Assistive Android apps recognised

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012 09:19am

The Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards were held yesterday in Belgium to celebrate innovative apps for Android smartphones designed to make things easier for people with a disability.

Funded by the Vodafone Foundation and supported by the European Disability Forum, the awards recognised apps in four categories: Wellbeing, Independent Living, Social Participation and Mobility. As phones which run on Android are generally less accessible than the Apple iPhone, encouraging Android developers to consider the needs of disabled users is very worthwhile.

Below are the winners and runners-up in each category:

Independent Living:

Winner: Happen

This app collates articles from reputable news websites and displays them in a way which makes them accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies. Designed with blind and vision impaired users in mind, the app can be controlled through the volume buttons on your headphones.

Runners-up: IDEAL Group Reader and Hearing Aid – Cochlear

The IDEAL Group Reader is an e-reader app designed for people who are blind, vision impairmed or dyslexic. The app includes a text-to-speech feature, adjustable colour schemes and easy navigation.

The Hearing Aid – Cochlear app enhances the quality of sound that comes through your phone’s headphones, filtering out background noise and making human speech more distinct.

Social Participation

Winner: Starting Blocks

Many people using a smartphone for the first time face a steep learning curve. Starting Blocks features a number of tutorials which demonstrate how to get started, complete tasks and perform gestures.

Runners-up: Mobile Accessibility With Braille Support and Speech Assistant

Mobile Accessibility With Braille Support is a suite of mini-apps which enhance the accessibility of Android phones for people who are blind or vision impaired. The suite has been available since 2011 and developers Code Factory have enhanced it to work with Braille devices.

Tom Schalke developed Speech Assistant after his mother became speech impaired. The app places a collection of words on the screen which people press to form sentences.


Winner: Ablah

Ablah is an augmented communications app designed to allow children with an autism spectrum disorder to communicate through pictures. The app is already proving popular with 4000 people using the version for iOS devices.

Runners-up: 112 Deaf and Frontillo

112 for Deaf lets Deaf users communicate quickly and easily with emergency services by sending the location of the user and as many details as possible about the emergency. Similarly, Frontillo enables those who are unfamiliar with smartphones to send an SOS call to a selected contact simply by shaking the phone.


Winner: Jaccede

Jaccede is a French website which provides information on the accessibility of nearby venues. With 26,000 venues in its database, the site and its app are looking at moving beyond France.

Runners-up: Aerial Obstacle Detection and iNearest

The Aerial Obstacle Detection app works with phones with front and back cameras and alerts the user to obstacles in their way.

iNearest is not specifically designed for blind people, however the app is very useful for helping you locate nearby services such as taxi ranks, bars and cafes.

Each of these apps can be downloaded from Google Play.

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