Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Apple vs. Google: Which is More Accessible?

by Allan Friedman

When it comes to mobile devices, Apple's iOS (operating system) has had better accessibility features and supports more accessibility apps than phones and tablets that run on the Android OS. But that is changing.

The Wireless RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center) surveyed 452 people with a disability and found that 92 percent owned or used a wireless device. The most recent WebAim Screen Reader Survey 4 indicates that 71.8 percent of respondents use a screen reader on a mobile device. 58 percent of them use an Apple device. Clearly, more and more people with disabilities are using mobile devices with some kind of accessibility features and support.

But how do they compare?

In a head to head comparison, Apple is the accessibility leader. Its built-in accessibility features, the many adaptive and assistive apps available, and ease of use make it the first choice for most people with disabilities.

To begin with, Apple's iOS comes with a number of accessibility features (black on white, larger text sizes for default apps, interface zoom, etc.) that continue to be improved upon. Apple's new VoiceOver has been acknowledged as one of its most useful accessibility features.

According to Apple, VoiceOver is a different type of text to speech app. It provides the contextual information that screen readers do not. When VoiceOver is enabled it announces the letter as you move your finger across the on-screen keyboard.

In addition to VoiceOver, Apple devices can zoom up to 500%, allow users to create their own gestures to navigate and choose items, function in a high contrast mode for people with low vision and it supports open or closed captioning.

The introduction of Siri, Apple's voice controlled assistant, has enabled users to control many features and retrieve information using its natural voice recognition software.

While Google is a bit behind Apple, its latest iteration of the Android operating system (4.2) has several improvements in the accessibility area. It enables users to use high contrast colors, change font sizes, use a real button to answer/end calls and has a text to speech app that enables users to explore by touch (similar to Apple's VoiceOver), kickback (an app that provides vibratory feedback for different actions)and it has a speech to text function as well.

There are a number of manufacturers who build Android devices. They do not all have the same accessibility. Google's approach to accessibility is to let each manufacturer come up with their own solution. Google's own phones and tablets tend to have more accessibility features than some 3rd party phones and tablets.

So, as the accessibility of mobile platform operating systems continues to improve, the choice between an Apple product and one using the Android operating system becomes more personal. Accessibility is only one factor in the buying decision. But, for most people with a disability, it is the most important factor.

The best way to decide what is right for you is to try different devices prior to making a purchase. That's why we have the (DLLs). The DLLs offer an opportunity to borrow different devices (including tablets) and try them for 30 days at no charge. By taking the time to compare devices in the ways and places you would use them, you can be reasonably confident that you will get the most out of the device you choose.

For further information about mobile devices and accessibility visit:
So what do you think? Do you prefer Apple or Android? Are you a fan of Google products? Post your thoughts in the comment box below.

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