Colombia, like most countries, struggles with meeting the needs of the disabled community. There are 2.9 million Colombians with some type of disability. Only 15.5% of disable population are currently in the work force, the ministry of new technologies believes this data indicates that this is a problem which needs to be addressed.
Technology, especially digital technology, can be a blessing to the disabled community, but it is often a curse. The plus side is the possibility of new tools that can help with many of the barriers faced by disabled people. The down side is that an enormous amount of new content is constantly being created, much of it inaccessible to people with certain disabilities. The down side counts for a lot, as all this new content is, more and more, essential to our daily lives.
In Colombia, the goal is to promote that upside as much as possible. Two approaches are being taken to promote the development of apps that serve the disabled community. One approach began as a development marathon, which produced an app library. The second is a phased crowd-sourcing model.
“Appcesible” was a 3 day event, in which 21 teams developers responded to seven challenges. The challenges were created by public agencies, organizations and groups that work with the disabled community. The prizes included money and electronic devices. The contest resulted in the development of a web platform with a catalog of accessible audio books for visually disable.
This platform grew to become the basis for the ministry’s new virtual library that provides resources to almost 200.000 Colombians with visual disabilities. This resource allows users to read online and download textbooks using smartphones.
The Ayudapps approach is a crowd source system that occurs in stages throughout the year. In 2014 this approach result in several applications including a telephone conference system for hearing disable, a software application that allows visually disabled to access text documents easily, as well as a tool that enhances the cinema experiences for visual and hearing disabled. The program is accessible and doesn’t cost anything.
The 2015 program has already moved to the first two stages. The first stage allows member of the various disabled communities to share their needs. Second stage is to present this needs to software developers and solicit potential solutions. The goal for the year is to create a bank of projects ready to be developed.
Both of these programs serve Colombia in two ways, they promote the development of applications that will help disable people to live more active and meaningful lives, but they also work to involve Colombian developers in the process of creating this applications.