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"Accessibility should not be seen as a burden", says EU Vice-President Viviane Reding at the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards ceremony

20/12/2012 Winners of the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012

The winners of the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012 were announced on December 17th in Brussels at a ceremony attended by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

Launched in 2011, these awards seek to promote the development of IT applications designed to improve the lives of those with disabilities and people that are older, to help them become more actively involved in society. In its second edition, the competition has been supported and co-organized by AGE Platform Europe  and the European Disability Forum (EDF).

In her key note speech Vice-President Reding, who recently announced plans to propose a European Accessibility Act, said that “accessibility should not be seen as a burden. There is a strong economic case for it. Accessibility offers new business opportunities, as the candidates of the Smart Accessibility Awards have demonstrated. And better accessibility solutions in smartphones allow citizens to be informed, to communicate, to learn and to take advantage of the host of possibilities made possible by modern information and communication technologies.”

Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General, AGE Platform Europe, reminded that “in today’s context of demographic change, well designed apps can play a key role to support older people’s full participation in society and independent living. The winning apps are clear examples of what can be done to facilitate equal access for all.”

 “Accessing information is a key element for the inclusion and active participation of persons with disabilities in society”, emphasized Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President.

The winning smartphone apps whose developers shared the €200,000 prize fund are:

  • Happen (Independent living category): This app allows users to search for information on a range of different topics, including daily news, weather and sports scores. The information is presented in a format adapted to each user's needs, either visually, motor-based or by supporting spoken feedback. This application is aimed at the elderly and visually impaired.
  • Starting Blocks (Social participation category): The app is aimed at people new to mobile technology, particularly the elderly. Starting Blocks teaches the skills necessary for using their Android device, including coping with the unfamiliarity of using a touchscreen device.
  • Jaccede (Mobility category): The app enables users to search for places that are accessible to those with a disability. Information, such as whether the entrance is step-free and accessibility of toilets, is displayed alongside photos, user comments and other relevant information. Users can contribute by adding accessible places anywhere in the world, or by editing existing listings.
  • Ablah (Wellbeing category): Ablah is an augmentative communication application. Using images, text and sounds, the user can communicate with others by making the device speak for them. The backlit display has been found to be particularly successful with autistic children, and the ease of use of the application makes Ablah an essential tool for therapies and learning. Among other things, Ablah users can create sentences and simply ask for their primary needs to be met.

The competition opened in May and after a number of judging rounds the final four winners were decided by a panel consisting of representatives from the Vodafone Foundation.