AT&T, NYU Announce Winners Of $100,000 Connect Ability Tech Challenge To Improve The Lives Of People Living With Disabilities

Senator Charles Schumer and Disability Advocates Join in Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Grand Prize Awarded to Kinesic Mouse, a Mobility Solution that Allows Users to Control a PC Hands-free

Jul 27, 2015, 10:43 ET from AT&T Inc.

NEW YORK, July 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Senator Charles Schumer joined AT&T* and New York University's ABILITY Lab Monday to announce more than $100,000 in prizes awarded to developers of high-tech solutions to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.  

The Connect Ability Challenge is a three month long technology challenge to spur innovation for people with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities.  63 software, wearable and other technology solutions aimed at enhancing the lives of people with disabilities were submitted by developers from 16 states and 15 countries. The $25,000 grand prize went to Kinesic Mouse, a software solution that uses a 3D camera to detect facial expressions and head rotations, allowing users to operate their personal computers hands-free.  Kinesic Mouse was also awarded the "Best Mobility Solution" category, bringing their total cash winnings to $35,000.

To best engage the user community, the Connect Ability Challenge used an innovative Exemplar model. Developers had the opportunity throughout the competition to interface directly with people with diverse disabilities who shared the challenges they face and helped guide innovators to find solutions.  Developers were also encouraged to include people with disabilities in the design, development and testing of their entries.

"The promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act was to remove barriers that people with disabilities face – it's clear from these extraordinary submissions that technology can play an important role in fulfilling the law's mission," said Marissa Shorenstein, President, AT&T New York. "The winning solutions address specific challenges that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in our society. We hope that this unique competition spurs further innovation in this area and highlights how much mobile technology can improve people's daily experiences."  

"As our technology continues to evolve, we are finding new ways to improve the lives of the disabled, increase their access to technology, and allow them to more fully enjoy the benefits of modern life. That's what this challenge is all about," said U.S Senator Charles Schumer, "When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act after Sen. Ted Kennedy championed the bill through Congress, he hoped it would 'tear down the shameful walls of exclusion' that kept disabled Americans from achieving their potential. What better way to honor the 25th Anniversary of the ADA than with this competition to remove, via technology, what barriers remain."

"NYU was founded on the concept of In and of the City. It is still a major theme within the University. Over this past summer we have been proud to partner with AT&T to make the City a bit more friendly and livable for its residents," said Katepalli Sreenivasan, Dean of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. "The Connect Ability Challenge has been a platform for us to bring together some bright minds to create Apps that will enable those with disabilities to have better access. This use of technology to enhance people's lives is a pursuit worthy of praise and celebration."

"Too often people with disabilities are left out of the equation when it comes to technology -- but the ADA mandates that access be incorporated into everything that is offered" said, Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. "From the start, this challenge incorporated people with disabilities into the process, which fostered full inclusion, taught developers how to design specifically for people with disabilities, and built acceptance and tolerance. It's refreshing to see apps that are connecting people with disabilities to the world in an inclusive way. Congrats to the developers and end users. This is a perfect way to celebrate the ADA!"

A panel of experts from the engineering, technology and disability community judged the competition and awarded $100,000 in prize money that was made available by AT&T and the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).

The winners are:

  • Grand Prize ($25,000): Kinesic Mouse is software that allows users to control a PC completely hands-free, using a 3D camera that detects facial expressions and head rotations to control the PC, joystick or keyboard.
  • Best Solution for People with Sensory Disabilities ($10,000): Ava (Transcense) is a mobile solution that helps the people who have hearing disabilities by tracking conversations in the surrounding area and translating the sound into text for mobile and tablet use in real time.
  • Best Mobility Solution ($10,000): Kinesic Mouse is software that allows users to control a PC completely hands-free, using a 3D camera that detects facial expressions and head rotations to control the PC, joystick or keyboard.
  • Best Social/Emotional Solution ($10,000): LOLA is a digital tool that helps users train their brains, by using humor and personal challenges to strengthen their social and daily living skills.
  • Best Solution for people with Communicative and Cognitive Disabilities ($10,000): Drumpants (Taps) is a wearable device that provides users with limited mobility or difficulty speaking with a voice. The user simply taps the soft wearable buttons that act as triggers for speaking customizable phrases through an application on their phone, which can also be used as a hands-free interface for controlling applications and surroundings.
  • Best Solution Impacting Policy and Society ($10,000): Enlight uses iBeacon technology to allow people with vision disabilities to scan surrounding locations with their smartphone and be notified of the area, aiding with overall navigation challenges.
  • Best Practices Collaboration Award ($5,000): MySupport, a platform that offers people with disabilities tools to make their lives easier and more independent.
  • Best Practices Caregiver Award ($5,000): InstaAid is an app that allows people to call for help quickly regardless of limitations.
  • Best Practices Universal Design Award ($5,000): Braci is a software and app solution that detects sounds and pushes notifications to users' smart devices.
  • Large Organization Recognition Award (Non-Monetary): AccessiblePeakMeter is a plug-in that allows audio engineers with visual disabilities to access peak level meters using real-time sonification, and deliver information to support core activities in audio production.

  • Connect Ability Hackathon ($10,000 awarded in April 2015):
    • First prize ($5,000): alt_text_bot, an app that uses image recognition technology to quickly describe images on Twitter so that people with vision impairment can participate more fully in social media.
    • Second prize ($3,500): StenoSpeak, a mobile app that improves upon open-source stenography technology to speed up text translation to a conversational pace for those who cannot use their voices to communicate.
    • Third prize ($1,500): Tranquil Tracker, a biosensing system that can predict and prevent anxiety attacks.

The Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) awarded an additional $2,500 to the winner of the Popular Choice Award. This was given based on public voting of submissions in early July.  The Popular Choice Winner was LOLA.

"LOLA is a digital tool that sends the user reminders about social and daily living skills, such as saying please and thank you, and rewards them with funny images," explained Michael Brogioli, RESNA Executive Director. "The brainchild of a student with Asperger's and his father, it exemplifies what RESNA is all about – technology created by and with the input of people with disabilities of all ages. It's funny and charming, and it's also important:  LOLA will help people utilize social skills that are vital for daily living. We're delighted it won the People's Choice Award, and congratulate TechKidsUnlimited.org on winning this prize."

The judges for the competition were:

  • Marissa Shorenstein – President of AT&T New York
  • Zach Suchin – Co-founder/CEO, Brand Knew
  • Anita Perr – Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, NYU and RESNA fellow
  • Jason DaSilva – Challenge Exemplar, Producer/Director of AXS Lab. Jason has multiple sclerosis.
  • Paul Kotler – Challenge Exemplar, Student, Blogger, Lecturer, Advocate. Paul has autism.
  • Gus Chalkias – Challenge Exemplar, Assistive Technology Specialist in Blindness, Career Counselor and College Student. Gus has a visual disability.
  • Xian Horn – Challenge Exemplar, Teacher, Speaker, Blogger, Beauty Advocate. Xian has cerebral palsy.
  • Jerry Weisman – Principal, Rehabilitation Technology Services/President Assistive Technology Solutions Inc. and RESNA fellow
  • Aaron W. Bangor – AT&T Lead Accessible Technology Architect
  • Paul Schwartz – Assistive Technology Services Manager, Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institution (SVR), University of Wisconsin-Stout and RESNA fellow
  • Victor Calise – Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

For more information on the winners visit http://connectability.challengepost.com/ . Find the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectAbility.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) helps millions of people and businesses around the globe stay connected through leading wireless, high-speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. We're helping people mobilize their worlds with state-of-the-art communications, entertainment services and amazing innovations like connected cars and devices for homes, offices and points in between. Our U.S. wireless network offers customers the nation's strongest LTE signal and the nation's most reliable 4G LTE network. We offer the best global wireless coverage*. We're improving how our customers stay entertained and informed with AT&T U-verse® TV and High Speed Internet services. And businesses worldwide are serving their customers better with AT&T's mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.
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About the NYU ABILITY Lab

The New York University ABILITY Lab is an interdisciplinary research space dedicated to the development of adaptive and assistive technologies. Students and faculty of all fields work together to create inclusive systems, design human-centered projects, and further intellectual and clinical research around areas of ability. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the ABILITY Lab is a collaboration of three NYU colleges—the Polytechnic School of Engineering; the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and the Tisch School of the Arts—and supports research and education across NYU. The ABILITY Lab incubates long-term projects that are client-facing and often developed in partnership with New York City advocacy groups and agencies. It is dedicated to open-source practices and provides service learning opportunities to students across NYU. For more information, visit: abilitylab.nyu.edu.

About ChallengePost

At ChallengePost, software developers share their latest projects, explore new technologies, and compete in software competitions. Our global community has participated in over 650 online and in-person hackathons. Past competition sponsors include government agencies, universities, corporations, and non-profits.

About the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

The Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), in operation since 1972, works to ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities can lead happy, healthy and productive lives. The MOPD staff work hand-in-hand with other City offices and over 50 agencies to ensure that the voice of the disabled community is represented and that City programs and policies address the needs of people with disabilities. The Office provides information on accessible programs, accessible transportation, employment, health services, activities and other resources to the over 800,000 New Yorkers with disabilities and the millions of people with disabilities visiting New York City every year. In addition, the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities works with organizations on specific issues affecting people with disabilities, and aims to bring about dialogue that leads to meaningful outcomes for those living with disabilities. The dedicated staff of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities works hard every day to make New York City the most accessible city in the world. For more information of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, visit www.nyc.gov/mopd.

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