“When I go into a building—especially a new building—it’s one of the most stressful experiences of my life,” said Gus Chalkias. “I have no idea the layout, I have no idea where I’m supposed to go.”
Chalkias is blind. Google Maps can get him to his desired location, but once inside, he’s lost. There are times, he says, when he doesn’t know where he is at the end of the day.
As of now, all the apps, devices, and wearables out there don’t meet Chalkias’s needs. That’s why he has volunteered to work as one of four exemplars for AT&T’s latest app challenge, which is offering up $100,000 for technology specifically aimed at aiding those with disabilities. In a partnership with NYU’s Assistive Technology and Ability Lab, AT&T is putting out a call to developers to create new apps or devices aimed at what Chalkias calls “atypical users”—other disabled people like him. Submissions will be due at the beginning of July, and AT&T will announce the winner on July 26, the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Technology for the disabled is often created without the input of the people whom it’s supposed to serve. AT&T didn’t want to operate in a vacuum. In addition to Chalkias, AT&T has, with the help of the Ability Lab, solicited the services of three other “exemplars,” one with cerebral palsy, another who is autistic, and another with multiple sclerosis. “We have these exemplars to showcase different types of challenges that different disability communities face, and types of solutions that can help them in their daily lives,” Marissa Shorenstein, president AT&T New York, told Fast Company. With the launch of the challenge, AT&T has released a series of videos featuring each of the exemplars, hoping to not only raise awareness but spark ideas.
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