Brief: Android Technology

Adam Parsons, OTR/L, CMT


Word Document

With all of the iPhones and Android phones, iPads and Android Tablets you may be asking; which is right for me and my family? As technology wars continue between Apple, Google, Microsoft and others, we need to know which brand mobile devices offer support to individuals with disabilities now and into the future. The open-source Android operating system provides many options for expansion and "plays well" with PC's and other hardware. Apple devices tend to have a more streamlined user-interface and seamless integration with Apple computers.

A Brief History

In 2003, a small mobile phone software startup company called Android, Inc. was purchased by search engine giant Google. The operating system was adopted by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) consisting of LG, HTC, Motorola, and more. Together with Google, Android was launched as the first open, free mobile platform. As open-source software, the Android operating system has fewer limitations than Apple iOS (Apple's mobile operating system). Mobile software (called "apps") can be developed for Android phones with fewer restrictions on functionality. Also, with Android's wide range of device developers, there are more choices for external hardware including add-on keyboards, universal chargers, and video output cables.

Apple VS. Android

The main Android interface presents users with many options for customization including various interactive icons called "Widgets." Widgets may be customized to provide shortcuts to commonly accessed tasks or commonly accessed information including weather, bookmarks, and folder support. On the other hand, the Apple iOS takes a no-nonsense approach and only shows application icons on its main interface providing a more stable mainframe.

There are many new smartphones being released with the Android operating system. The iPhone models are the only smartphone currently running Apple iOS. The newest tablets (about three times the size of a smart phone) are the Motorola XOOM (running Android) and the Apple IPad 2. While they both have just about the same display size and thinness, the Motorola XOOM has a wide-screen that shows HD video in its native format. The iPad has a brighter display that can be seen from more angles. The Motorola XOOM has a non-gloss surface which may be easier for some individuals to grasp. It also boats a 5-megapixel camera on back, and a 2-megapixel forward facing camera for video chatting. XOOM currently has the speed edge with a dual-core processor, which may be better running 3D applications. This Android device has a reputation a powerful and is good for multitasking.

The bottom line is that Android phones and tablets may have more advanced options and features that may be of great benefit for individuals with disabilities. Setup of automated tasks, easy access widgets, and customization features all allow the device to be set meet an individual's unique needs. The problem is that setup and customization of these features can be a challenging task, even for the most tech-savvy among us. Apple offers the safety of vetted applications accessed in a user-friendly interface. When making your choice on a device, be sure to keep up with unbiased reviews. See web links that follow. Also, consider previous experience. You may want to consider an Android device for a more PC-like experience, while an Apple device will be most consistent with your experience with an Apple laptop or desktop computer. Working with an Occupational Therapist who specializes in assistive technology is recommended as you select and customize a mobile device to meet you and your family's needs.

Android Web Links
Offers premiere Android discussion forums and a great place for troubleshooting issues.
Provides another very popular Android discussion forum.
Has unbiased smartphone & technology reviews.
Provides unbiased smartphone reviews.
Is a site for an Android software development company dedicated to developing free-to-the-user and very low-cost, high-quality, Android applications that enhance the quality-of-life, independence, employability and educational success of individuals with disabilities."
Is the official Android homepage with most recent Android news updates.
Is the official Android Marketplace for downloading apps.
Lists more special-needs applications for Android. See bottom of article for other articles in series related to mobile applications and their use with individuals with disabilities.
Offers Apps for children with special needs including "featured app of the day."

Sampling of Android Apps

Fully functional wireless baby monitor with two way talkback

ADA Guide: Disabled Veterans
This app contains information for American veterans and their families from The Americans with Disabilities Act Guide: "ADA: Know Your Rights - Returning Service Members with Disabilities".

An organization application for your tasks and lists of products, places, movies, recipes and more. "Everything you save is synchronized and accessible on your android device and on the web."

Remember The Milk
Price:Free (plus annual subscription)
A favorite task management application among Android users with online sync capabilities.

Google Maps with GPS Navigation
"Voice-guided GPS navigation system. Find, rate, and get recommendations for places." You can also follow friends or check it on map point locations.

Model Me Going Places™
"Visual teaching tool for helping your child learn to navigate challenging locations in the community. Each location contains a photo slideshow of children modeling appropriate behavior."

Life Skills Winner™
"Teaches life and social skills in a interactive way with positive feedback through a mobile device. Whenever the tasker (person who goes through a task) does a step in the task, they gain a point. Example, for brushing your teeth, every tooth you brush you get a point. With those points the tasker gains, they can obtain a prize. If the tasker does the task in real life, the manager/trainer can add points to the tasker for doing the task."

Behavior Status
For Parents and Teachers alike. Use it to record the daily behavior of your child or an entire classroom. Behavior is easily recoded using the simple Green/Yellow/Red stoplight mechanism currently employed by many schools, daycares and parents alike. Great for use in teaching kids with Autism or ADD/ADHD.

The app also lets you view behavior changes over time on a child by child basis using the color coded calendar view. Use this history information to help encourage good behavior with simple rewards. Recent updates added the ability to store notes as you make status changes and better support for teachers.

eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker
"Track your daily depressed and elevated moods, symptoms, sleep, and medications and email your doctor a printable chart at the end of each month.

Mood journaling is part of cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatments for bipolar, depression, and other mood and anxiety disorders. Use this app with your doctor."

Relax and Sleep
"Choose from a list of 35+ ambient sounds which include thunder, white noise, ocean, birds, rain, crickets, water, mechanical noises... and many more.

Change the independent track volumes and create your own unique relax melody!"

"a full-featured messaging app that includes voice addressing and dictation. Speak your message and see the results in seconds.

- Voice addressing
- Speech-to-text
- SmartWord editing
- Speakable punctuation
- Threaded discussions
- Popup notifications
- Text-to-speech (hear your txt msg)"

App4Android Package
Accessibility Preferences (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Enables users to easily modify settings for accessibility applications such as TalkBack.
Eyes Free Shell (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Permits the use of an Android smart device as an eyes-free communicator.
IDEAL Item Identifier® (Apps4Android) Takes pictures of standard UPC and QR codes and voices the description of the item using Google's TTS voices. It also enables users to create talking barcodes.
IDEAL Magnifier® (Apps4Android) Turns most Android smart devices into handheld video magnifiers
KickBack (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) provides haptic (vibratory) feedback in response to various events taking place on Android smart devices.
SoundBack (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Provides non-spoken, auditory feedback in response to various events taking place on Android smart devices.
TalkBack (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Provides screen-reading functionality to native Android applications on Android devices.
Talking Dialer (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Enables users to dial phone numbers in an eyes-free environment.
Walky Talky (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) Accessible GPS navigation aids.
Intersection Explorer (Developer: Google, Inc.) Accessible GPS navigation aids.
IDEAL Web Access Pack® (Apps4Android) Enables individuals with print disabilities to easily surf the Web.
K-9 Mail® (Apps4Android and K-9 Dog Walkers) Fully accessible Android e-mail client that includes the ability to create, send, receive, and read e-mail messages. Other features include search, push e-mail, multi-folder sync, flagging, filing, signatures, bcc-self, mail on SD and more! K-9 Mail supports IMAP, POP3, and Exchange (with WebDAV).
Rock Lock (Developer: Google Eyes-Free Team) A fully accessible music player.

Screenshots and descriptions (adapted) originally listed by their respective application's publisher on

Video Editing

  • Various Android phones record audio/video in various formats
  • Always options to export / convert on PC
  • Look for "Android Movie Studio" for more devices
  • Try: on devices
Current Android Specs Future Plans
  • 312 device models
  • 100M devices activated
  • 200,000 apps now available
  • 4.5 b apps downloads
  • 500m apps downloaded per month
  • 112 countries shipping Android devices
  • Android on more devices: TV's, cars
  • ICS implementation
  • Application development including ECU apps.
  • Touch-pairing with Bluetooth (VS. old configuration methods)

Information for this "Autism Technology Brief" is from Virginia Commonwealth University's Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE), which is funded by the Virginia State Department of Education (Grant # 881-61172-H027A100107). The Contributor for this issue is Adam Parsons, OTR/L, CMT.

Virginia Commonwealth University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution providing access to education and employment without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran's status, political affiliation, or disability. If special accommodations or language translation are needed contact Voice (804) 828-1851 | TTY (804) 828-2494. For additional information on ACE, you may contact