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For a second year, the Vodafone Foundation in collaboration with AGE and the European Disability Forum (EDF) will launch the Smart Accessibility Awards. This contest aims to increase understanding of the needs and expectations of ageing and disabled users of smartphones by inviting developers to create innovative applications that are designed for all. Like in 2011 four applications that fill in the criteria of effectiveness, availability and affordability, user-friendliness, usability, accesssibility and design for all, will win a prize of 50.000 Euros each. The competition will be officially launched in Brussels on 30th May.

Date: Wednesday, 30 May
Venue: Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe, Place Jourdan 1 – 1040 Brussels, Belgium
Time: 14.00hrs-16.00hrs
If you would like to join the launch please mail Cindy De Koninck.

A variety of new features greatly enhance the accessibility of Android 4.0 for blind or visually impaired users. Most important is a new explore-by-touch mode that lets users navigate without having to see the screen. Touching the screen once triggers audible feedback that identifies the UI component below; a second touch in the same component activates it with a full touch event. The new mode is especially important to support users on new devices that use virtual buttons in the System Bar, rather than dedicated hardware buttons or trackballs. Also, standard apps are updated to offer an improved accessibility experience. The Browser supports a script-based screen reader for reading favorite web content and navigating sites. For improved readability, users can also increase the default font size used across the system.

The accessibility experience begins at first setup — a simple touch gesture during setup (clockwise square from upper left) activates all accessibility features and loads a setup tutorial. Once accessibility features are active, everything visible on the screen can be spoken aloud by the standard screen reader.
Source: Android

EU Smart Accessibility Awards14 June 2011 – Brussels – In the week of the first EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, Vodafone Foundation launched the Smart Accessibility Awards. This is a new competition to promote the development of IT applications designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities and older people to help them become more actively involved in society.
The programme is supported and co-organized by AGE Platform Europe, the European network of around 160 organisations of and for people aged 50+, and the European Disability Forum (EDF), the NGO that represents the interests of 80 million Europeans with disabilities.
Launched in Brussels, the competition will award the best smartphone application across four different categories as follows:

  • Social participation: This refers to applications which help users to participate actively in today’s society and benefit from the facilities that the new technologies can offer, whatever their age, disability and/or capacity (E.g. use the web and social media through mobile devices, contact people using mobile devices to the same extent as everyone, etc).
  • Independent living: This refers to applications which help users to be more autonomous and perform daily tasks independently (E.g. using domestic appliances such as washing machine or refrigerator, opening doors safely, etc).
  • Mobility: This refers to applications which enable users to move around more freely and safely using the whole range of transport modes. It can also refer to the use of mobile devices to be guided in unknown environment (e.g. using GPS option, etc).
  • Wellbeing: This refers to applications which improve the users’ health and as well as overall feeling of wellbeing.

The competition is open from 14 June 2011 to 15 October 2011. All qualifying entries will be evaluated in November by a jury, consisting of representatives from AGE Platform Europe, European Disability Forum and Vodafone Foundation. Twelve finalists will be selected and requested to present their application before the final jury in Brussels in early December 2011 at a live final, where the four overall winners will be chosen. The total prize fund of the €200k will be split equally between the four winners.
Vodafone Foundation Director, Andrew Dunnett said “The Vodafone Foundation is keen to help as many people as possible benefit from new technologies. The Smart Accessibility Awards will help developers create apps that can really make a difference to people’s lives – we are thrilled to be able to support such an important initiative.”
Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Platform Europe Secretary General, said “We are pleased to be involved in a project that supports our efforts towards building a more inclusive society. Digital inclusion is key to ensuring as many people as possible remain actively involved in their communities and we should make sure every citizen is empowered to do so, whatever their age or capacities. We hope this competition will help reach that goal and also contribute to the ‘European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations’ where the objective is to increase older people’s active participation in society and promote independent living in old age. ”
Rodolfo Cattani, EDF Executive Member, said; “Being part of this competition is very important for us. Communication technologies are vital to making possible the inclusion of persons with disabilities. When the mobile applications are not accessible, it can create new obstacles and can lead to new forms of discrimination. We look forward to seeing accessible apps.”
For more information on the contest and submit your entry: http://developer.vodafone.com/smartaccess2011/+

Mobile Accessibility Workshop will be held at INTERACT 2011, in Lisbon, Portugal, on 5-9 September 2011.
Mobile devices pervade our daily lives. We are on the cusp of a fundamental change in how we relate to information and others, accessible at all times and places. Alas, this change might be barred to a large number of people, suffering from a wide range of disabilities. Mobile devices are increasingly visual, making them hard to use by the blind or other vision-impaired people. Keyboards are steadily being replaced by touchscreens, without tactile feedback, introducing additional barriers. Tetraplegic users have limited mobility of their limbs and hardly are able to pick up the devices or use their fingers for precise pointing. Moreover, the mobile aspect often creates situational impairments where those interaction modes are cumbersome or socially unacceptable, even for non-impaired people.
These are problems studied by the nascent area of Mobile Accessibility, where researchers focus on solving accessibility problems in mobile devices and settings. Bringing together Mobile Computing and Accessibility, it is the source of synergistic works that have the potential of deeply transforming how we look at mobile devices, and to shape the ongoing mobile revolution. This workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners in the area.
The topics of the workshop include but are not limited to:

  • Mobile interaction accessibility
  • Situational impairments
  • Assistive Mobile Technologies
  • Mobile Web Accessibility

More information can be found at the conference website.

ACCESSIBLE has launched a dedicated page at SourceForge from where you can download all latest versions of the tools developed by the project:

The triggering idea behind ACCESSIBLE is to contribute for better accessibility for all citizens, to increase the use of standards, and to develop an assessment simulation environment (including a suite of accessibility analysing tools as well as developer-aid tools) to assess efficiently, easily and rapidly the accessibility and viability of software applications for all user groups.

RIM has launched the Clarity theme for BlackBerry theme for customers with vision loss, colourblindness, seniors and even those new to smartphones. The free theme is available for download from BlackBerry AppWorld in the US, UK and Canada and supports 10 devices running BlackBerry Device Software v5.0.
For more information, please visit this website.