Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Agenda

Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK

The European Commission will present proposals to protect whistleblowers, combat fake news and organise the digital single market. The international community will gather in Brussels to discuss how to help Syrians in the current war and after.

Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform

France and Germany have pledged to forge a joint position on euro reform by June, despite German reluctance on deeper monetary union.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists