In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), AT&T has joined forces with New York University’s Ability Lab to challenge developers of mobile apps to use their skills and resources in building mobile solutions for people with disabilities.
The two have teamed up in order to launch the Connect Ability Challenge, a contest designed to encourage innovation for people with physical, social, emotional, and cognitive disabilities. The contest draw a total of 63 submissions, with the winners announced this Monday.
AT&T awarded cash prizes amounting to $100,000 in total. The grand prize of $25,000 went to Kinesic Mouse, a software that makes use of Intel’s Real Sense Web camera in detecting facial expressions and head movements, essentially allowing people to operate their personal computers without using their hands.
Other winners include a smartphone app designed to aid visually impaired customers to find their way around a store with the use of beacon technology. This app also utilizes Bluetooth technology in connecting sensors to any smartphone preprogrammed with stock phrases in order to help speech impaired individuals communicate with just a push of a button.
The ADA was legislated in 1990, and was meant to ensure that people with disabilities could work and be part of the community without discrimination. The most visible results of the law are changes made to public infrastructure such as cutouts in sidewalks or Braille in elevators, just to cite a couple of examples. But in a rapidly changing world, more needs to be done for people with disabilities, especially in the area of tech and mobile.
With the Connect Ability Challenge, AT&T wants more developers to create more solutions for people with disabilities especially in terms of using smartphones, tablets, voice recognition software, web cameras, and LTE wireless networks. In order to determine what type of solutions were needed, AT&T approached four people: Gus Chalkias of Baruch College’s Computer Center for Visually Impaired People who is himself blind, teacher and public speaker Xian Horn who has cerebral palsy, educator and blogger Paul Kotler who is autistic, and filmmaker Jason DaSilva who has multiple sclerosis.
As explained by Neil Giacobbi, AT&T’s executive director for public affairs, the tech and mobile industries can still explore more ways in which it can help people with disabilities. The trick is just reminding the world and developers from time to time that their technology can also bring something positive to the lives of specific people.
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