. It uses only a female voice, but I discovered SVOX Mobile Voices that adds cool voices to Android apps for navigation, e-book reading, speech-to-speech translation, language learning, and games. I haven’t downloaded this yet, but will try it and see how more personalized I can make this accessibility tool. Overall, Talk-a-Droid has a simple interface that easy to learn and use. It was so easy to use that my 8 year old enjoyed speaking and typing text to hear the spanish translation!

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