13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

 

For blind or visually impaired people, accessing simple information can sometimes be difficult. How can a nonsighted person get their bearings and choose the best route to get to their destination? Or read a document that’s not available in braille? Answer an email from a co-worker? Fortunately, technology keeps innovating and permits to assist people with a visual impairment in their everyday lives.

Indeed, 89% of them have a smartphone, a tool that truly revolutionizes their lives! If they can gain more autonomy today it’s thanks to features that are more advanced and accessible to the general public or thanks to apps that are specially designed for them. Blind or visually impaired people who find it restrictive and stressing to get around can now be more serene!

Let’s explore these apps together!

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a screen reader that’s integrated into iPhones that, as its name indicates, enunciates emails or other textual messages aloud. It’s up to the user to choose the speaking rate and the volume.

Not to forget that braille also remains an option for those who have a braille keyboard to connect to the smartphone or who just want to write in braille directly on the screen of their iPhone.

VoiceOver also describes all the elements on the screen such as apps icons, the battery level and even in part images thanks to artificial intelligence. All the information is thus accessible!

TalkBack

Android smartphones also have a similar screen reader with TalkBack. It follows the same guideline as for iPhones: reading textual elements aloud, exploring the screen, using braille with BrailleBack… Everything is set for an optimal and smooth navigation!

Siri

Directly integrated into iPhones, Siri is an easy-to-use vocal assistant. For blind or visually impaired people, for whom finding and clicking on the right button can be difficult, using a voice control enables them to save time!

They just need to ask Siri to call a contact, to send a dictated text message and everything is therefore easier!

Google Assistant

Also activated by voice control, Google Assistant has the same functionality as Siri. The user totally controls their smartphone according to their needs: sending an email, setting up an alarm, managing their schedule…

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Maps

It’s one of the most popular GPS navigation apps. Being able to anticipate their route is essential for blind and visually impaired people. And this also applies for other types of profiles in general since people with disabilities use 30% more the GPS on their smartphone than the rest of the population. (Find out all the facts and figures concerning their use of smartphones in our infographic.)

Google Maps enables users to have access to all the real-time traffic information which is ideal when choosing the right means of public transportation!

The app even provides a new feature called “Accessible Places” that enables users to even more apprehend their environment thanks to information concerning the seating plan of a restaurant, the exact location of a building entrance…

A precious help to serenely get around!

Available on both Android and iOS

Moovit

For those who are used to taking public transportation, this app lists all the possible means of transportation, their itineraries, their timetables and other information on real-time traffic.

The app even indicates the users the names of stops while on the bus, the tram or the subway. This proves to be essential for blind or visually impaired people when voice announcements aren’t activated.

Available on both Android and iOS

Microsoft Soundscape

Developed by Microsoft, this app is particularly innovative since it uses audio 3D technology to describe blind or visually impaired people their environment. 

Soundscape enables them to better apprehend their surroundings, to call out intersections and to find their bearings in the city with great facility. And all of that by having their smartphone in their pocket: their hands remain free for their white cane or their guide dog!

Available on iOS

Evelity

Developed by Okeenea Digital, this app is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

Compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack, Evelity provides audio instructions to users to guide them step by step. People with disabilities can easily find the reception desk or the classroom without needing to know the premises in advance.

Available on both Android and iOS

MyMoveo

We’re once again on the theme of mobility with MyMoveo developed by Okeenea Tech. This app enables blind or visually impaired users to activate connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals aBeacon to know when the pedestrian signal is green and thus safely cross the street.

Users can even use the app to activate the audio beacons NAVIGUEO+ HIFI which can locate points of interest such as the entrances of a public building or a subway station.

Available on both Android and iOS, an update is coming! 

Be My Eyes

An app with which users can ask the help of sighted users in order to match their clothes or to know the expiry date of a product. Thanks to an audio-video connexion, users can easily get in touch. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Aira

Aira works in the same way as Be My Eyes since it connects nonsighted people with sighted ones to help them in various tasks such as finding the gate of an airport.

What sets this app apart is that the sighted users, called agents, are specifically trained to assist blind or visually impaired users referred to as Explorers. 

Although the app can be downloaded for free, users are charged according to the different plans and services Aira provides. Depending on the formula they choose and their needs, the cost can thus be high.

Available on both Android and iOS

Seeing AI

A multipurpose app that permits to read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or product barcodes.

Seeing AI even recognizes images, colors and faces and thus gives details on people’s emotions. 

Available on iOS

Lookout

Lookout is the equivalent app of Seeing AI on Android. The user just has to activate their smartphone camera so that Lookout can identify banknotes, objects… Thanks to its Quick Read Mode, the app skims through a text which is ideal when sorting the mail for example.

An app that simplifies the everyday tasks and saves time to its users!

Available on Android

 

We can see that blind or visually impaired people have within their reach numerous apps that improve their autonomy especially concerning their mobility.

If you want to know more about other profiles of people with disabilities and the apps they use in their everyday lives, you can read our articles:

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020 

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf or Hard of Hearing People in 2020

 

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The app Evelity is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

 

Promoting active mobility and encouraging public transport in our cities of the 21st century often involves removing traffic lights. A change that’s not welcome for all pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable. Locating pedestrian crossings, knowing when to start without running any risk, finding your way in shared space, avoiding bicycles and scooters… are all new difficulties to be overcome for blind or visually impaired pedestrians, but also the elderly or children. How can we ensure that challenging the over dominant position of cars will benefit all pedestrians? Getting rid of traffic lights must be accompanied by measures for the safety and comfort of all. Let’s see what they are!

 

Removing traffic lights for more attentive motorists

The European Union’s Mobility and Transport organization includes the promotion of walking and cycling among its strategies to enable more sustainable transportation in Europe. Local governments are now implementing policies aimed at promoting the practice of active mobility and public transport services and have adopted a Vision Zero approach. In this context, the place of traffic lights at intersections is questioned. Generally perceived as safety features, these traffic signals have however proven over time that they do not prevent accidents. In 2016, 5.320 pedestrians were killed in road accidents in the European Union. Despite all road safety measures, pedestrian fatalities decrease more slowly than road fatalities in general. In the United States as well, about 14% of fatal crashes occur at signals and the large majority of them involve pedestrians. 

According to European studies, removing traffic signals would have many benefits:

⊗ Reducing bad driving practices (e.g. running red lights, accelerating through a yellow light, etc.);

⊗ Reducing vehicle speed;

⊗ Avoiding motorized traffic congestion;

⊗ Decreasing noise and pollution;

⊗ Lowering operating costs. 

So that removing traffic lights brings real benefits in terms of safety, it must of course be accompanied with measures limiting vehicle speed: setting the speed limit at a maximum of 30km/h (20mph), new geometric design, roundabouts, speed-warning signs, shared spaces. 

Seattle is one of the first cities in the United States to study how reducing speed limits and increasing speed limit sign frequency improves safety for everyone. Early results show a decrease in vehicular speeds and a reduction of up to 39% in crashes.

The same applies in Europe. The number of people seriously injured in road accidents dropped by 72% in the German city of Münster when a 30km/h limit was introduced.  

Removing the traffic lights would encourage road users to pay closer attention towards each other. Instead of focusing on the color of the traffic light, they would be more attentive to their environment and to the different movements of pedestrians, cyclists or other motorists.

 

A sense of insecurity for nearly 20% of pedestrians

Despite the speed limit measures associated with the removal of traffic lights, many pedestrians do not feel the benefits and feel unsafe when crossing streets. Moreover, even in the presence of traffic lights, observations show that, if most of the pedestrians, the most mobile and abled, do not respect the pedestrian red phase and start crossing as soon as the way is clear, about 20% do not dare to walk until the signal has turned green. These are the elderly, children, parents with strollers, disabled people, those who carry heavy loads, in short, all pedestrians with reduced mobility. And so these are the same people who suffer from the removal of traffic lights. Even though their safety is theoretically ensured by reducing speed, their sense of insecurity is real.

In 2016, a new mobility strategy was implemented in Amsterdam to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians while limiting space for vehicles. In this context, traffic lights were removed from a busy junction. When cyclists were asked whether the traffic lights were necessary, the majority was undecided because they had never thought about this question. But about a third said “absolutely yes”. The proportion is approximately the same among pedestrians as show the results of an experiment led in Paris.

According to most road regulations in the world, motorists have to reduce their speed when they approach an intersection and get ready to stop when someone is waiting to cross the street. Failing to comply with this rule is punished with severe fines and other penalties (e.g. driving license suspension or revocation).

Despite these very deterrent measures, you just have to stand for a few minutes near a pedestrian crossing and observe to realize that the rule is not followed by the majority of motorists. Therefore, pedestrians do not cross for fear of being struck by a vehicle and motorists do not stop for fear of being struck by the vehicle behind them.

 

Impossible eye contact for blind or visually impaired pedestrians

Showing your intention to cross the street and communicating with cyclists or motorists require eye contact, gestures and expressions, a language that is inaccessible to blind or visually impaired people. They can only rely on auditory clues.

And they are not the only ones suffering from this situation! Judging by the growing number of pedestrians who are focused on their smartphones, visual communication between road users is increasingly compromised.

Smombies: the New Safety Challenge for Cities in the 21st Century 

Some cities in Japan, China or Australia have already taken measures to solve this new safety issue: dedicated sidewalks, warning signs or flashing lights on pavements at dangerous intersections, etc. 

In France, the RATP group has teamed up with Okeenea to alert smartphone addicts using the app AMY connected to aBeacon, an audible pedestrian signal primarily designed for blind and visually impaired pedestrians.

 

The importance of making spaces legible and understandable

To meet the diverse needs of road users, reducing speed alone is not enough to create a sense of safety. What causes the most difficulties for the blind or visually impaired, but also for the elderly or anyone with a deficit in cognitive or intellectual abilities, is the lack of legibility of spaces. The non-regulation of flows by traffic lights and the creation of shared spaces generate disorganized or erratic movements. However, people with visual impairments learn to listen to traffic flows by ear to find their way around. No longer possible under these conditions.

Remember that the proportion of people over 75 in the population is expected to double within 40 years and that the risk of developing a visual impairment increases with age. At the same time, the ability to assess danger, distances and traffic speeds decreases. The multiplication of modes of travel (bicycles, scooters, etc.) and the appearance of silent vehicles further increase the difficulty. It is therefore essential that the most vulnerable pedestrians can move in spaces where they feel safe.

 

Visual, tactile and auditory cues

To meet the need for legibility of space expressed by the most vulnerable pedestrians, town planners must ensure that they maintain visual, tactile and auditory cues in cities.

Even in the absence of pedestrian signals, it is recommended to maintain audible markings at street intersections so that blind or visually impaired people can identify places where they can cross. After having removed traffic lights on intersections, the French city of Rouen has installed audio beacons, which can be activated on demand with a remote control or smartphone app, and can be combined with flashing lights to alert motorists of the presence of vulnerable pedestrians.

Reducing speed and creating traffic-calmed areas means removing any device that might suggest the right-of-way of motorists over pedestrians, such as the traditional white strips of zebra crossings. However, to feel safe, the most vulnerable pedestrians do need dedicated spaces. This is the principle of the “comfort space” introduced by the British Department for Transport, in its Local Transport Note about shared spaces published in 2011. Comfort space is an area of the street predominantly for pedestrian use where motor vehicles are unlikely to be present. In a level surface street, comfort space can be provided by a tonal contrast and tactile delineator strips. It must be clearly identified by most vulnerable people.

At each intersection, the pedestrian right-of-way must be clearly indicated to motorists. Pedestrians must also be able to easily identify the conflict zone so as to increase their vigilance there. This is all the more crucial for blind or visually impaired pedestrians, who generally rely on the number of intersections to memorize their route.

 

Safety awareness, training and education for road users and urban designers

Considering the extent of the failure to respect the right-of-way given to pedestrians by other road users, it seems crucial to increase awareness campaigns.

Changing the attitudes and behavior of drivers and pedestrians is a complex, long-term undertaking that requires a variety of interventions to be implemented: 

⊗ Road safety programs,

⊗ Mass media campaigns,

⊗ Introducing radar speed signs along hazardous sections, etc.

Changes in public road safety policy and urban design require that decision makers and practitioners are continually trained and educated to implement them. The World Health Organization gives valuable advice in its road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners.

 

In any case, presence or absence of traffic lights, let us never forget that the street belongs to everyone and not only to the 80% of the most able-bodied people! Everyone’s participation in society is at stake, this “inclusive society” that we strive to build together.

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So that removing traffic lights brings real benefits in terms of safety, it must of course be accompanied with measures limiting vehicle speed: setting the speed limit at a maximum of 30km/h (20mph), new geometric design, roundabouts, speed-warning signs, shared spaces. 

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

 

You’re facing a person with an intellectual disability and you don’t know how to exchange with them? Everybody can feel uncomfortable seeing we don’t always know how to approach, or help if necessary, a person with disabilities. Whether you are a tourism professional who needs keys to welcome a person with an intellectual disability in your establishment or a curious citizen who wants advice in order to easily communicate with a colleague with an intellectual disability, these tips are made for you! 

 

What is intellectual disability?

Intellectual disability comes from a learning disability. Generally appearing from birth, it’s characterized by learning difficulties and an intellectual development that’s inferior to the population average. People with an intellectual disability have trouble thinking, conceptualizing, communicating and making decisions.

Trisomy 21 (or Down syndrome) is the most well known genetic disorder that leads to an intellectual disability but other syndromes exist such as Fragile X, Prader-Willi or Smith-Magenis…

Around 7 million people have intellectual disabilities in the United States. (Our article Disabled People in the World in 2019: Facts and Figures details all the figures about the types of disabilities.) How to easily communicate with them and make them feel welcome? 

 

1. Smile!

There’s nothing like a beautiful and sincere smile to put at ease your conversation partner! Keep in mind that we can draw a lot of emotions thanks to our facial expressions!

 

2. Stay natural

When facing a person with an intellectual disability, the best thing to do is to address them the same way you would anyone. Using a warm tone devoid of pity!

 

3. Do not infantilize your conversation partner

Remain civilized and respectful in all circumstances, even if their behavior can seem childish to you.

 

4. Be patient

Take your time to truly listen to the person in front of you and adopt a reassuring attitude. Let the person speak and react at their own pace. Also be patient when you inform or guide a person with an intellectual disability. 

 

5. Use a simple and clear language

Opting for a language devoid of technical and specialized terms or unnecessary details will help you get your message across.

 

6. Add other mediums to your communication

A written text, an image or even body language can be useful when the person in front of you has trouble understanding you or memorizing information.

 

7. Offer to help

Of course you can offer to help but don’t get offended if the answer is negative. A person with an intellectual disability can indeed be autonomous according to the situations and their capabilities so it’s best not to impose your help even though you have good intentions in the first place.

 

8. Do not take offence

Some behaviors or attitudes can seem strange to you but there’s no need to take offence.

 

9. Avoid clichés

Keep finding out about people with disabilities and how to behave around them. Our article 8 Clichés about Intellectual Disability can complete these tips.

 

Implementing a simple yet efficient signage system with colored icons and easy-to-understand words help facilitate the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in establishments open to the public. As you can see, it’s easy to make them feel welcome in any type of situation! 

 

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Take your time to truly listen to the person in front of you and adopt a reassuring attitude.

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

The Trailblazers of College Accessibility in the United States

The Trailblazers of College Accessibility in the United States

The Trailblazers of College Accessibility in the United States

 

The academic year has started! It’s time for students to go back to college and to fully build their own future! But some, like students with disabilities, can face obstacles during their studies. College accessibility is key to make sure these students can succeed, whether they have a visual or a hearing impairment or motor difficulties.

Around 20% of students with disabilities attend college in the United States. A percentage that keeps increasing every year due to the fact that colleges and universities put up more and more measures to make their premises and their curriculums accessible to all. They thus attract more and more students with disabilities who wish to have access to a higher education.

What do American colleges need to do to be accessible? How can they promote the inclusion of students with disabilities? Get ready to take some notes, we’re going to dissect everything! Retakes aren’t admissible!

Measures promoting college accessibility

Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA), students with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21 receive a public education that’s tailored to their profile. One of its most important goals is to help students have access to a higher education establishing transition services. These services work closely with students to guide them by helping them to find the right college and preparing them for their life on campus.

The same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. It aims at protecting people with disabilities from any type of discrimination by implementing accessibility measures in public accommodations. Giving people with disabilities the same services and opportunities as any other citizens represents the true meaning of accessibility. Thus public academic institutions need to abide by it. 

Both acts demonstrate that it’s up to schools and colleges to adapt to the students’ different profiles in order to facilitate their inclusion and their success by first turning their premises accessible. For colleges, it concerns the whole campus: administrative services, lecture halls, cafeterias, libraries… A lot of measures that answer the needs of students with disabilities, regardless of their profile, are easy to implement:

⊗ Automatic doors;

⊗ Guide paths for orientation; 

⊗ Elevators and access ramps;

⊗ Visual contrasting non-slip stair nosings;

⊗ Audio beacons located at strategic points of interest (entrances, reception desk, assemble rooms…);

⊗ Universal pictograms; 

⊗ Braille signs;

⊗ Audio induction loops;

⊗ Accessible restrooms.

We thus have simple yet very efficient systems that enable students but also faculty members with disabilities to get their bearings in a huge and crowded place without needing to be accompanied by someone. Even technology can be useful like Evelity, an indoor wayfinding app specially designed to guide people with disabilities step by step. To use this innovative technology, users just need a smartphone, an essential tool that favors the autonomy of people with disabilities in their everyday lives.

To make sure students with disabilities have equal access to programs, activities and courses but also accessible accommodations on campus, colleges all have disability services at their disposal. However, colleges don’t provide the same disability resources to their students. It’s up to them to carefully choose a college that perfectly answers their needs. They can research anything they need to know on disability and higher education on the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD) website. Most services constitute in:

⊗ Note takers;

⊗ American sign language interpreters;

⊗ Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs);

⊗ Assistive technology (screen readers, alternate format materials, video magnifiers…); 

⊗ Exam adjustments;

⊗ Housing accomodations (wheelchair accessible for example).

Some institutions can afford to go further like world-class private university Harvard. Indeed, Harvard pays attention to ergonomics for its students as well as its faculty members with disabilities by providing furniture and office equipment that’s adapted to their type of disability. The university also puts at their disposal accessible shuttles and vans to facilitate their getting around. Everything is thought to make their lives on campus agreable!

Another good example is Berkeley that provides all the necessary services listed above but also takes into consideration the needs of students on the autism spectrum. Different academic supports like executive function skills building and an emphasis on social engagement with a weekly discussion group enable students on the autism spectrum to succeed in their studies and to have a rich campus life. 

Easily accessible campuses  

Thanks to their accessibility, colleges and universities can bank on their attractivity to enroll new students. It’s a place where students spend several years learning, shaping their personalities and creating links with others. Consequently, for those who don’t already have an accommodation on the premises being able to easily go there is key to guarantee they have a good college experience.  

For students with reduced mobility, going to college by car can easily turn into a conundrum when it comes to finding a PRM parking space on campus. A college with accessible parking spaces strengthens even more their autonomy to get around. 

Using public transportation to go to college can also facilitate the lives of students as long as it’s accessible. Subway stations for instance need to be equipped with elevators and escalators. Students with disabilities living in Boston are lucky to use the MBTA since it has strongly improved its accessibility over the years. All buses have a retractable access ramp and dedicated spaces for people using wheelchairs, they remain a good means of transport for people with reduced mobility.

For places as huge as campuses, making accessible every possible route between all the different buildings: from the student center to the lecture halls, from the lecture halls to the library or from the library to the cafeteria… There are a lot of possible combinations that students do to successfully complete their studies and their lives on campus. As we previously saw, a simple and clear signage system enables all students to easily get their bearings in an autonomous way. Tactile guiding paths are the easiest way for visually impaired students to find their way to their chosen destination. They simply have to follow them. 

A lot of colleges and universities put an online map of their campus so that students can easily comprehend the premises. In addition to all the necessary information on the location of the buildings, the map of the University of Michigan also indicates where the accessible entrances are.

Understanding the issues of students with disabilities

Although a lot of apps exist to facilitate the communication of hearing impaired students with others, it’s always better when they face empathic people. Whether they are faculty members of fellow students, it’s important they put themselves in their position by following several tips to make them feel welcome. Being sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities favors their inclusion and offers them a comfortable environment for their studies. A well trained staff and faculty plays a major role in the success of these students. Colleges and universities that focus on disability awareness will attract more students with disabilities.

Seeing that the number of students with disabilities who decide to go to college keeps increasing, colleges and universities need to be able to answer their needs for a perfect inclusion and success. Setting up accessibility measures enables colleges to strengthen their positive image and reputation.

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To make sure students with disabilities have equal access to programs, activities and courses, colleges all have disability services at their disposal.

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.