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City mobility apps trialled to fight Blue Badge fraud across Europe

A three-year pan-European project to improve urban transportation for mobility impaired citizens – featuring a smartphone-based parking card to stop fraud – is drawing to a close and preparing recommendations for the European Commission.

The aim of the SIMON project is to increase independent living for people in cities with mobility impairments. Two mobile apps were developed as part of the process: an ‘ICT-enhanced parking card’ for drivers, and a journey-planning app.

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Video games without the visuals for blind gamers

A series of five new audio-based video games for blind and visually impaired users are being designed, after a crowdfunding campaign to support the project achieved over 150% of its target funding.

The games, including versions of classic arcade title ‘Frogger’ and a cricket game, will be available on mobile devices, tablet computers and desktop computers, through the iOS and Andriod operating systems, as well as Windows PC.

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Google Maps begins listing venue accessibility information

Google Maps app now tells users whether some locations are wheelchair-accessible, thanks to the efforts of a Google employee in his spare time.

Rio Akasaka, a product manager for cloud storage service Google Drive, undertook the project using his ‘20% time’ – a well-known Google employee policy that allows staff to spend 20 per cent of their time working on projects unrelated to their role at the company.

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Accessibility without the excessive price: affordable tech site launched

A new online resource has been launched to help people make informed choices about low-cost accessible technology.

The Affordable Access project (found at the following link:
eab.li/2o )
provides easy-to-understand information on a wide range of products and devices, all for under 250 Australian Dollars (equivalent to around £150 / 190 US Dollars). Technology covered on the site includes: tablet computers, smartphones, apps, desktop computers and TV streaming devices.

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New guide on home technology launched for people with sight loss

The “blurring” of assistive technology and inclusive design into mainstream technology is helping to provide both high-end and everyday devices that can benefit visually impaired people around the home, claims a new guide publication.

Talking microwaves, smart watches, audio thermometers, e-readers and online banking apps are just some of the innovations featured in ‘Assistive and Inclusive Home Technology: A guide for people with sight loss’. The free guide has just been published by UK sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust, and covers a wide range of devices that can improve independent living. Assistive technology funding information and tips for product designers are also featured.

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Innovation and impact honoured at Tech4Good Awards

A digital audio navigation system and a portable asthma management device are two of the winners in this year’s Tech4Good Awards, which recognises projects and individuals that are using technology to improve lives.

People honoured at the event included an IT volunteer who helped to set up a charity by establishing its ICT systems, and digital inclusion expert and campaigner Robin Christopherson.

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Steering digital inclusion from the driving seat: Q&A with Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet

When he helped co-found UK technology access charity AbilityNet in 1998, Robin Christopherson was already on his way to helping drive forward digital accessibility, and since then his work has continued to change people’s lives. He is now AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, after helping to grow the charity’s services. These services include website and mobile accessibility consultancy, which AbilityNet now delivers to companies including Microsoft, the BBC, HSBC and Sainsbury’s.

Christopherson has also led and worked on all manner of projects and campaigns to increase digital accessibility, particularly for blind and visually impaired people. This has included providing expert commentary for news sources such as The Guardian, and presenting on and testing new technology, whether that’s a driverless car or the latest smartwatch.

In recognition of his valuable contributions, he was surprised with a special award at the annual Tech4Good Awards earlier this month. e-Access Bulletin caught up with Christopherson to find out more about his work and get his thoughts on the evolution of accessibility.

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Social networking through voice rather than vision

A free communication app based on voice messages is proving popular with blind and visually impaired users, and has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help expand its community.

Users of the Vorail app communicate by recording questions or thoughts as short voice messages, which are available for other users to listen to and reply. Users just need to set up a basic profile, without any photos or images.

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Your assistive technology queries answered online by an expert

Anyone seeking advice on assistive technology will be able to call on the expertise of a technology professional, thanks to a community forum on the website of disability charity Scope.

The charity’s ‘Ask an assistive technologist’ service allows users to leave questions on the forum, where they will be read by a specialist, who will then leave advice for the user to pick up. Users just need to register on the site to become part of Scope’s online community, and can then post questions.

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Innovations for independent living take a step forward

A Braille tablet computer, an online tool to seek out low-cost 3D-printed prosthetics and other projects to assist independent living were showcased earlier this month at the European Parliament.

The projects on display were part of an event in Brussels, ‘Accessible technology for independent living’, organised by the European Disability Forum and Google. Featured projects were supported by $20 million from the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities – a scheme funding non-profit ideas that utilise new technologies.
(Read more at the Google Impact Challenge website: eab.li/a .)

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