Connect Ability Challenge awards accessible tech innovators

Wednesday, 5 August 2015 11:10am

The Connect Ability Challenge, which challenges developers to build accessible technology solutions for people with disabilities using only existing and affordable mainstream platforms, announced the winners of a USD$92,500 (AUD$125,381) prize pool last Monday.

Person using a tablet device in front of an open laptop

Launched by telecoms operator AT&T and New York University's Ability Lab, Connect Ability Challenge received 63 submissions from around the world. Submissions were accepted from individuals, teams and organisations with 50 or fewer employees, calling for new and existing solutions to ‘solve’ problems for people with disabilities using technology.

The USD$25,000 (AUD$34,234) Grand Prize for Best Mobility Solution was awarded for KinesicMouse, software that allows users to operate a PC hands-free using a compatible 3D camera (such as Microsoft’s Kinect or Intel’s RealSense) to detect over 50 facial expressions and head movements to control mouse, keyboard and joystick input. Additional prize winners included ava, a mobile app that transcribes group conversations into text for Deaf and hearing impaired people, educational app Laugh Out Loud Aid (LOLA) which uses humour to assist people with social and emotional disabilities and DrumPants TAPS, a wearable assistant which ‘gives a voice’ to people who have limited mobility or difficulty talking.

Several submissions with the potential to improve access to media included iPal, a wearable computer in the form of a pair of glasses allowing hands-free control, Super Braille Keyboard which provides access to touchscreen devices for blind and vision impaired people, Audio News which allows people to read news content using voice commands and Alt Text Bot, a browser extension that uses image-recognition technology to add alternative descriptions to web images.

Four accessibility exemplars were enlisted by AT&T to assist with the judging process: computer access teacher Gus Chalkias who specialises in recreation options for the vision impaired, public speaker Xian Horn who specialises in hands-free communication app solutions, student and blogger Paul Kotler who specialises in non-verbal communication solutions, and filmmaker Jason DaSilva who focuses on hands-free solutions and wheelchair accessibility.

More information on challenge winners, submissions, participants and updates can be found via the Connect Ability Challenge website.

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