UW students develop apps to aid disabled

UW students develop apps to aid disabled
SEATTLE -- For those with a disability, a little help can go a long way.

They have a new source of help at their fingertips, thanks to University of Washington computer and engineering students.

The students created five different phone applications to help the disabled with real-world tasks.

Professor Richard Ladner said the students worked in teams to develop five different applications. This was not a competition, so throughout the process, the students collaborated with each other and even shared code.

Bottom line: their assignment was to produce accessibility tools.

"Nearly 90 percent of America's blind children are not learning to read and write," said UW student Janet Hollier.

So Hollier and her team created "BrailleLearn," a mobile application that makes it fun to learn braille. It's a virtual pet game.

The player uses the touch pad and vibrations in the phone to learn braille symbols. You earn tokens for correct answers to keep your pet happy and fed.

"They get to feed it they get to exercise it. They get to play with it," said Hollier.

Jason Behmer and his team used Google Maps to create an application that helps determine your location, what direction you are going, and what points of interest or businesses lie ahead if you are blind, low-vision or deaf-blind.

"This is just consumer technology," Behmer said. "You know I walk down the street and say, 'Oh, there's a Starbucks. I want a coffee.' But maybe a blind user who hasn't been here before doesn't see the Starbucks or doesn't know, so hopefully with this they can explore new areas and try new things and that."

So out on the street, this application can help you find a cup of coffee. And the best part about getting this application on your phone? It will cost you far less than that cup of coffee.

"Well, it's free. It's open-source," Behmer said.

Similar applications cost $1,000 or more, according to Behmer.

The students also developed a daily task trainer and scheduler for people with cognitive disabilities, an application that uses the phone's camera to read characters for the blind. The last program - "Where am I?" - helps people who are blind or have low vision find nearby people and places.

For more information:

Mobile Accessibility