Tearing down barriers: how mobile apps drive social inclusion

Technology has made the world smaller, reducing distances and breaking down barriers. The use of smartphones, via mobile apps, has marked a further step in this direction, combining mobile communications with the power of modern softwares. The apps – thanks to the smartphone hardware sensors – are opening up a whole new world and allow users to enjoy services which normal desktop softwares hardly can offer, and above all, they allow to do it on the move.

This means that anyone with a smartphone now has an amazing set of means that allow to overcome language and communication barriers, and broaden the horizons of the interaction. It is not just about utility, mobile apps also are a source of useful tools to support non-autonomous people and make them fully autonomous: in one word, they can be an instrument to drive social inclusion. Translating apps are a perfect example of this evolution: translation softwares exist for many years, but today these mobile apps allow unmatched levels of dynamism, interactivity and customization. Let’s think about Word Lens, the Google app that reads printed texts through the smartphone camera and translates them live on the phone screen without requiring an Internet connection, or let’s consider chatbots that act as personal interpreter directly in the chat, like our indoona translator app.

But after all, languages are only a relative obstacle: think rather about objective limitations involving blind people or those with hearing problems. Now there are apps that can improve their daily lives and make them autonomous in many activities: apps for the blind allow to virtually see objects, recognize colors, paper money  and detect motion. Assisted GPS helps visual impaired to explore cities without the help of sighted persons and Text-to-speech voice assistants read emails, Twitter feed, weather, Facebook feeds and much more.

word lens translator app


Even deaf people can benefit from mobile apps: and now they can make phone calls (also call a taxi) without speaking, or can be alerted of loud sounds, like a doorbell or a fire alarm or learn sign language. Finally, we can now insert, via app, accessibility evaluations of public places such as restaurants and shops enabling people with wheelchairs to move around more confidently and making urban areas more accessible, all thanks to dedicated apps.

Mobile applications has also revolutionized the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC for short) world. AAC is a communication method used to help people with language disorders (cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment and autism), and it could be previously accomplished only through picture communication systems, sign language or dedicated (and expensive) AAC devices. Apps like Proloquo2Go today can turn – at an affordable price – simple tablets into assistive technology devices for individuals with special needs: some studies have shown the positive impact of the use of tablets as a supplement to specialized therapy for kids with autism and language disorders.

As we can see, therefore, mobile apps are revolutionizing a lot of sectors, including those of education and support for disability: they bridge the gap between languages and between impaired and unimpaired subjects, tear down barriers and bring people closer together. Exactly the same goal we have set by opening to third-party applications the indoona Platform: an extremely flexible solution to enhance online services with the communication power of our instant messenger. Communities, smart objects management, reservations etc .: now you can make your applications available to smartphone users of any age by connecting it to indoona Open Platform via our RESTful API. By opening our development environment to third-party developers we intend to open a window for people to broaden their experience and connect in new multiple ways.
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