Curtin University receives grant to investigate the impact of mobile apps on people with a disability

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Thursday, 16 June 2016 09:03am

An investigation by researchers at Curtin University into how mobile apps can support individuals with a disability has been awarded the 2016 Dr Louisa Alessandri Research Grant.

Someone using their smart phone maps app outside surrounded by leaves on the floor

Mobile applications have become a vital part of how Australians with disabilities live their lives on a daily basis.  The range of functionalities and the potential in application technologies make them versatile and give them great potential for those with a disability.  We have seen updates to some popular mobile applications which have allowed greater accessibility and inclusion such as a pre-launch of Voice Access in Beta by Android, which allows users to operate their phones with voice alone.  It was announced by Apple at the WWDC 2016 conference that minor improvements to Apple’s accessibility have been made which can in turn encourage greater app functionalities. 

The $40,000 grant for the pilot study was awarded by the Minister for Planning and Disability Services at an event on the Bentley Campus on 25 May 2016.  The purpose of this pilot study is to investigate the ways people with disabilities use their smartphones to navigate and experience urban space.

Researchers will collect data from participants with both mobility and vision impairments across three different locations around Perth using a recently developed mobile app.  This will allow them to capture participants’ phone use at regular times to establish trends in mobile phone functionalities.  Media Access Australia are proud to have provided support with this investigation through providing current and ongoing consultancy for the project.

“Throughout Australia people with limited mobility use mobile apps to plan journeys by taking into account elevation and gradients of ramps, numbers of steps, internal routing in stations, proximity to accessible parking, ground surfaces etc,” said Dr Mike Kent, Curtin’s Head of Department of Internet Studies.

Curtin University researchers are due to commence investigations in October 2016.  This research could be ground-breaking and inspire many app developers to create new and innovative mobile apps for people with a disability.

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