Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month? This national campaign is organized by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, to raise awareness about disability employment issues and to celebrate how American workers with disabilities make important contributions at their workplaces.
As cultural views about disability have changed over time, we have become more mindful about the importance of accessible technologies. It’s been nifty to see how their development and use have been promoted across numerous environments. As one example, in May of this year U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy announced the Disability Employment App Challenge, a contest open to third-party developers. Competitors were challenged to help expand technology accessibility by developing apps that could serve as recruitment resources for employers, work as job training and skill-building tools for job seekers, and help facilitate employment-related transportation.
Judges for the Challenge evaluated each submission based upon three criteria:
- Mission: How well does the application address at least one of the four goals defined for the challenge?
- Creativity: How innovative, interesting, and unique is the application in meeting contest requirements?
- Design and Ease of Use: Does the application present information in a way that is easy for the target audiences to use, and is the app pleasing to the eye?
Winners of the Disability Employment App Challenge were announced on August 30. The “Access Jobs” application, specifically designed for job seekers with disabilities, received the Innovation Award and a $5,000 prize. The winner of the $3,000 People’s Choice Award, selected through a public voting process, went to the Android-based “VoisPal-Speak as You Think!” application, an augmentative and alternative communication app designed to help people with speech difficulties. And “AccDC”, an app that automates the rendering of dynamic content to ensure accessibility for screen reader and keyboard-only users, received the Above and Beyond Accessibility Award and a $2,000 prize.
To learn more about this year’s winners, see the related Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy news release. Additional information about the Disability Employment App Challenge is provided in a blog post written by Assistant Labor Secretary Kathy Martinez.