Competition will seek new ‘apps’ for access


Software developers are being challenged to design new mobile phone applications that would improve the lives of disabled and older people across Europe.

The competition is being organised by the European Disability Forum (EDF), the older people’s network AGE Platform Europe, and the mobile phone company Vodafone.

Entrants can compete for a share of a prize fund of 200,000 euros, with awards for the best smartphone application in the four categories of independent living; mobility; wellbeing; and access to the internet and social media.

Vodafone has said it will work with manufacturers and distributors to ensure the four winning applications are loaded onto mobile phones before they are sold.

Rodolfo Cattani, an EDF executive member, said: “Communication technologies are vital to making the inclusion of people with disabilities possible.

“When mobile apps are not accessible, it can create new obstacles and can lead to new forms of discrimination.”

Labour MEP Richard Howitt, vice-president of the European Parliament’s disability rights group, who helped launch the awards in Brussels, said: “There are so many different apps available on the market, so why not some for improving the lives of disabled people too?”

EDF, AGE Platform Europe and Vodafone will select 12 finalists, who will present their applications in Brussels in December, where the four winners will be chosen.

The closing date for entries to the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards is 15 October.

Meanwhile, EDF, the European Blind Union (EBU), AGE Platform Europe and the European consumer organisation ANEC have launched a new campaign to improve access to websites, particularly those in the public sector.

In 2008, a European Commission study found that 95 per cent of government websites were inaccessible.

The commission is due to present proposals by the end of 2011 that would ensure that public sector websites and those providing “basic services to citizens” are fully accessible by 2015.

But Lord [Colin] Low, EBU’s president, said these proposals must be “robust”, and added: “It is time to move from words to deeds; we have seen countless declarations, resolutions and communications on this issue over the last 10 years – it is now time to act.”

16 June 2011