August has been a busy month for mobile accessibility: an international conference, a new accessible app challenge and the pre-launch of the new GARI website in Australia all have worked towards raising awareness of the issues and encouraging the development and uptake of more accessible devices and apps.
On 14-15 August, the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference brought together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and civil society. The focus was on access to mobile technology for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.
At the conference, MMF Secretary General Michael Milligan presented the new GARI website, which now features an expanded search feature covering mobile phones, tablets and apps. The new GARI can be found at http://www.gari.info and is already available in 5 written languages and 1 sign language for starters, with other written languages being completed.
Just one day before the event, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) announced their new accessible app challenge called "Apps For All". The aim of the challenge is to create better access to mobile technology for the millions of persons with disabilities as well as senior citizens that are still missing out on the mobile digital revolution.
The issue is that many developers do not know about or do not follow the accessibility guidelines provided by mobile platform owners including Apple, Google and Microsoft. It is important that accessibility is built into the app from the very beginning. It starts with properly labelling buttons so they can be read by screen reading software used by people who are blind or vision impaired, to innovative apps specifically designed to improve the lives of people with disability or the elderly, ACCAN writes.
The challenge will award apps for mobile phones and tablets in the following categories:
• Most accessible mainstream app
• Most innovative app designed for people with disability
• Most accessible children's app
• Most accessible game app
Prizes and entry deadlines will be announced at a later date with the winners to be revealed at ACCAN's annual conference next year.
Similar competitions furthering accessible and accessibility app development are the US FCC's Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility and Vodafone Foundation's Mobile for Good Europe Awards 2013.