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News for Veterans

AT&T Challenge to Developers: Inventive Apps for People with Disabilities

April 7, 2015
Source: Fast Company

AT&T is offering $100,000 to help develop technology specifically aimed at aiding those with disabilities.

"When I go into a building — especially a new building — its one of the most stressful experiences of my life," said Gus Chalkias. "I have no idea the layout; I have no idea where I [am] supposed to go."

Chalkias is blind. Google Maps can get him to his desired location, but once inside, hes lost. There are times, he says, when he doesnt know where he is at the end of the day.

As of now, all the apps, devices, and wearables out there dont meet Chalkiass needs. Thats why he has volunteered to work as one of four exemplars for AT&Ts latest app challenge, which is offering up $100,000 for technology specifically aimed at aiding those with disabilities. In a partnership with NYUs Assistive Technology and Ability Lab, AT&T is putting out a call to developers to create new apps or devices aimed at what Chalkias calls "atypical users"—other [individuals with disabilities] like him. Submissions will be due at the beginning of July, and AT&T will announce the winner on July 26, the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Technology for [individuals with disabilities] is often created without the input of the people whom its supposed to serve. AT&T didnt want to operate in a vacuum. In addition to Chalkias, AT&T has, with the help of the Ability Lab, solicited the services of three other "exemplars," one with cerebral palsy, another who is autistic, and another with multiple sclerosis. "We have these exemplars to showcase different types of challenges that different disability communities face, and types of solutions that can help them in their daily lives," Marissa Shorenstein, president [of] AT&T New York, told Fast Company. With the launch of the challenge, AT&T has released a series of videos featuring each of the exemplars, hoping to not only raise awareness but spark ideas. [Note: To watch the captioned AT&T videos, go the News Source link at the end of this article.]

Some possibilities: Chalkias would love technology to help him navigate elevators. Xian Horn, who has cerebral palsy, has completely different challenges than Chalkias. She walks with the aid of two poles and would love better hands-free technology. Her current experience: Shouting "OK, Google" into her phone, and ending up calling the wrong person.

Developers, however, are not limited to these suggestions. In fact, AT&T and the Ability Lab hope that people come up with ideas they havent even considered. "I have lots of ideas that could happen, but I hope the things that come up are things I never dreamed of—my imagination is limited," Anita Perr, who heads up the Ability Lab, told Fast Company.

To ensure that the finalists appeal to a broad audience, the judging panel includes city officials, experts in the field of assistive tech and disability, people from AT&T, and the four exemplars. The idea is that the experiences of Chalkias and Horn will carry over to a larger demographic. "We [are] not looking at millions of people using them," added Shorenstein. "We [are] looking in New York at the different parts of the disability communities who are affected by each of these impairments to hopefully help them. If only thousands or hundreds of thousands use these apps, we [will] consider it a success."

Link: Go to website for News Source

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