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Accessible app challenge announced

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the Australian Human Rights Commission have announced an accessible app challenge called Apps For All at this week’s M-Enabling Australasia 2013 Conference. 

Apps For All challenges developers to create mobile or tablet apps which can be accessed by as many people as possible, including people with disabilities.

Announced by Johanna Plante, Chairperson of ACCAN, and Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, the focus of the challenge is to raise awareness about the universal benefits of accessible apps.

“The Apps For All challenge will not only highlight why accessibility is so important, but trigger a flood of innovative and groundbreaking ideas around how apps and technologies can truly benefit all,” saidPlante.

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VoiceOver saved in Apple, Samsung patent battle

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Apple's screen reader VoiceOver has been saved from being removed from Apple devices, after a German court ruled against Samsung's claim that VoiceOver breached one of its patents. The ruling comes as a relief to the blind and vision impaired community.

VoiceOver is an assistive tool that interprets text on screen and delivers this information back to the user in audible form. This enables blind users to navigate and access apps on their device. When VoiceOver was first introduced in iOS devices in 2009, it became an affordable alternative to other commercial screen readers.

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Blind Maps: a new way to get around town

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A prototype for a device has been designed in Denmark which converts walking directions into a Braille-like pattern.  By connecting to an iPhone and using Google Maps and GPS, Blind Maps could enable white cane and guide dog users to walk around with more confidence.

The concept for the device, which is about the size of a business card, has 65 pins which rise up to signify instructions such as ‘go straight’, ‘turn right’ and ‘stop: intersection’. Currently, blind and vision impaired iPhone users can listen to Google Maps directions via headphones. This can be dangerous for people trying to negotiate traffic and the designers hope that Blind Maps will provide a safer alternative.

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Indoor mapping to increase mobility for blind users

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Increasing the independence of people who are blind or vision impaired could be possible through indoor mapping technology, according to experts who attended last week's Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation (IPIN) conference. Held at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the conference brought together electronics, surveying and informatics experts to discuss the potential of indoor mapping, including how it could enhance the independence and mobility of people who are blind or vision impaired.

Thomas Gallagher, a researcher at UNSW, told the Sydney Morning Herald that indoor mapping technologies could further increase the independence of blind and vision impaired users, similar to how global positioning system (GPS) technology helps people navigate outdoor spaces.

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