The Connect Ability Challenge is a three-month software development competition focused on developing mobile and wireless technology that can help improve the lives of people with physical, social, emotional, and cognitive disabilities.
Some of the software that was submitted includes smart glasses for the visually impaired, apps for people with autism and dementia, software for those with speech impediments and headgear for those diagnosed with ADHD. There are 63 submissions in total online.
Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York, said the challenge was inspired by other competitions created over the past years across the country and world to find technology for several sets of issues. This year's would focus on the disabilities in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA.
"It's a collaborative process, but it's also a competition," Shorenstein. "I'm very encouraged by the action of the exemplars."
The four exemplars are: Xian Horn, a teacher, speaker and writer from Manhattan who has cerebral palsy; Paul Kotler, a lecturer and student from Philadelphia who has autism. Kolter communicates using computer-assisted technology and struggles with impulse control; and Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker from Brooklyn who has Multiple Sclerosis.
The fourth exemplar is Gus Chalkias, who works as an assistive technology specialist, career counselor and college student from Queens and is blind.
"It's been amazing for me to be part of something that is bigger than this contest," Chalkias told the Daily News. "I think it's setting a standard for people with disabilities. It's taking a stance where they are saying we need to include people with disabilities."
"My biggest desire is to have some kind of technology that can get me from point 'A' to point 'B' without stopping and asking someone if I'm in the right place or room," Chalkias said. "I'm blind in a time where technology can actually meet my needs."
Kotler, who hopes the challenge improves the lives of millions, said that as a judge he's very impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the presentations.
"We hosted collaborations sessions a few weeks ago to help guide the developers and provide feedback prior to the submission deadline," Kotler said. "There were many apps and products that I thought were outstanding and I can't wait to see all that have been created and submitted."
The winners of the challenge will be announced on July 26, which is the anniversary of the enactment of the ADA. More than $100,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to developers in the five categories.
"While I hope that the winning solution or technology will help improve the lives of people living with autism, I also hope that the challenge has inspired developers across the world to build new tech that focuses on the user and incorporates the feedback from our community," Kotler. "I think that one of the most important things to come out of this competition will be the awareness that I am hoping developers will build."