Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

Focus

Phone apps to boost access for disabled Europeans

  • Not all apps are easily accessible (Photo: Robert Scoble)

Life on the road for people with disabilities may become just a little bit easier after the winners of the first ever Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards for easy-access smartphone apps were announced on Monday evening (5 December).

The awards, divided into four categories, were rated in terms of the extent to which they help the blind, the deaf, or otherwise disabled to play an active and independent role in society.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In the category for independent living, the award went to the Zoom Plus Magnifier, which allows people to zoom in on text and change the colour and contrast of the background - something of particular interest to people with dyslexia, colour blindness or any other visual impairment.

Wheelmap, a crowd-sourced database that allows people to rate and view the wheelchair accessibility of public places like cafes, museums or restaurants, won in the mobility category.

"If I go from A to B, I never know if B is accessible," said Raul Krauthausen, a severely disabled wheelchair user and one of the developers.

Big Launcher won in the social participation category. It produces an alternative home-screen for phones with big, colourful buttons, especially designed for older people or people with visual impairments.

"It is something that was needed. I saw older people struggling with their Blackberries," said Jan Husak, one of the two developers.

And finally Help Talk, designed to help people with speech impediments, won in the well-being category. It presents the user with a set of icons that when tapped tell the phone to read out a certain key phrase - such as "I'm thirsty" or "I feel pain".

Each team of developers receives a €50,000 prize. All apps are free to download and run on the Android operating system.

The award - a collaboration between Vodafone, the AGE Platform Europe and the European Disability Forum - was handed out in Brussels in the presence of EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes and Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao.

"Helping people with disabilities and people that are older to get more actively involved in society is in the interest of all of us," said Kroes, "not just of those members who are in that category."

She added that innovation in this field is important, not only "to provide care and safety for our diverse and ageing population", but also to tackle the financial crisis. "The market of digital services and applications for people with disabilities encompasses over 80 million people. It makes you wonder why not more parties actively play into this most promising market," she said.

Colao, for his part, said he was happy with the result of the award and announced that there will be a second edition next year in order to boost the market for easy-access apps.

"Vodafone has worked on the problems of access before, but we always run up against the problem that you needed a special device," he said. "The great thing now is that you do not necessarily need this."

Romanian IT developer: 'Stairs never stopped me'

Having survived medical mishaps in Communism and the reckless driving of neo-rich Romanians, an IT developer with spinal muscular atrophy has stubbornly stuck to his motto: "Never give up, no matter how hard life hits you."

EU parliament leaders in disability pledge

European Parliament leaders have committed themselves to better upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, starting with making their political websites more universally accessible ahead of next year's EU elections.

Interview

Disability in the EU - a 'paradigm shift'

Over recent decades, there has been a "paradigm shift" in the way disability rights are treated in the European Union with policy-makers now focussing on how to make society more inclusive of disabled people.

EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions

EU and UK negotiators presented their Brexit positions to identify common grounds this week, but that was made difficult by the scarcity of UK position papers.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary