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The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network are delighted to announce a new accessible app challenge, Apps For All.

This award recognises that while many Australians with disability are harnessing gadgets, apps and websites to improve their lives, millions are potentially missing out on the digital revolution because app developers and manufacturers are failing to accommodate the needs of people with disability and older consumers.

"As the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and as an avid user of smartphones, I'm always looking out for accessible apps", said Commissioner Graeme Innes.

"The Australian Human Rights Commission is pleased to be involved in this competition in a bid to increase equal accessibility for all smartphone users," said Commissioner Innes.

The prestigious annual competition, announced at the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference today, will award the best mobile and tablet apps submitted in the following categories:

  1. Most accessible mainstream app
  2. Most innovative app designed for people with disability
  3. Most accessible children's app
  4. Most accessible game app

"We hope these awards will inspire new and innovative apps that harness the enabling benefits of mobile technology to improve the lives of Australians with disability," said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

"About one in five Australians have some form of permanent disability and locking this demographic out is both bad ethics and bad business."

Prizes and entry deadlines will be announced at a later date with the winners to be revealed at ACCAN's annual conference next year.

Accessibility issues are affecting an increasing number of people due to the ageing of the baby boomer generation and the fact that more and more people are living long enough to experience age-related disability such as loss of sight or hearing.

According to the ABS, the proportion of Australians aged over 65 will increase from 13% in 2007 to 23-25% by 2056. Globally, a report from the International Telecommunication Union claimed 15% of the world's population, or over one billion people, have a disability that affects their access to modern communications.

An accessible app is one which has been designed from the ground up to cater to all consumers. This can range from 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.

The app challenge will be judged by a select panel of technology and accessibility experts, which will be announced at a later date.

In many ways apps have revolutionised the lives of people with disability. For instance, blind and vision impaired consumers have praised TapTapSee's ability to help them identify objects while Proloquo2Go has given a voice to children with speech impairments.

But many are being left behind because developers are not following accessibility guidelines provided by mobile platform owners including Apple, Google and Microsoft.

A new report by Media Access Australia, titled Captioning on Video on Demand Services, found Australia's leading commercial online content providers were failing to provide basic captioning on their online catch up TV and video on-demand services.

Accessibility is firmly on the national agenda following the success of a recent campaign by ACCAN and several disability advocacy organisations to "kill CAPTCHA" – the annoying and often illegible string of letters and numbers that websites use to prove users are human. The campaign spread around the world in recognition of the isolating and discriminatory effect the common CAPTCHA tests can have on people with disability. (Kill CAPTCHA artilcle)

The two-day M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference, held on 14-15 August in Sydney, brought together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and organisations representing people with disability and older people.

The AHRC/ACCAN Apps For All challenge comes on the back of similar international competitions such as the US FCC's Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (http://www.fcc.gov/events/fcc-chairmans-awards-advancement-accessibility) and Vodafone Foundation's Mobile for Good Europe Awards 2013 (http://www.mobileforgoodeuropeawards.com/).

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