Accessibility features for the hard-of-hearing

As I wrote in the previous column, despite market competition leading to differentiation including competing on pricing which is good for consumers, in the case of technology, differentiation also often leads to confusion.

Still, one of many good things that comes standard in your purchase of a device of any make or model is the "Accessibility" category in your device's "Settings" app. This is where you can make your device, for example your smartphone, into a true sidekick that can help with your sensory or motor-skill challenges.

Compared to 2020 when I succumbed to the extreme case of Hard-of-Hearing (HoH), i.e. idiopathic deafness, there's advancement in our smartphone's Accessibility configuration. Apple iPhones running the most current iOS version "16," and select Android smartphones running Android version "10" or later, have the "Live Caption" feature that can be enabled under Accessibility settings.

Live caption, when turned on, captions anything playing on your smartphone that has speech such as streaming a video from YouTube or while having a video chat session. Being afflicted by HoH seems to be a normal part of the aging process, unfortunately, that brings varying degrees of progressive HoH.

One standout Live Caption feature, on Apple's iPhones running iOS version 16 and exclusive availability (currently) to Google's smartphone brand "Pixel" (specifically Pixel 6 and newer models), is the capability to caption live telephone conversations in real-time.

My observation: younger generations prefer tapping (texting/messaging) over yapping (talking) while elders prefer talking over tapping. Apple's iPhone SE Generation 3 or Google's Pixel 7a may be candidates on your short list to caption live phone conversations!

So are Android smartphone users of other makes – like Samsung, Motorola, and others – left out in the cold? Far from it! "Live Transcribe" is another Android app that I want to share with you. In fact, the Live Transcribe app was my workhorse during those 14 months of silence and still is often.

While sound sources to be captioned by Live Caption originate in the digital world, Live Transcribe uses the smartphone's microphones to pick up and transcribe what it hears from its surroundings in the real world. It can also understand multiple languages pre-selected by you.

You can imagine how helpful this was for me to "communicate" with my English and Japanese speaking family, friends, and anyone else in-person; I "read" what others said and replied with my voice.

If you have an Apple iPhone with iOS version 16, enabling Apple's Live Caption will do everything. But if your iPhone is older and can't be upgraded to iOS version 16, is there any recourse?

Although Google creates many Android app equivalents for iOS, it hasn't created the Live Transcribe app for iOS unfortunately. In these situations, remember the "microphone" button on the virtual keyboard I wrote about in the previous column which should mimic Live Transcribe functionalities.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 9:17 AM, 07.05.2023