Connect Ability tech challenge has developers creating applications and hardware for those with special needs

AT&T and NYU are sponsoring the Connect Ability tech challenge, a global competition for developers and makers to create tech to help those with special needs, and we're seeing a few examples of the great work the enterprising participants have come up with. The winners of the $100,000 prize will be announced July 27, 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While everyone, participants and users alike, is a winner when bright engineers are working on tech to empower those of us with disabilities, some of the ideas we see today are astounding.

Mohammed Azmat Qureshi and Oluwatosin Oluwadare of UT Arlington have developed EyeCYou — a connected camera that lets those with vision problems see the people in front of them. Lauren Silverman, of, describes the demonstration.

To show how it works, Oluwadare puts on a pair of glasses with a camera attached and snaps my photo. The software analyzes the image and the tablet reads aloud a description: "Person one is wearing an orange dominate shirt, has a light-skinned complexion. She is a female adult."

Xian Horn, a writer from New York with cerebral palsy is also working with participants in the Connect Ability challenge, and talks about a few other great ideas to come from the competition. A device named "Pallette" transforms your tongue into a mouse that can control "anything from a wheelchair to a light setting." Technology named "DrumPants" gives voice to those who have difficulty speaking by tapping sensors on their clothing.

The development of assistive technology is a space that is in dire need. Technology itself has grown to the point where devices and software of this nature are a real possibility, and it's great to see this sort of showcase. By connecting developers with people who can give feedback — not just about what works in theory, but in real applications — the world will be a better place for those of us who require assistive tech in our lives.


Jerry Hildenbrand

I'm an RHCE and Electrical Engineer who loves gadgets of all kinds. You'll find my writings across Mobile Nations and you can hit me on Twitter if you want to say hey.

  • I read the title as "those with special nerds"
    I need to get my head out of the cloud(s).
  • Just heard the piece on npr. Amazing!
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  • How is it that people can read an article about tech for people with special NEEDS (not nerds)and come out of it with no clue, and others commenting on phone going on sale.My son has down syndrome and these kind of comments are offensive. It's great that there are people out there trying to do something to help people like my son and others like him to live a better life. So get your head out of "the clouds" and recognize something that is truely amazing.
  • Well said. I applaud these efforts and am glad that amongst all the commercial moving and shaking these companies are also considering the needs of those less able - before my father passed away he had mnd and the fact that Intel flew a guy with communication tech over so my father could have a last few months being able to at least let us know he was in there and with us - that I shall never forget. Ignore the numpty sycophantic lot: A lot of people have their priorities wrong, alot have their priories right. Best wishes.
  • People love being offended by every little thing these days. People post irrelevant crap on every article, just because this one is about special needs doesn't mean you should suddenly be affronted by those comments (which aren't even slightly offensive from what I can see, unless they've been deleted). An offensive comment would be one against those with special needs.
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