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Smart Accessibility Awards: Developer Who Designed App To Help Five-Year-Old Autistic Son Communicate Wins €50,000 Award

18 Dec 2012Technology

Spanish app developer Juan Carlos Gonzalez Montesino last night won the ‘Wellbeing’ category in the Vodafone Foundation’s Smart Accessibility Awards for an app he created to help his five-year-old autistic son Darío communicate. Ablah, an app Montesino co-developed with Manuel Linares, is based on the exchange of images, sounds and text via touch screen devices.

A €200,000 prize fund for the best Android apps to assist those with disabilities and the elderly has been shared between four winners. At the awards ceremony in Brussels last night, a keynote speech was delivered by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

The awards categories included social participation; independent living; wellbeing and mobility. The other winning apps were:

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.

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.

The Smart Accessibility Awards are supported and co-organised by AGE Platform Europe, the European network that promotes the interests of the 150 million people aged 50-plus in the EU, and by the European Disability Forum (EDF), the NGO that represents the interests of 80 million Europeans with disabilities.

The Smart Accessibility Awards is part of the Vodafone Foundation’s ‘Mobile for Good’ programme, which supports initiatives around the world which use mobile technology to drive positive social change. The awards are helping to extend the smartphone revolution to as many communities as possible.

Reding recently announced plans to propose a European Accessibility Act, which included measures to improve the accessibility of goods and services in Europe. The Act is expected to address a range of issues, including improving the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities throughout Europe.

Reding said: "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. Therefore, a big thank-you to the Vodafone Foundation for promoting accessibility through the Smart Accessibility Awards."

Andrew Dunnett, Director, Vodafone Foundation, said: “Mobile technology is an enabler - a tool to educate, inform, simplify and improve people's lives. This year's Smart Accessibility Awards winners have demonstrated this potential and have shown the significant opportunities mobile brings.”

Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General, AGE Platform Europe, said: “AGE is very pleased with the results of the competition.  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.  AGE would like to congratulate Vodafone Foundation for their initiative which, we hope, will inspire others to adopt an approach based on the concept of Design-for-All.”

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President, said: “Accessing information is a key element for the inclusion and active participation of persons with disabilities in society. The ICT world develops at high pace and persons with disabilities shall not be left behind: applications are increasingly viewed as the future way of connecting to the web and they must be made accessible in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

For more information about the Smart Accessibility Awards, please visit http://developer.vodafone.com/smartaccess2012/home/


About Vodafone Foundation

The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone operates and is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes.

In countries in which Vodafone operates, social investment is delivered by a unique footprint of 28 Vodafone Foundations and social investment programmes. These programmes are directed and chosen by the Foundation Trustees and receive funding from the Vodafone Foundation in the UK as well as their local Vodafone company.

The Vodafone Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (registered number 1089625).

About AGE Platform Europe

AGE Platform Europe is a European network of more than 165 organisations of, and for, people aged 50+ and represents over 30 million older people in Europe. AGE aims to voice and promote the interests of the 150 million inhabitants aged 50+ in the European Union and to raise awareness of the issues that concern them most. AGE strongly believes that accessible technologies can promote independent living, social inclusion, and active participation of older people in society and equal opportunities for all. Its work in this area aims at ensuring that technological developments meet the needs and expectations of older people. www.age-platform.eu

About the European Disability Forum (EDF)

EDF is the European umbrella organisation representing the interests of 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe. The mission of EDF is to ensure disabled people full access to fundamental and human rights through their active involvement in policy development and implementation in Europe. EDF works closely with the European institutions, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. http://www.edf-feph.org/

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