Vodafone rewards accessible Android development

Thursday, 8 December 2011 14:23pm

The winners of the 2011 Vodafone Smart Accessibility Awards have been announced, with each winner awarded £50,000 (A$76,300) for their contribution to increasing access to technology. The Smart Accessibility Awards promote social inclusion by encouraging developers to create accessible apps for Android smartphones. The four award categories were wellbeing, mobility, independent living and social participation.

The Wellbeing award was given to 1000 Empresas for their Help Talk app, which helps people use a smartphone to communicate by speech. By using text-to-speech technology, Help Talk allows a user to tap on an icon that represents a common phrase and communicate the phrase to another person.

WheelMap by Sozialhelden was the winner of the mobility category for their accessible environments rating app. The WheelMap appworks on user ratings, allowing people to rate the accessibility of a public place for wheelchair users. The app assists people to plan their trips around a city.

The Independent Living award was given to 232 Studio’s Zoom Plus Magnifier app, a video magnification app that mimics the technology of magnifiers and provides an affordable alternative to otherwise expensive magnifying equipment. The app enlarges text and icons and adjusts colour contrasts for people who are vision impaired or colour blind.

Finally, the winner of the Social Participation award was BIG Launcher. The BIG Launcher app provides an alternative customisable home screen. It allows the user to easily access features of their smartphone without using the sometimes complicated default home screens. The large, easily recognisable buttons, increased text size and clean layout are designed to assist the elderly or people who are vision impaired.

Vodafone UK chief executive Vittorio Colao told The Guardian that accessibility was increasingly a priority for the company: "The issue of accessibility has become very important and core to everything we try to do.

"Vodafone has worked on the problems of access before, but we always hit the problem that you needed a special device. The great thing now is that you don't necessarily need a special device – and now we have application stores, you can reach everybody at exactly the same cost."

Entries to the Vodafone Smart Accessibility Awards were assessed on effectiveness, availability and affordability, user friendliness, usability and accessibility, and universal design.

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