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Apps with uncomplicated User Interfaces

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Steve Lee

Older user who are unfamiliar with the latest technology and people with learning difficulties are among those who really appreciate apps that have uncomplicated user interfaces. However many operating systems and apps are unsuitable for such users as they have complex or fast changing features. Further, lack of attention to general accessibility, such as text, size compound the problems experienced by these users.

It is fair to say that the requirements of these users are currently not well met by general purpose OSs and apps. Certainly not as well as those with sensory disabilities such as low or no vision. There are however several apps specifically designed to address requirements of users. For example medication reminders, reading aids and life skills training. Also, a few non-app products such as BT large button phones and Doro mobile phones are available and address accessibility needs in a narrow field.

Here are a few example apps.

  • iDress Clear picture-based indication of current weather and suitable clothing for outdoors (iOS).
  • ZiltaHome screen with easy access to common smart phone activities such a calls and mail (Android).
  • MAAVIS A research protoype and framework for creating UIs with simple access to media and communications (Windows)

A new EC FP7 funded project being run as part of GPII activities, Prosperity4All, will be providing guidelines and frameworks for UIs for people with low digital literacy. Prosperity4All is expected to start early in 2014 and compliments Cloud4All's automatic personalisation technologies. Until then here are a few example apps.

Are there any existing guidelines? How about existing apps?

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Average rating: 3 (1271 reviews) | Review

Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Europe Awards 2013 Winners

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 Building on the success of the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2011 and 2012, this year it was launched the Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Europe Awards 2013.

There were received over 200 apps and the Round 1 Judges selected the 12 finalists. The winners were announced at an evening event in Brussels on Thursday 5 December.

The winner was ColorADD, followed by MindTags and SimpleTweet. The first was awarded €30,000 prize money; whilst the second place position wined €15,000 and third place received €5,000.

More information about the finalists within Accessibility category:

Simple Tweet: A simplified Twitter client designed to meet the needs of users with low technical skills, visual or motor disabilities and older people. The application behaves in exactly the same way as any other Twitter client; however it has been redesigned to include special features, which allow universal access to this popular social network. Amongst its functionalities the user can send messages, manage followers, search for contacts and trending topics, lookup for mentions and resend tweets to their followers. Simple Tweet was developed by the Life Supporting Technologies group of the Universidad Politécncia de Madrid.

MindTags: enables the user to accurately place useful, editable near field communication tags at a place of interest and to retrieve the stored information by a simple touch. The information can instantly be displayed and/or spoken via a smartphone.

ColorADD: It is estimated that 350 million people are colour blind, around 10% of the worldwide male population. The ColorADD® Universal code has been designed to enable colour blind people to understand colours through a simple coding system. ColorADD ensures equal accessibility for all when colour is a factor of identification, orientation or choice.



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Big donation to Danish app for blind and partially sighted

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 It has previously been discussed how to ensure viable business models or just secure funding for the development of apps and other software-based assistive technologies.

In Denmark, recently,  "Be My Eyes" received the fairly huge amount of ca. €250,000 from the Velux Foundation for further development of the iOS app, which "will allow blind and sighted people to use the camera of their smartphone to help describe what they see."

 It might be useful compiling a list of like foundations that may give funding to the development of assistive apps and other software.

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The power of loving your user(s) when developing AT

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The power of loving your user(s) when developing AT

 Juan Carlos Gonzalez loves his users. Well, he  actually loves one in particular. He loved him even before he was born but he started to care about his needs as a user a bit later, about two years and a half after his birth. Even though he was used to deal with customer needs on his daily job as salesman at the local mall of sunny Marbella, he did not love them as much as this one. Who said Assistive Technology is about wires, code, programming and delivering service, it can also being about love man!. Moreover to create a sound ICT product you do not have to move to Palo Alto or finish your master at CallTech or MIT, it can easily be done by a local salesman in southern Spain.

Dario was diagnosed with autism and Juan Carlos  thought that this was his chance to look for some personal communicators  apps that could help Dario´s communications skills and development. He realized that the amount of electronic resources was too limited besides of being in foreign languages.

 Then he had to step from a salesman to a “developer who loves his users”. Along with the Angel Riviere Association, Juan Carlos decided to create an app that could integrate the existing therapies for the autistic spectrum into tablet/mobile applications. The state of the art personal communicators did not allow to upload and create your own pictograms and images.  When I talked to Juan Carlos Garcia on the phone he was very enthusiastic about the impact this is having on the development of children within the autistic spectrum. He told me about a spinoff of this initial project which consists on an app that only shows your favorite videos, images and cartoons when you have both hands touching the screen. “The first challenge for parents and educators regarding children with autism is keeping your children sat for more than 30 seconds”. Therefore if children want to check their favorite hits, they must keep their  both hands on the screen, the result of this is a positive reinforcement of being seated. “As for everyone, they prefer the carrot rather than the stick”. His ongoing work is tested on daily basis by his son Dario and by the therapies at his association. “I provide free subscription to other associations only requesting feedback”.  Juan Carlos has been awarded by different prestigious institutions as the best app of the year. He does not want to stop there but to keep researching and integrating different therapies into apps, his main challenge according to him is to make these projects financially sustainable since the app-selling market does not support everything. 

Please check out what this pather is doing with his user since a qualitative change is being achieved

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Average rating: 3 (1741 reviews) | Review