Wireless Telecommunication

Image of globe with app icons

How many of us sit at home, waiting for our landline phones to ring?  Mine is used mainly to filter out robocalls and telemarketers.  Today’s world almost demands that we have a smartphone, and that we be able to access communication whenever, wherever we are.  People with disabilities have the same needs, though they might require different ways to access that communication.  

Smartphones today have many accessibility features built in.  Apple products include settings for VoiceOver, magnification, text to speech, and switch control.  It is now possible to design switch “recipes” to assign switches different functions, such as turning pages in a book, or activating game controls. Android accessibility features include TalkBack and captioning.


The world of apps has also made a great difference in how we access communication.  The list below contains a few examples of apps that may benefit individuals with disabilities:

  • Facetime, Skype and Google Duo
    • These apps make video calls. This can be used for conversations in ASL.  If a photo is associated with a person’s contact information, someone with a print disability can make a call without having to read the phone number or email address.
  • Advance 911
    • This app allows you to text emergency services, and includes your GPS location.
  • Google Hangouts
    • With Hangouts, you can text, talk, or make a video call.  You can also send photos.  This can be used by a person with ID to increase their access to independent communication.  
  • ICanSee (print magnification), Fleksy Keyboard, and Zoom Contact
    • These apps can make it easier for a person with vision impairment to access their phone

How about those who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)?  Many apps allow you to export your message, symbol-based or text, to a text message, email, Hangouts conversation, or social media. Some of these include:

  • Proloquo2Go & Proloquo4Text
  • Predictable
  • TouchChat HD with WordPower
  • Speak For Yourself
  • CoughDrop

Other dedicated communication devices can connect with an Android phone via Bluetooth.

Wireless telecommunication has to potential to greatly impact the ability of people with disabilities to participate in their communities, to work, and to self advocate.  Think outside box.  What apps do you rely on?  


Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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