Best Apps For Wheelchair Users
Modern smartphones are brimming with useful accessibility features built-in, such as screen readers, but beyond what is available on your Apple or Android’s existing operating system lies an app store that is now increasing daily with accessibility app technology, particularly for people with mobility issues.
Apps like “Inclusive Britain” – allowing users to locate accessible hotels, restaurants, shops and museums – are becoming more popular both for designers to create and for users to download and use.
Olympic Lifts have compiled a list of their favourite apps currently offering assistance and services to wheelchair users:
In 2016, Apple Watch announced that the launch of their next operating system watchOS 3 would give the wearable gadget the ability to track the fitness of wheelchair users for the first time. Apple have researched and designed the Activity app so that it will now track distance, speed and calories burned through wheeling, rather than the traditional counts of walking/running. Calorie counting will take into account the surface, the gradient and whether the person is pushing or rolling. The free update can be downloaded for free to existing Apple Watches, or comes as standard in new purchases. For manual wheelchair operation, a Fitbit Flex worn around the wrist can also track calories burned through manual propelling with the hands.
Health and fitness wearables and tracking apps have been on the market for some time when it comes to able-bodied exercise regimes or simple step counting technology. But now technology is advancing and, thankfully, app designers are catching up with the wider user markets outside the main consumer groups. That means we now have a host of great options to choose from in the wheelchair fitness tracker range. “Freewheel” attaches to your wheelchair and tracks accelerations, speed and incline. The sensors can even calculate additional muscle use when crossing different terrains. The ability for these more modern prototypes to also communicate with wearables, means they go a step further and allow healthcare professionals to manage data such as heart rate monitoring in conjunction with daily movement.
As with fitness, Sat Nav mapping technology is now moving beyond the simple act of getting from A-B to a point where apps are designed for very specific mapping, such as cycle routes in cities. That has naturally led to advancements in accessibility mapping and “Wheelmap” is a great example of the data in action through a smartphone app. Based on the free, global online map available at , the app allows users to find accessible locations or add their own, complete with comments or photos. This makes planning travel and tourism or general socialising in towns and cities much easier for mobility-impaired people.
When we think of wheelchair accessibility it’s easy to focus on travelling to new places outside the home. However the everyday tasks are often what cause the biggest unnecessary problems when out and about. That’s why the app “WheelMate” is so helpful; it lets users locate wheelchair-accessible everyday services such as public toilets and parking spaces. With 30,000 locations and growing, it provides a vital information service that avoids any time wasting or internet research work, particularly helpful if you’re in a new place that you don’t know well.
An obvious issue for wheelchair users is the fact that their hands are busy, and smartphone usage relies on the touch of our hands, making internet searches or communicating by call/messages difficult. Apps like “Dragon Dictation” can help to get around the issue of limited hand use by recording your voice and working out what you want to do on the internet by voice activation. It also allows for Facebook status updates, Tweets and setting phone reminders, all through voice controls. “Talkitt” is a particularly good app if speech is impaired slightly, recognising the user’s vocal patterns and translating their speech more clearly. Amazingly, it works in every language.
The “Physiotherapy Exercises” app is popular not just among wheelchair users, but also among the physiotherapist community, too. It is considered a quality library of exercises that are specifically designed for people with spinal cord injuries. For safety, too, apps like “iFall” or “Fall Detection” use the phone’s accelerometer to measure force and acceleration in detecting if a fall has occurred and can alert an emergency contact if necessary.
As important to overall wellbeing as physical health is that of mental health. Free app “Optimism” is similar to physical tracking apps and health diaries in that it allows the user to track their symptoms of emotional and mental wellbeing on a daily basis. This helps to identify triggers of periods of decline, while also giving a clearer picture to carers and healthcare providers of the longer-term improvements or decline and understand the impact of any physical disability on mental health.
Wheelchair users may find themselves with more doctor and healthcare worker visits than able-bodied people and that can mean juggling and remembering a lot of information. “Symple” is just one of the healthy diary-style apps designed to make these visits easier to manage. Using Symple throughout the month allows you to track symptoms and issues so you won’t forget, whilst also giving you a more long-term picture over time to see how you’re progressing and notice any correlation between health issues. The information is then stored, organised and easy to share with your doctor or healthcare worker.