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Apps as assistive products

A smartphone becomes a little helper in your pocket through various apps. Whether for playing, shopping, advising, reminding or communicating. They support everyday life and can be called up at any time.

App is a short form of application and stands for "application". They are programs that are usually accessed via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. In the pre-installed shop, apps are available for download for a fee or free of charge. Apps can be programmed and updated with very little effort, so this market is very fast moving and in constant growth.

What apps are available?

A smartphone is already a practical assistive products for everyday and professional life. But with the right apps, it can also meet individual requirements and in some cases replace expensive assistive products. The range of possible functions is large. You can find an exemplary and non-exhaustive list according to restrictions here:

Apps for people with visual impairment

  • Read content aloud on the display (screen reader)
  • Translate and read out photographed documents
  • Scan and describe the environment
  • Recognize colors
  • Recognize products by barcode
  • Navigation systems

Apps for people with hearing disabilities

  • Transcribe the spoken word into writing
  • Recording conversations and summarizing their content
  • Playing back conversations in sign language
  • Recording television programs and playing them back with audioscript

Apps for people with communication disabilities

  • Communicate via images
  • Communicating about ready-made text blocks
  • Improve language skills

Apps for people with reduced mobility

  • Navigation via barrier-free paths
  • Collection of barrier-free public places and buildings
  • Toilet finder

More apps for the workplace

Accessibility of apps

Currently, there are no binding standards for the accessible design of apps. However, operating system manufacturers have published guidelines for the development of apps. The guidelines include requirements for the interfaces of the apps so that they are accessible for people with disabilities. For example, only common operating elements of the respective system should be used to enable easier handling.

Health vs. medical apps

Basically, the types health app and medicine app are to be separated from each other. Health apps support the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. They encourage exercise, serve to relax, improve the understanding of one's own body and give advice on diet. In addition, there are medical apps that have a medical purpose. They are considered medical devices if they serve the diagnosis and/or therapy of an illness (§3 No. 1 MPG). This includes, for example, apps that help to cope better with a chronic illness.

In practice, however, it is difficult to differentiate the intended purpose.

cost absorption by health insurance

Many health insurance companies offer free health apps on their own initiative. These primarily serve a healthy lifestyle, prevention and early detection of disease.

Since 01.01.2020, health apps can also be prescribed on prescription. The corresponding costs are covered by the statutory health insurance. These apps are tested in advance by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).

Individual health insurance companies can also cover the costs of other apps. These benefits must be requested individually from the respective health insurance companies.