Apps that make life more accessible

Phone and tablet apps can help remove some of the barriers you face in daily life. This could be anything from turning speech into text to finding an accessible toilet.

We've collected together some of the ways apps can help you and included some examples. We have focused on what the apps can do so you can search for new or similar apps.

Warning Some apps are paid

Check the costs of using the app you are interested in. Some are:

  • free
  • free to download with in-app purchases, including subscriptions
  • paid to download
  • paid to download with in-app purchases

We do not endorse these apps

We are not responsible for websites we link to and we do not endorse or accept liability for the apps used as examples.

We have included apps to support people with different access needs, but some apps might not be inclusive of all access needs. If an app is not accessible to you:

  • contact the app provider to tell them about your access needs
  • use Scope's Big Hack reporting tool to help us show companies about the barriers disabled people face online and help improve accessibility

We will regularly check this page but if an app is no longer available, please contact us and we'll update the information.

Warning Some apps will use up data quickly

Some apps will use a lot of data if you're using the app when you're out. If you're using an app without Wi-Fi, check your settings to find out how much data each app is using.

Audio apps

There are plenty of apps that can help with audio and transcription. They have different capabilities so you might need a couple of apps for different situations.

Entertainment subtitles

Some apps show subtitles on your phone for TV programmes or movies that do not have subtitles. Once synchronised, they will appear in real-time. You can use the app in the cinema too.

To see if this type of app will help you, you could try:

Subtitle Viewer! for Apple

Subtitle Viewer for Android

Some TV apps, like Netflix, Amazon Prime or BBC iPlayer, will have subtitles available for certain shows. Subtitles are not always available but it can help to check on the app.

Live transcription for phone calls

Some apps can help transcribe your phone calls into text.

For both Android and Apple devices, you could try:

Roger Voice, which adds captions to voice and video conversations in real-time when using the app.

Relay UK (previously Next Generation Text) offers a text relay service. While you are having a phone call, an assistant:

  • listens and types what's being said to you so you can read it
  • reads your written responses out loud so the other caller can hear it

Live transcription and notetakers

There are apps that will give you live transcriptions of what is being said around you. This could be a conversation in the pub or for a lecture or talk.

Some apps are limited in what they can transcribe. The technology is evolving so it's worth checking for new apps and updating the ones you use.

To see if this type of app will help you, you could try:

Google Live Transcribe for Android offers "real-time transcription of speech and sound to text on your screen".

Otter focuses on meetings transcription but it also transcribes conversations. Otter is available on Apple and Android.

Just Press Record app for iPhone transcribes audio recordings, such as lectures, talks or meetings.

Sound amplifiers

There are apps available that help you hear what's happening around you more clearly. This might be by reducing background noise or boosting the sounds you want to hear.

For Android devices you could try:

Google Sound Amplifier

uSound hearing assistant for Android

For Apple devices, you could try:

HearYouNow personal amplifier

uSound app

You could also try an app that alerts you to certain noises, like your doorbell.

Sound Alert detects specific indoor and outdoor sounds and sends you an alert on your smartphone, smart watch or other smart device.

Hearing aid control apps

Some hearing aid apps help you to customise volume, filter noise and focus on speech. Others can connect your phone's audio to your hearing aids.

Most hearing aid manufacturers offer these apps but compatibility depends on:

  • the make and style of your hearing aid
  • your phone model

Ask your hearing care professional for more details.

Vision apps

There are many apps that help visually impaired people. There are also a range of built-in accessibility features that help make using your phone and apps easier, including magnification, text to speech and voice control capabilities. Check your phone's accessibility features for help.

Smartphone accessibility features

Apps that tell you about your surroundings

Some apps can help you understand your surroundings. This might be:

  • recognising and describing objects
  • reading text, documents or handwritten notes aloud
  • telling you what's in front of you
  • scanning barcodes of products
  • recognising faces, currencies and colours

Try these features on:

Lookout by Google. Available on Android devices.

Envision AI. You can also train this app to recognise friends and family. Available on Apple and Android.

Seeing AI. This app can also describe photos on your phone and in other apps. Available on Apple devices.

You might also want to try:

Soundscape app. This tells you about your surroundings by creating 3D sound. It can run in the background with other apps to give you additional context about the environment. Available on Apple devices.

Be My Eyes. This service connects you to a volunteer via a live video call. Volunteers can help you with things like checking expiry dates, distinguishing colours, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings. Available on Apple and Android.

BlindSquare, a popular, accessible GPS app that describes the environment. It announces points of interest, like shops or restaurants, and street crossings as you travel. Available on Apple devices.

Communication apps

Some apps can help you communicate. These might include apps that:

Some AAC tools will let you choose different voices.

For help with communication, you could try looking at:

JABtalk speech communication app. This helps non-verbal children and adults communicate. It aims to be an easy and effective AAC tool for mobile. Available on Android.

Tap Chat. An AAC speech and language communication app that lets you use, build and share boards with custom images, voices, words, categories and more. Available on Android and Apple.

Grid iPad app for symbol and text communication. If you have a Grid device, Grid Player lets you transfer your grid sets to your iPhone or iPad.

BlueAssist. You can make 'BlueAssist cards' to ask for help in different places, like on a bus or in a shop. Available on Android devices.

AAC apps pdf (callscotland.org.uk). The chart was updated in 2018. There are links to the apps in the chart, but some apps may no longer be available.

Sleep, relaxation and sensory support apps

Relaxation and meditation apps can sometimes help you face barriers and challenges in daily life, sometimes related to your condition, sometimes not. Other apps can be more helpful for specific sensory support when you need it the most.

Relaxation, meditation and sleep

You could try apps like:

Moodpanda helps you track your mood and get anonymous support and advice from the MoodPanda community. You can also analyse your mood on graphs and calendars.

Relax Melodies helps with relaxation and sleep by combining soothing sounds, sleep meditations and breathing techniques.

Stop, Breathe, and Think app for daily meditation and mindfulness. This app offers short, guided meditations, yoga and acupressure videos tuned to how you feel.

Headspace also helps with relaxation, meditation and mindfulness.

All the apps are available on Apple and Android.

Sensory support

Some apps are specifically designed to help those who experience sensory overload. Some apps will calm or relax the user. Others might stimulate the user with things like kaleidoscopes, infinity tunnel and touch effects.

You could try:

Miracle Modus uses hypnotic mathematically-patterned rainbow lights and soft bells. The creator is autistic and wanted something to help with sensory overload. There are different settings to suit your needs.

Miracle Modus for Apple.

Miracle Modus for Android.

Sensory App House offers a range of apps to help with sensory needs.

Organisation apps

There are plenty of apps that can help you organise your life. These types of apps can help you with different things, such as:

  • motivation
  • organising a work project
  • making 'to do' lists
  • reminders for daily activities, like brushing your teeth or taking medication

The right app for you will depend on your needs, you could try:

Habitica is a free habit-building and productivity app that treats your life like a game. With “in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you”, the app can help you achieve your goals.

Todoist helps you organise and prioritise your tasks and projects.

Both apps are available on Android and Apple.

Reading and dyslexia apps

Some apps can help people with dyslexia or reading challenges. These apps can help by:

  • reading out text
  • copying text from documents and images
  • highlighting text as it is spoken
  • correcting spelling, grammar and misused words

You could try looking at:

Claro apps, which can help you with different tasks, including reading text for you, editing pdfs and magnifying text.

Claro Android apps

Claro Apple apps

Voice Dream apps can help with reading, writing and scanning documents. Available on Apple devices.

Dyslexic.com has a list of useful apps.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has a list of helpful apps for dyslexia.

Pdf of dyslexia, reading and writing apps (callscotland.org.uk). This was chart last updated in October 2018.

Making your phone easier to use with apps

There are apps that can help make your phone or tablet easier to use.

To see if these types of app would help you, try:

Assistive Touch for Android helps you quickly access all your favourite apps and settings. It offers a range of features, including:

  • virtual home, volume and back buttons
  • Wi-Fi and bluetooth
  • location (GPS)
  • sound mode (normal, vibrate, silent)
  • flashlight

If you're using an Apple device, AssistiveTouch is available in your 'accessibility' settings.

Voice Access for Android lets you use voice commands to do:

  • basic actions and navigation from any screen ('go back' or 'go home')
  • gestures that interact with things on the screen ('click next' or 'scroll down')
  • text editing and dictation ('type hello')

Voice Access may work better with some types of voice than others.

Swiftkey and Gboard (the Google keyboard) are keyboards that let you to swipe across the keys to type. They're useful if you need help using a standard keyboard or type one-handed. Gboard also has a 'one-handed' mode that makes the keys easier to reach. Both apps are available on Apple and Android.

Dotkey helps you type quickly and comfortably with one hand. The app uses taps, swipes and other hand gestures to type instead of using a keyboard.

Some phones might have in-built features similar to these apps, such as the iPhone's Siri or one-handed keyboard.

Phone accessibility features

Going outside apps

Developers are releasing apps that can help you go out and enjoy activities with fewer barriers. Many of these apps are designed for disabled people and might help you with things like finding accessible locations, such as restaurants, pubs, cinemas or theatres.

It can also help to look for apps that are not specifically designed for disabled people but support your access needs, like travel apps with live updates or apps for pubs and restaurants that let you order and pay from your table.

Available on both Apple and Android devices, you could try:

AccessAble, which used to be 'DisabledGo'. This helps you to search accessible places to go. They also have 'access guides' for some stores.

Access Earth is a free app that allows you to find and places by your accessibility needs.

Blue Badge Parking app for iPhone and Blue Badge Parking app for Android helps you to find blue badge parking spaces.

Changing Places toilet app helps you find accessible public toilets across the UK.

Cinemap app lets you search for cinemas and book tickets.

Trainline app and Bus checker app help you find out travel times and get live updates to your phone rather than relying on displays or announcements.

Uber app and Gett black taxi app can help you order a taxi without needing to call. Most black cabs are wheelchair accessible. With the Gett app you can add a note to your booking telling your driver you might need assistance. Uber offer accessible taxis in certain cities.

Apps that store tickets and documents can help you avoid printing and carrying paper when you're out. This might be:

  • train tickets
  • boarding passes for planes
  • phone contactless payments

Some apps will have this function as part of the app, like train or airline apps. Other apps might come with your phone, like Apple wallet.

Help at home apps

There are some apps that help around the home. This could be anything from food shopping and prescription delivery apps to apps that connect to tech in the home, like heating systems, lights or devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Online banking apps

Ask your bank if they have an app to make it easier to manage your money from home and avoid needing to call or go to a branch. This can also help if you need to report a stolen or lost card but cannot call.

Gas and electricity smart meter apps

Ask your supplier if they have an smart meter app to top up gas and electricity from home.

Home heating

There are apps that let you control your heating and thermostat. For example, Hive or BT.

Medical services

Echo NHS app lets you order medication for delivery to your home. It also reminds you to take your prescription and when you need to order more.

Finding apps for your needs

There are a few ways you can find out about apps that may meet your needs:

Talk to other people

Asking other people about the apps they use can help you find out what apps are out there. You could try:

  • asking disabled friends or colleagues what apps they use
  • reading conversations about apps and other assistive technology on online communities or forums
  • talking to other people or asking for advice on online communities or forums

Scope has an online community group for specialist or adaptive technology. Ask our assistive tech experts for advice.

Disabled Living Foundation has the Youreable forum for disabled people.

Search on social media

Social media can be a great place to find information or connect with others in a similar situation. You could try:

  • searching Twitter using searches like 'accessibility apps', 'A11y apps' or 'a11y tech'. 'A11y' is short for accessibility.
  • finding disability blogs or blogs by people with the same condition or impairment as you
  • looking for Facebook groups, such as general accessible tech groups or groups for your condition or impairment

Read reviews

Reviews can help you learn more about an app and its features, or tell you about how others have used it and whether it will meet your needs. You could try reading:

  • tech reviews and assistive tech reviews
  • customer reviews
  • blogger reviews

Warning Reviews are not professional advice

Advice on communities, forums, customer reviews and social media are often based on one person's experience. Finding more reviews may help you to understand how people feel about an app, but reviews are not professional advice.

Help with apps and technology online

Searching online and on app stores can be overwhelming with so many apps on offer. These websites are a good place to start

CNET's Tech Enabled article series on the role tech plays in providing new kinds of accessibility

Call Scotland posters and clickable charts on disability apps, tech help and guides

Vital Tech guide to assistive tech for blind and partially sighted people

AbilityNet useful links for disability and technology

Assistive technology for disabled people Pinterest board

Digital support for smartphones and tablets (Digital Unite)

10 best Android accessibility apps (androidauthority.com)

Check disability websites supporting your needs for specific app and tech suggestions. For example, the Site Advice FAQ list of apps for visual impairments.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 25/11/2019

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